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    Good Fortune Industries Phil The Tip Jar

    By Phil O'Keefe |

     

    A tip jar that gives back...

     

     

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    Ah, the tip jar. They're ubiquitous. You'll find them everywhere, from the local dry cleaner's to the downtown sandwich shop where you regularly eat lunch. The legend is that "tip" originally stood for "to insure promptness", and while that's debated, there's an element of truth to it in many cases where tip jars are used, such as tip jars at restaurants. But tipping goes further than that, and is often viewed as a way of showing gratitude or appreciation; it's certainly in this respect that tip jars are associated with musicians. After all, musicians don't always have the best reputation for being on time, so the promptness aspect really doesn't apply. But if you put on a good show, get everyone out dancing and help the audience enjoy themselves and have a good time, you can earn the audience's appreciation - and it certainly doesn't hurt your bottom line when they want to show that appreciation with a small gratuity. Having a tip jar can be a significant additional income source for musicians, and the more clever and entertaining you can make the jar itself, the more effective they tend to be. And that's where the Phil The Tip Jar comes in - it's definitely different than any tip jar I've ever seen before.

     

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    What You Need To Know

    • The patent-pending Phil The Tip Jar is a interactive, electronic tip jar that responds in various ways whenever someone puts coins or bills into it.

     

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    • An infrared sensor in the money drop slot at the top of the unit detects when something is dropped into the Phil The Tip Jar, triggering an automated response. This includes playing a sound effect (or not) and dispensing a small coupon card to the tipper through a slot located near the bottom of the front of the unit's base.

     

    • The coupon comes out of the coupon dispensing slot in such a way that it doesn't just fall and hit the floor - the end of the coupon is held gently by the slot until the tipper takes it.

     

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    • The dimensions of the Phil The Tip Jar are approximately 5 9/16" W x 10 5/8" H, without any of the included optional "feet" installed on the bottom of the unit.

     

    • The Phil The Tip Jar uses mostly plastic in its construction, although there is a fair amount of metal used too, especially inside the base of the unit. There are three different areas with graphics: immediately above the coupon card dispensing slot is a open-arms heart logo, while two vinyl bands or "wraps" adorn the housing, with one below the coupon dispensing slot, and the other one being located at the top of the housing on the lights and electronics housing, which is located above the clear collection cup in the center of the unit.

     

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    • The upper wrap on the review unit features a keyboard motif and the words "Phil The Tip Jar" in the center, while the lower wrap says "Thank You!" According to the website, the customer will be able to order custom wraps and specify their own messages, although at this time there is no way listed to buy them - it says "coming soon."

     

    • The top and bottom of the unit are black, and sit above and below a clear plastic collection cup, which slides into the center of the unit on matching rails that are built into both the bottom of the cup and the upper part of the unit's base. You remove the collection cup by sliding it out towards you, with the black colored top and bottom sections of the unit's housing remaining in place, connected by a vertical section of housing towards the rear.

     

    • Once the cup is removed, you can see the built-in coupon storage magazine, which sits inside the lower housing below the clear tip jar section. This can hold up to 350 small (3" x 2") coupon cards. There are half round finger openings on either side of the magazine so you can reach in to insert or remove the cards, and a small removable metal plate with a knob handle in the center of it sits on top of the cards to keep them pressed down so they'll feed automatically when a tip is deposited into the Phil The Tip Jar.

     

    • A collection of about 120 pre-printed sample cards were included with the review unit that I was sent to check out. They have Phil The Tip Jar / we really appreciate you listening, tipping and being here / thank you!" printed on one side, and various expressions, quotes or "prizes" listed on the other, such as "Good for one free hug" and "You get in life what you have the courage to ask for." Other "prizes" include shout-outs from the mic, one clean or dirty joke told to you on the band's next break, celebrity impersonations done by a member of the band (poorly), one song from the set list of your choice, a fist bump from a band member (Purell not included), along with other expressions such as "Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it" and similar expressions and awards.

     

    • About eight of the review unit's sample cards are yellow on the expression / prize side, and say "Golden Ticket. Present to the band and CLAIM YOUR PRIZE!" on them. These could be useful for tying in tips to merch give-aways such as thumb drives with the band's latest recordings on them, or band t-shirts, autographed pictures, etc. "Don't forget to tip the band for your chance to win a band T-Shirt..."

     

    • The collection cup itself is the same diameter as the rest of the unit, and it is just shy of 4.5" high, so if can hold a fair amount of tips before it needs to be emptied, but if it's allowed to get too full, previous tips can interfere with the infrared sensor and the operation of the unit when additional tips are added to the jar. A collection of five or six "Zillion Dollar" faux bills were also included that can be used to "seed" the tip jar.

     

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    • Power is supplied to the Phil The Tip Jar with an included AC to DC power adapter that provides 3A @ 5V DC to power the unit. The power adapter plugs into a port that looks very similar to something you'd find on an effects pedal, but since the voltage and amperage are different, you'll need to stick to using the supplied adapter. Since there is no power on / off switch, the Phil The Tip Jar powers up as soon as you plug the adapter in.

     

    • There are a total of 18 LEDs located inside the top section of the Phil The Tip Jar - six each of red, blue and green. These point down towards the clear tip collection cup. These are fairly bright and illuminate the cup and the area immediately to the sides of the tip jar.

     

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    • There are three control buttons located on the back side of the Phil The Tip Jar, with two on the left side of the power jack, and one on the right. The button marked with a graphic light bulb icon allows you to turn the LEDs off, or to select any one of the three colors for continuous illumination.

