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Street performers now take tips via credit card

Jenny Hoff

Next time you see a street performer playing some tunes or dangling from a 50-foot pole, there may be no need to scrounge around in your pockets or purse for coins — the performer may take plastic, and he or she may be hoping your tip will be a lot more than some leftover change.

I learned of this business development trend in the street performer industry through Derek McAlister, also known as Derek Derek, a street artist in Boulder, Colorado. McAlister is not only a master at gathering a crowd, all the while cracking jokes and kicking out rude viewers (considering his life-endangering stunts must take immense concentration, it’s understandable), but he is also a savvy businessman.

Before his final stunt, where he dives down what looks like a 50-foot high pole, head first, he made a sales pitch to his audience — reminding the crowd that he earns his living through their tips, especially when they come in the form of $5, $10 and $20 bills. For those who don’t have the cash, no problem. With a small square device attached to his phone, he’s ready to take plastic.

Given that I lived in Europe for many years where I often found myself stuck at restaurants that did not accept credit cards, I was impressed with McAlister’s business acumen. In fact, on Pearl Street in Boulder, about a third of the street performers were prepared to swipe your card.

With the growth in P2P payment options, entrepreneurs and one-person businesses ventures may have a better chance at success by linking up with the cashless transaction world. Though McAlister assured me the vast majority of his tips still come in the form of cash, he feels better equipped having an option for the appreciative fan who isn’t a fan of a wallet packed with bills.

The other advantage of taking a card? The tips are better. Instead of a couple of $1 bills, fans who swiped their cards were more likely to leave a bigger tip, such as $10 or $20.

Since packed tourist areas where most performers congregate are notorious hunting grounds for pickpockets, the option to swipe or insert your card might be a safer and more convenient way to show your appreciation to the performers who help make your vacation memorable.

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