In the US it is customary to tip at a restaurant after your meal, tip the delivery driver when they bring hot pizza to your door, or when someone performs a service worthy of a little something extra. As entertainers, that go above and beyond to “make the party” and bring smiles to kids faces, we often get overlooked in the tip department.
How do you politely remind your customers that your service is tip worthy?
I remember working a gig where I showed up one hour early by accident. Since I was already there and I could see from the parking lot that kids were getting restless, I decided to offer my services early and make the party parents happy. I painted non-stop for three hours. I painted arms, toes, heads and even one girl wanted her nails painted. I was busy! After the party was over, I packed my things and I could hear the husband and wife arguing about my tip. The wife asked the husband for $30 and the husband said “No way I’m giving her a tip. We paid her $300 to be here, that’s a big enough tip!”. The birthday mom came to me embarrassed, not because she knew I overheard, but because she felt embarrassed that her husband was a jerk! She apologized that she had no cash to tip me and that she would mail it to my office. I explained that a good referral was tip enough and I thanked her for having me. That wonderful lady did end up mailing me a $50 tip, I’m sure without her husband knowing. The point of my story was that no matter how hard we work or how superior the service we provide is, we have to remember that a tip is completely optional and each customer will have their opinion about it.
When I send out a contract, on the bottom line I include a note that says, “We strive for excellent service and to give you the best event possible. The greatest tip you can give is a referral to a friend, but if you still wish to tip your painter it is very much appreciated.”
If you want to keep it simple you can put on the last line “Tipping your painter is 100% optional”. That line is almost a hidden message and plants the seed of information in the clients brain without sounding pushy.
No matter how you phrase it, it’s best not to take the tipping process personal. I never attend a gig thinking I’ll get a tip, so when I receive one it’s like icing on the cake!
Putting out a tip jar is also another grey area. When I am hired by a client to do a large event where I am getting paid my full rate I never out out a tip jar. If someone offers a tip I accept and place them out of clear sight. I do not want my client to feel as if I am double dipping. When I am hired at a discount rate, or when I am working for free I build it into my contract that I am able to put out a tip jar. Before you bring your tip jar along, I suggest asking the client if they are comfortable with it.
My last tip for the day. Beyond looking and expecting a tip, focus on doing your best work so that each person at the event spreads the word about you or asks for a business card. Word of mouth travels miles longer than a $20 tip. Some of my cheapest, biggest headache-type clients have referred me to thousands of dollars of business.
Remember customer satisfaction is great, customer loyalty is priceless.
Happy painting my friends!