Dear Annie: Food truck owner says tip jar just slows him down

Dear Annie: I was a little amused by the letter on tip jars.

I operate a “food truck” (technically, it’s a trailer) and am a one-man band. I have worked alone for the past 10 years because the quality of employees available to me has always been questionable at best, and there is a degree of “babysitting” involved that I don’t care to be a part of.

Out of necessity, I move quickly and efficiently, greet the customer, take the order, deliver the food and rapidly move on to my next sale.

Nothing slows me down as much as customers who won’t leave because they are looking for a tip jar. “Where is your tip jar?”

My pricing is adequate so that I’m well compensated, and a number of times I have told people that I am the owner. I’m happy they chose to spend their refreshment dollars with me, and a tip isn’t necessary.

People seem hard-wired to leave a gratuity, and my reluctance to put out a tip jar has resulted in some people’s heads almost exploding.

I’m appreciative of a dollar or two left for me, but I have a high level of service to begin with, and my window of opportunity is always very limited. I’m going to make more money by waiting on 100 people than 50, and delaying my next sale so I can take in an additional dollar or two, or even five on occasion, is counterproductive and does not fit my business model.

I finally put a tip jar up — a large one — so I could move on to my next sale. Yet, in spite of the darn thing being the size of a half-gallon Mason jar, people still seem to miss it on occasion or insist on delaying their exit (and my next transaction) so they can personally hand me a gratuity, but this helps move things a little bit.

While I appreciate tips, I never expect them, and my pricing is all the reward I require.

A tip is a reward, and while I’m appreciative, my goal is to keep the line moving as quickly as possible. I hate to appear boorish, but after handing a customer their change and thanking them, my only goal is to move to the next customer, who has been patiently waiting their turn. I find somebody who is waiting for acknowledgment of a tip to be annoying.

Worse yet, sometimes, after completing the transaction, they then want me to wait on them again so they can get change for a five or a 10 so they can leave me a tip. Still worse is the customer who is oblivious to the existence of the tip jar and leaves a bill or two on my counter, and it blows off the counter and onto the food display. I sell pizza, and the pizzas are on a heated table just beneath my serving window.

When that happens, it contaminates my product, creating more work for me.

My tip jar is in place just to move things along. There are varying degrees of success to this. I don’t “expect” a gratuity ever.

Trust me, as an owner, if I’m getting £5 for a 32-ounce soda that is 85% water, I’m doing OK. Happy to have you as a customer; thanks for stopping; may I help the next person in line, please?

I never expect a tip. — Been Doing this Since 1979

Dear Since 1979: You sound like Speedy Gonzales, and you have created a system that works best when people buy and move on. Who knew that tips could create so many problems?

Thank you for letting us know.

However, you might consider putting up a sign, “No Tips Allowed,” and if people complain, you can tell them your boss is adamant.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected].

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