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DipJar: a tipping solution for a cashless society

Jay MacDonald

If you’ve ever made your living from a tip jar, a small part of you probably resents plastic.

Our collective migration from cash to credit and debit cards has hurt baristas, street performers, musicians and others who survive on spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous cash donations. They’re left with little more than a trickle of nickels where there once was a stream of green.

It’s not that we don’t want to tip our talented brethren (OK, except for that guy with the cowbell), it’s just that most of us don’t pack singles like we used to. You’ll know us by our embarrassed grimace as we slink toward the door.

That’s where Ryder Kessler and his brother Judd enter this tale. In 2008, the two enterprising New Yorkers recognized the unintended toll our card-crazy culture was taking on baristas at their favorite West Village caffeine dispensary and spent the next three years inventing a solution.

They call it DipJar.

At a distance, the cylindrical silver countertop device looks more like a smokeless ashtray than a tip jar. But up close, it’s very close to genius.

dipjar.jpg

A card slot with a directional graphic indicates how to insert yours. A $1 symbol shows you the tip amount. Swipe your card and listen for the beep. A $1 charge will appear on your next statement. Swipe twice to leave $2 and so on.

The DipJar brothers are piloting their invention for free at a handful of Manhattan coffee shops. In the future, they admit they’ll have to charge merchants a nominal fee on top of the usual card transaction fee for divvying out the gratuities to workers and handling all refund requests directly (in case you accidentally tip that cowbell guy).

So far, reviews have been mostly confused about the DipJar. While geeks grasp the concept right away, some customers mistake the DipJar for a donation box or complain that they can’t hear the confirmation beep amid the din of espresso machines and java-ed up customers. A few workers fear they’re actually losing tips because some customers think it’s a scam.

Nobody said it was easy riding the cutting edge.

But the brothers are convinced they’re on the right side of history with DipJar.

“Our research suggests that people who pay with cash tip with cash, while people who pay with plastic don’t tip at all,” they say. “We want to capture all the tips those people would be leaving if there were an easy way to tip electronically.”

As one of those grimacers with a pocketful of plastic, I’d welcome a DipJar in every Starbucks.

Because our choice of payment shouldn’t prevent us from expressing our gratitude for life’s best moments, whether it’s a perfectly poured macciato, a sidewalk fire-eater in Lady Gaga drag or a wicked a capella rendition of “Call Me Maybe” (easy on the cowbell).

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  • moneychron

    What about security and privacy? Looks like the DipJar might be a treasure trove and low-hanging fruit for ID theives and others of such ilk. The article didn’t discuss this aspect of the new gadget. And BTW, you can almost always insert the tip amount on any restaurant bill you pay w/a credit card or debit/credit card–almost making the DipJar in the restaurant context obsolete before it gets off the ground. Maybe it makes more sense in other service industries.

  • Scott

    @moneychron brings up good points. I think it would be good in mom and pop restaurants or coffee shops where they don’t do the tip line on the receipt. It might be a better invention with some changes made so you can avoid security issues and people thinking it’s a scam.