Tip jars: Message in the bottle

Posted Feb. 01, 2013, at 5:38 a.m.
The tip jar at Market House in Portland.
Robert F. Bukaty
The tip jar at Market House in Portland. Buy Photo
A tip jar in Portland calls for customers to &quotSupport Counter Intelligence."
Robert F. Bukaty
A tip jar in Portland calls for customers to "Support Counter Intelligence." Buy Photo
A cat says &quotTIPS ARE MEOWSOME!" on the tip jar at Joe's New York Pizza on Fore Street in Portland.
Robert F Bukaty
A cat says "TIPS ARE MEOWSOME!" on the tip jar at Joe's New York Pizza on Fore Street in Portland. Buy Photo
Beavis and Butthead let customers know &quottips rule!" at Spartan Grill in Portland's Monument Square.
Robert F. Bukaty
Beavis and Butthead let customers know "tips rule!" at Spartan Grill in Portland's Monument Square. Buy Photo
A skeleton offers flowers to a woman reading a book in a picture used to decorate the back side of a tip jar at Spartan Grill in Portland's Monument Square.
Robert F. Bukaty
A skeleton offers flowers to a woman reading a book in a picture used to decorate the back side of a tip jar at Spartan Grill in Portland's Monument Square. Buy Photo
A sign reads, &quotHave we told you that we love you?" on the tip jar at Coffee By Design on Washington Street in Portland.
Robert F. Bukaty
A sign reads, "Have we told you that we love you?" on the tip jar at Coffee By Design on Washington Street in Portland. Buy Photo
A regular customer at Coffee By Design on Washington Street in Portland often folds his tips, prompting the barristers to tape one of them onto their tip jar.
Robert F. Bukaty
A regular customer at Coffee By Design on Washington Street in Portland often folds his tips, prompting the barristers to tape one of them onto their tip jar. Buy Photo
A cashier who fancies felines created a silly card to hang on the tip cup at Colucci's Hilltop Superette on Congress Street in Portland on a weekend in January.
Robert F. Bukaty
A cashier who fancies felines created a silly card to hang on the tip cup at Colucci's Hilltop Superette on Congress Street in Portland on a weekend in January. Buy Photo
A 2000 peso Colombian bill featuring Gen. Francisco De Paula Santander graces the tip jar at the Speckled Ax Wood Roasted Espresso Bar on Congress Street in Portland. A customer left the bill as a tip. Its worth about $1.13.
Robert F Bukaty
A 2000 peso Colombian bill featuring Gen. Francisco De Paula Santander graces the tip jar at the Speckled Ax Wood Roasted Espresso Bar on Congress Street in Portland. A customer left the bill as a tip. Its worth about $1.13. Buy Photo
Perhaps one of Portland's most elegant tip jars sits on the counter at Arisara Thithuan's Saeng Thai restaurant on Congress Street.
Robert F. Bukaty
Perhaps one of Portland's most elegant tip jars sits on the counter at Arisara Thithuan's Saeng Thai restaurant on Congress Street. Buy Photo
The tip jar at Gorgeous Gelato on Fore Street in Portland was bought at Goodwill. An employee accidentally broke its predecessor. Inside the jar are stickers that say 'thank you' in foreign languages.
Robert F. Bukaty
The tip jar at Gorgeous Gelato on Fore Street in Portland was bought at Goodwill. An employee accidentally broke its predecessor. Inside the jar are stickers that say 'thank you' in foreign languages. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — They make a lot of coffee and they make a lot of sandwiches, but the folks behind the counter probably aren’t making a lot of money.

One sign of “counter intelligence” is an interesting tip jar. A humorous note attached to the jar almost always tips the scales in favor of making a little more dough.

(A tip jar with a note mentioning karma, on the other hand, almost always leaves the customer with a bad taste in their mouth. Who likes being guilt-tripped into tipping?)

While you can’t always judge a shop by its tip jar, it does seem the less pretentious the place, the more fun they have with their jar.

Like a woman at a Munjoy Hill sandwich shop said, “When you make minimum wage, you’ve got to be creative.”

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story requires correction. Both the Beavis and Butthead and skeleton tip jars are located at Spartan Grill in Portland, not Other’s.

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