Tipping – the final cashless frontier

As a cashless advocate tipping is the final frontier for me – whilst I find that most places provide digital tipping options my favourite restaurant and my barber both have stuck to cash only tips for their staff.

After reading about thankU in the Daily Telegraph and The Times I invited thankU creator Adrian Harris to write a guest blog for Northey Point.

I have never met Adrian nor do I recommend, endorse or promote the thankU solution but tackling the final cashless frontier of tipping is something I’m interested to hear about.

Over to Adrian……

Tipping – the final cashless frontier a guest blog by Adrian Harris, creator of thankU

Most of us do not realise quite how economically important tipping is for those in tipping-centric roles. Depending on the country and the role, tipping can make up 30-50% and sometimes more of take home earnings. Imagine your salary was cut by that amount – for most of us that would be a major problem.

This is the issue recipients of tips face in the inexorable transition to a cashless society. One young British business has launched the ‘thankU’ app to provide a solution. Adrian Harris, creator of thankU, says it was from his own experience of someone who feels that tipping is part of the social contract. He found that despite being quite careful to have tipping denominations at the ready both in everyday life (food delivery riders) and whilst travelling (holidays / business / hotels / car valet), despite best intentions he found he so often didn’t because of the decline in the use and availability of cash.

“Look, no terminal!”

Harris had considered various options for connecting the person tipping with the intended recipient, including location proximity, QR codes, and usernames but alighted eventually on wafer-thin NFC chips underneath smart branded resin-domed badges.  “Whilst on the one hand it is a modest distribution challenge, on the other it is a great advantage and bridges the gap that so many apps face – how do you know it’s available? With the thankU NFC badge media in whichever format, thankU’s availability is promoted in the physical world by its recipients at the very moment you want to tip, whether that’s in your salon, hotel, at the car valet, coat check wherever…”

thankU NFC media come in several formats, including wristbands which can be worn by food delivery riders or hotel staff for example. For the hotel environment in particular they even have smart little cuff buttons (containing the NFC chip) which can be sewn onto formal uniform-wear and if a hotel’s grooming code is so strict they can’t display any media in plain view, there is a business card-sized PVC card to be carried in the pocket or wallet and a version of the thankU NFC badge which can be attached directly to the back of a mobile phone, which gives the impression of a phone-to-phone payment, though in fact the payment occurs online on the tipper’s phone.

“We like to think there is something of a wow factor“, Harris continues, “because the way you tip is by holding your phone (with the thankU app open on it) against one of these thankU NFC badges which is worn or displayed in the physical environment – it is very unusual to have an app which only works by interacting with the real world – and when you hold your phone to it, it comes up with your tipping payment options just like you are using Apple Pay or Google pay in a store, except there is no payment terminal, there is no $300 terminal connected up to a point-of-sale system. There is just a smart little glossy badge not connected to anything which acts as if it was…”

Nuts and bolts

Of course the chip itself is doing nothing other than providing an ID to look up in a database. Because it’s just a random ID alphanumeric it contains no personally identifiable information – the only information that is ever presented to the person tipping is the chosen display name of the person receiving the tip, which can be anything. The recipient has their own thankU Account, but it’s not needed during the tipping process, they just use the app for a few things at the beginning – to order thankU badge media to be sent to them at no cost, then to connect a bank account to get tips paid to (via a secure digital token managed by Stripe Inc., payment processor to just about everyone, including Amazon, Uber, OpenTable, UNICEF etc). 

Depending on where they’re working, the recipient can also use the app to connect and disconnect to the thankU badges at their place of work (think hair and beauty salons). Other than that, the recipient will only ever use the app to get a history of the tips they received, change the email address on their account etc. 

By default the tip goes directly to the recipient’s bank account, the business is not involved – there is no contract with or cost to the business. The business simply needs to decide it is happy on its staff’s behalf to permit thankU to be available at its premises – in the current environment, thankU is also proving to be a compelling proposition to help businesses safeguard both clients and staff through the avoidance of cash wherever possible. thankU also has a tip pooling mode for all the tip receipts to be routed to one account but the tips to be attributed individually to staff members, which is quite often applicable to a hotel environment.

Tipper experience

From the tipper’s perspective, the process of tipping with thankU is designed to be as close as possible to the person-to-person experience of tipping in the real world. If you are tipping the lobby staff member who has just brought your suitcases up to your room, they’ll likely be wearing a thankU wristband, you reach out your phone as if to tip cash, and in two or three seconds the tip is given – cashlessly.

Harris says: “as a tipper, when you download the app the default payment method is Apple Pay or Google Pay, assuming it’s configured on the phone. But, as with a thousand other apps, you can also enter your credit/debit card details directly (which are also converted into a secure digital token by Stripe) and the benefit of that is not financial, it’s a tiny amount of speed. You can cut out that little Apple Pay or Google Pay screen, and the tip can be effected in literally three seconds – as it should be.”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and we say by extension a video is worth a thousand pictures, so for a two minute live demo of the thankU app in action, check out this link: https://video.wixstatic.com/video/eac7a1_8473ae7722dd4a52830a32909e143e8f/1080p/mp4/file.mp4

Find out more about thankU at: https://www.thanku.app

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