Accepting Tips


Aug 31, 2007
Hey all,

Short story and learning experience for me. Thought I'd share:

So this past Saturday I was performing at a fundraiser event for They are friends of mine, and I am very connected to the cause, so I was performing as a gift to them. At my second table, a man pulled out a twenty to pass me as a tip. I declined. I thanked him as graciously as I could and told him to instead put the money towards one of the auction items that he had bid on. I was very polite and subtle, however I could tell that it really embarrassed him.

I've never declined a tip before and in hind sight, it would have been much better to have accepted the tip and donated it directly myself. An interesting experience for me. Have any of you had similar experiences? I have heard of some restaurant workers not allowed to accept tips. How would they deal with this do you think?

(And here's some video of me doing the Biddle trick (mixed with the invisible palm idea) at the event
Jan 1, 2009
Back in Time
I've never heard of "not being allowed" to accept tips. But Michael Eaton has REALLY good reason for turning them down. Once you accept a tip at a restaurant you have pretty much already justified your cheap services to that person. "Why Should I pay you (Insert hourly rate here), when I just tipped you at the restaurant 20 bucks?!" His basic idea was that IF you are going to accept a tip, do on a hand shake. That way it's not out in the open and the other tables don't feel like they HAVE to tip you.


forum moderator / t11
Sep 14, 2008
Louisville, OH
Thanks for sharing this story Justin. I normally turn the tips down on the first time they offer and then if they say something along the lines of, "No I insist..." or anything similar to that...then I tell them that is very kind of them and graciously take the money.

I think you are right in that sometimes it might "seem" embarrassing to the person trying to tip (especially if it is in front of a group of people and the alpha male is trying to show off some by tipping) and they actually get offended if you don't take the money. Another example would be a gentleman out on a date with a girl / wife, if he is trying to do the nice thing of tipping you in front of his would be embarrassing to keep declining it and make him look bad / awkward.
May 21, 2014
Staunton, VA
As a performing magician who daylights as a food server, I'd like to chime in on this one.
In general, accepting tips during roaming and busking isn't a big deal UNLESS it's against the rules of the area where you're performing and/or you're in a restaurant, or pretty much any atmosphere with tipped employees. If the servers see you as a threat to their tips, they will hate you, and if the servers aren't happy, nobody is happy. Few managers worth their salt will keep hiring you if the every-day help complains about your presence on a broad and consistent basis, and I can assure you they certainly will if they perceive you as detracting from their income. If a server thinks somebody is tipping you more than the server, tipping the server less because they tipped you, or tipping you instead of the server, it can be a recipe for trouble.

Unfortunately, this means you have to convince a restaurant manager (who is used to paying front-of-house staff as low as $2.13 an hour in some states) that it's worth his time and money to pay you an exorbitant hourly wage to roam around/stand in his restaurant doing magic for people. One way to do that is to offer one night free. If someone tries to tip you, encourage them to express their enjoyment to management instead, especially if you can get them to say they'd come back to the restaurant on a night they know you're performing. This indicates to the manager that you have the power to draw customers into the store, which is really the bottom line for all restaurants; get more people in the door, and get the ones that do to come back later. Magic can do that, and that's how you should sell it to restaurant people. They don't really care if people are "entertained." They only care if they come back.
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