Lisa Robbin Young

A very good friend of mine has a non-profit that volunteers each year to work a booth at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.

If you've never been, it's a high time of revelry, silliness, and even a bit of debauchery all set in what's supposed to be the 16 century. But really, it's like the SCA* on steroids.

For the past few years, my friend has been responsible for the ice cream booth. In exchange for about 12% of the take, he and his band of merry marauders get to scoop their little hearts out for patrons of the festival. Situated in the children's realm, they see quite a bit of scooping. Yesterday, they actually sold out for the first time.

I'll be doing another post on the creative entrepreneurs of the festival (it's actually QUITE a profit center for some people). Today though, I want to talk about tips.

See, when my friend first started working the festival, about 10 years ago, they had a tip jar, it was prominently displayed at the cash register, and they would easily bring in $50 per day (more on really hot days). Some time in the past few years, they (and all the volunteers in other booths as well) were admonished to NOT have a visible tip jar, which essentially cut their tips by 90%. They're lucky to see $20 in tips in any given week.

That is, until I started working in their booth.

My friend called me in because he was desperate for help. This year was a difficult one to get volunteers for the booth. He had a handful of folks committed to work most mornings, but the afternoons were a crap shoot for him. Not everyone who committed to working would show. The ice cream booth needs at least three people at all times, and four is ideal. This past weekend, the lines were so long I had my head in the freezer scooping most of the time.

But of all the scoopers on any of my shifts, I consistently out earned them all in tips. Here's how I did it: (more…)