     

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    • An additional mode continuously cycles and crossfades from one color to the next every two seconds or so. This is the default mode that turns on when you plug the unit in.

     

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    • The second small button on the back controls a built-in "cha-ching" sound effect that is automatically played through a small speaker located on the underside of the unit whenever a tip is inserted into the jar. This can be set to low or high volume, or turned off entirely. Even when it's off, a bit of mechanical noise from the unit's built-in motor and mechanical apparatus always accompanies the dispensing of the coupon card.

     

    • A larger button on the opposite side of the power adapter jack is provided for manually activating the coupon dispenser. This can be activated by the cashier or whoever is running the merch table for rewarding customers who tip or purchase merch with a credit card.

     

    • There are five round recesses on the bottom of the unit where you can install the provided "feet" for the unit to sit on. There are two types included - a set of five rubber pads and a set of five hook and loop pads. You can use a few of each to vary the "grip strength" of the unit to whatever you want to set it on.

     

    • The Phil The Tip Jar comes with a black drawstring carrying bag. It is made out of a fairly heavy canvas, and has the Phil The Tip Jar heart logo printed on it in white, matching the look of the jar itself. This is a nice addition, and will doubtless keep the jar from getting scratched up in transport, although it's not really going to provide any protection from a serious knock, bang or drop. Pack accordingly.

     

    • While you're certainly not obligated to, Good Fortune Industries encourages a "pay good fortune forward" attitude, and suggests that bands donate a portion of their tip receipts to a worthy charity of their choice, and offer a user-printable "Proudly Featuring" sign in PDF format that can sit next to your Phil The Tip Jar to inform your fans that a portion of their tip will be helping to support your chosen charity.

     

    • The paper manual that is included with the Phil The Tip Jar also includes suggestions on how to use the jar for other purposes, such as for fundraisers and charitable donations, good behavior rewards, contests, business card drops, and even as a family vacation savings bank.

     

    • The manual also gives various tips on what sorts of things you might want to have printed on your custom coupon cards, such as band information (name, logo, etc.), contact phone number and website URL and a "thank you!" on one side, and inspirational sayings, quotes, fun facts, lucky numbers, jokes, riddles, and / or upcoming gigs and events on the other side. Alternatively, you could have the other side printed with discount coupons for merch purchases, prize / give-away awards, etc.

     

    • The Phil The Tip Jar has a 90 day limited warranty. 

     

     

    Limitations

    • The Customer Appreciation Coupon template and order web page is still not finished, so it appears that you currently can't order customized coupons directly from the manufacturer. This is a significant challenge since they recommend using only their cards. In fact, according to their website, you risk voiding the warranty if you use other coupons - the mechanical coupon dispenser has been calibrated to work with the size and type of paper of their cards and using the wrong paper could cause it to jam or malfunction. Since the Phil The Tip Jar will be making its official debut at Summer NAMM, hopefully the web site pages with the ordering information will be completed by then, or shortly thereafter. 

     

    • You can't use your business cards as coupons. I was disappointed about this, since business cards use a standardized size and thickness, and you can get them printed practically anywhere, and have it done quickly / as needed, even printing different cards for each specific occasion if you wanted to. 

     

    • Since the Phil The Tip Jar requires AC power, you can only use it in places where you have access to an outlet. An open instrument case is likely to remain the most recognized and used "tip jar" for street and subway buskers, especially in locations where no power is available.

     

     

    Conclusions

    This is a tip jar that tips your patrons back with a different type of tip whenever they deposit a tip into it… or instead of a tip, they might receive an inspirational quote, a funny note or joke, or even a prize or discount coupon, while also helping you get your band website and contact info out there (if you have it printed it on the coupon cards), which may lead to more gigs.

    The price is no doubt going to be an issue for many; with a $200 - $300 price tag, some may find it a bit hard to justify when a simple glass jar can suffice to collect gratuities. Still, if the interactive features are used thoughtfully and cleverly in a way that increases audience awareness of and interaction with the tip jar, as well as with the band (through connecting song requests, or merch give-aways with the gratuities and coupons), it does have the potential to quickly pay for itself with increased tip receipts.

    The Phil The Tip Jar requires AC power, so it's not going to work everywhere - buskers in particular probably won't be a big market for this product, but the Phil The Tip Jar could work well as a tip jar in a piano bar situation. It would also work well as a tip jar for bands who are playing at clubs, bars, parties and receptions.

    I'd feel better about recommending this product if their site's web page for custom printed cards was already up and  running, or if they at least listed the correct type and size paper so owners could use third-party printers to do the job. Not being able to get cards printed with your band contact info as well as the prizes and expressions you want is a serious limitation, especially since you can void your warranty by using the wrong type or size of paper in the unit. Still, I suspect any local printer could examine one of the sample cards that come with the unit and print up new cards for you, using a similar paper stock and finish, and hopefully the Good Fortune Industries online ordering pages for the coupons and wraps will be ready by the time the product debuts at Summer NAMM. The promised custom wraps will also increase the customization options of the tip jar, allowing bands to personalize the Phil The Tip Jar to their needs. Once they are available, I suspect a fair number of musicians will find clever ways to use the Phil The Tip Jar to increase their income through increased gratuities.   -HC-

     

     

    Want to discuss the Phil The Tip Jar or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Backstage With The Band forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!

     

     

     

    Resources

    Good Fortune Industries Phil The Tip Jar ($295.00 MSRP, $199.00 "street")

    Good Fortune Industries product web page     

    Questions can be addressed via email to info@tipfortipjar.com

     

     

    You can purchase the Phil The Tip Jar directly from the Good Fortune Industries website.      

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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