From online shopping to reviews directing customers to or away from a business, the internet and social media are becoming more important to businesses every day. Argo Tea, an
international tea and coffee seller whose online store sells directly through Amazon, decided to take social media to a new level to the benefit of its employees.
During the month of December, from the 5th to the 24th, Argo Tea customers could tip employees who provided them with exceptional service through Twitter. The tip would be $1 per tweet at
Argo Tea’s expense. Customers only needed to tweet the employee’s name and the store location along with #gratuiTEA to the company’s twitter account. Employees could receive a maximum
of 25 “gratuiTEA” tweets during the period. And the employee with the most tweets would receive an additional bonus of $100. As of December 23, over 300 people had tweeted over 500
tips for Argo Tea employees. While the numbers seem small, Argo Tea only has 33 total locations worldwide. Argo Tea’s CEO, Arsen Avakian, said that the program was intended to create a
“lasting relationship” between the customers and his employees, or “team members.” He also commented that Argo Tea may consider making the program a permanent feature in the future.
Argo Tea may be one of the first to attempt online tipping for offline service, but the idea is becoming more popular as a recent Business Insider article addressed the growing appeal and
potential of tipping people with Bitcoins on Twitter for providing helpful tweets or links. The tips would be small, like the $1 with gratuiTEA, and is currently only with Bitcoins. The article
speculates that online tipping could bring in significant revenue and would be more meaningful indicators and important, since money or Bitcoins are being spent, than “likes” or retweets. Both
programs appear to have received positive responses so far, but may raise some issues.
Tipping and Wages
Whether a person is working in fast food or waiting tables at an upscale restaurant, they are entitled to their wages and any tips they may receive. Furthermore, both sets of workers are
supposed to report any tips they receive on their taxes. Online tipping may make reporting and recording these tips easier, but it may also make it harder for some employees to get tipped. In
some cases, the “tip jar” encourages more tipping, particularly if the jar looks empty or if it looks like everyone else is tipping. Online tipping could take away some accountability and incentive since no one would know if you tipped or not. On the other hand, Argo Tea may have the right idea that online tipping creates a more meaningful connection because tips require an extra step, but also tell the “Twitter verse” that the tweeter supports the brand and is a good tipper. It could also make it easier for employees to receive their tips or open the door for employers to mishandle those tips more easily, intentionally or not. Future ventures in online tipping may set the course for employers, employees and tippers alike.
If you believe you have not received the tips or wages you are entitled to by law, contact an experienced HKM employment attorney for help.