Why pride earns more than gratitude

A simple idea

So I’m on holiday this summer in Nantucket, an island between Boston and New York. Very nice, if a little preppy - but then in fairness that’s all part of its schtick. And it’s a schtick that pulls in summer visitors from both those cities, and all points beyond.

On the south west edge of the island is a little milk shake and bakery place that we stopped in at for some liquid refreshment before a fishing trip. They had a couple of students behind the counter serving, and a place for tips in front of the till, like everyone seems to these days. Nothing unusual about that.

Except that this place had a nice little innovation, based on a good consumer insight, about how to increase the amount they got tipped. Instead of having a single pot saying something irritating like ‘Tips! Thanks!’, they had two little buckets, one saying ‘Red Sox’ (the Bostonians’ baseball team), the other saying ‘Yankees’ (the New Yorkers’ team).

It was an invitation not just to drop a dollar bill in, but to declare your sporting loyalty in one of the fiercest American sporting rivalries as you did so.

And – and this was the bit I really liked – because you could see the relative levels of Red Sox support and Yankee support according to how full each bucket was, an invitation to increase the number of bills you put in if you felt your team was being out-tipped by the competition that day. Which is what the Yankee fan in front of me chose to do.

It’s just a small business, this. They don’t have a consumer insight department, or an innovation function, or a Gratuity Experience Director. It’s just a bunch of students making some money over the summer, really. And I have no way of really quantifying what this little tipping innovation has done in terms of boosting their takings.

What have we learned?

  • They’ve put a whole new emotion into tipping - it's no longer simply about gratitude, it's now about pride.
  • They’ve stopped it being a guilt-trip, or awkward, or the least I can get away with. They’ve made it fun, and declarative to the other people in the queue behind me, and everyone who comes afterwards: look, a Red Sox fan was here.
  • It’s based on a rock solid insight: the vast majority of those coming into the store either are - or will enjoy pretending to be, if you give them the opportunity to do so - part of one of the oldest rivalries in baseball.
  • They’ve found a way to encourage more people to tip, and prompted some of those who do tip to tip more than they might have. And both of those get an emotional reward for doing so.


Changing one’s emotional relationship with a transaction or even a category doesn’t have to be big and expensive. It doesn’t have to hinge on Big 'I' Innovation. It can hinge on a group of ideas that are simple, cheap and profitable.

As simple as one bucket for Red Sox and one for Yankees.

Follow Adam Morgan on twitter @eatbigfish.