Tipping Point


At one of my favorite local coffee shops, I’ve noticed they have a creative take on generating tips. I’m sure this is used elsewhere as well, but it’s the first time I’ve come across it.

There are two baskets by the register, with a rotating sign above that asks a question. Today it was: “Should Obama pick Hillary as Vice President?” Throw your tip in the appropriate basket, and we get an instant, visible poll as a byproduct of giving your barista a little extra change. Some questions generate a more noticeable swing in basket preference (sorry, Hillary), while others are just fun throwaways.

A small reward for participation. I’m sure there’s a parallel here with social web interaction, but I’ll let Josh or someone else who’s hot on this topic decipher it.


  1. The Canadian sitcom Corner Gas had an episode about this! I haven’t seen the practice in action, though. (Yes, I’m jealous.)

  2. Richard says:

    Interesting. So, if one were militantly against one would empty one’s wallet into the “no” basket.
    Leveraging making a statement to make some money. Part of me is suspicious of the motivation but who cares, I like it. I’d vote no, for what it’s worth.
    I wonder if anyone moves money from one to the other? Only in Florida no doubt.

  3. Josh says:

    Haha…very clever. I wonder if they receive fewer or more tips when they ask really hard questions.

  4. Sameer Vasta says:

    People love speaking their mind and conveying their opinions. This kind of setup gives people that incentive while creating an (obvious) value-add for the baristas as well. What a great idea!

  5. I saw an interesting technique that appeals to a much more base instinct the other day. Tips went into a large jar, filled with water, with a lemon almost filling the whole in the jar. Just enough room around the edges for coins to slide through. The challenge is to balance a coin on the lemon for 10 seconds, the prize being you win your meal for free if you succeed. Works best of course in countries like Australia where $1 and $2 are coins…

  6. Kenny says:

    Yes, Corner Gas is great! I’ve never seen anyone use it in real life either.

  7. Mayur says:

    Nice way to involve customers ……..
    Simple but effective technique to keep customer visiting the shop…..

  8. John@123-reg says:

    Reminds me of how Innocent Drinks started (they’re a company that makes smoothies and juices here in the UK).
    The founders spent a weekend selling smoothies at a festival and had two bins marked ‘yes’ and ‘no’, plus a sign with the question “do you think we should give up our jobs to make these smoothies?”
    People voted by chucking their empty bottle into the relevant bin. And the rest is history. They’re now regarded as a very cool brand over here, and the company’s been a massive success.
    More here: http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk/us/?Page=our_story

  9. john says:

    Too bad creativity is not something you can learn….

  10. EA says:

    Dan, you have a great eye for catching these things. I invite you to visit our new ui blog at http://www.uiweekly.com. Its still a little rough, just launched this week, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

  11. That is a very good idea. People ought to do that more.

  12. Marcel says:

    Ha! This is great. I’ve heard good things about Jaho. One more reason to check it out.

  13. Marc Grubb says:

    A Starbucks near Moscone Center in SF did this with “Mac” and “PC” during MacWorld, no less. (No need to explain which basket had more tips.)