Finally, the Solution to That Awkward Tip Jar

Lee Breslouer/Thrillist
Lee Breslouer/Thrillist

Tipping is a weird proposition at a fast-casual restaurant like Panera Bread or Shake Shack -- do you even tip the person at the register who rings you up? What if you have a horrible meal? Do you get to take the money out of the tip jar, wave it around, and shout, "I'm only doing this because my lunch sucked!"

That might not be necessary anymore. The other day, I saw the future of tipping... and it was bright. Bright blue.

tip jar
Dan Gentile/Thrillist

I rarely tip at fast-casual restaurants (and you don't either)

I went to dinner at one of my favorite fast-casual restaurants, Modern Market, and saw a weirdly shaped blue machine at the register that looked like it ate credit cards for breakfast. Because I am not one to ignore weirdly shaped blue machines, I asked the guy at the register what it was.

"You can tip us using that," he said.

How had I never heard of this thing?

I was still skeptical that it would be useful. I rarely tip at fast-casual restaurants. Who wants to tip before you eat? What if the service is horrible? And a lot of time the credit card receipts don't even have an option to tip on them (like Chipotle), and I rarely have cash on me to stuff a buck or two in the tip jar. That weird blue thingy -- called DipJar -- changes all that.

Courtesy of Modern Market

Here's how it works: you dip your credit card in the machine. You wait while the machine lights up to signal that it's received your payment, and then a pleasant beeping tone alerts you -- and more importantly, the person behind the counter -- that you gave a tip. Because everyone likes being acknowledged for doing something nice, unless you're that guy named Anonymous who keeps donating a lot of money to charity. You do you, Anonymous! Another thing about DipJar -- you don't have to sign anything. The company automatically charges you a single dollar.

My favorite part is that you have to physically dip your card in the machine. For some reason picking up the pen and writing out the number one on a credit card receipt doesn't feel good in this same exact way. Also, tipping before your meal comes out will never not feel weird.

When I do tip at fast-casual spots (and coffee shops, especially), I hate the moment when the cashier looks at the amount I tipped. Feels a little judgy. This way, there's no fear of being judged on the size of your... tip by the person behind the counter. If you dip, you've tipped, and everyone wins. Hey DipJar -- I just wrote you a slogan.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

It's like giving every employee in the store a raise

"It's a 75-cent to a dollar raise per hour, per employee," Anthony Pigliacampo, a co-founder of Modern Market, told us. Unlike in a typical restaurant, dipping your credit card into a DipJar not only rewards the person ringing you up, it rewards the entire crew -- from the dishwasher to the chef. It's my dream come true.

He explained that customers at his 19 locations in CO and TX (and soon in AZ and DC) often don't carry cash, and they like to tip on the way out after they've eaten, which rendered tipping on the credit card receipt worthless. And when you give people this option, magic happens. Anecdotally, he says his employees at certain stores have told him their tips have doubled. D-o-u-b-l-e-d.

DipJar tells us that there are currently 600+ machines in the wild right now. But let's take Panera Bread's 2,000 locations as an example. Imagine if you could give every Panera Bread employee a $1 hourly bump in salary without changing anything other than the way customers tip. That could have an enormous effect on a lot of people's livelihoods. And Panera's just one fast-casual restaurant in the landscape -- there are plenty of others. Chipotle, Shake Shack, the list goes on.

Let's give all those employees raises. All it would take is a bunch of little blue machines.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and enjoys dipping. Follow him to tipping tips: @LeeBreslouer.