I started working in a liquor store. There is a tip jar beside the cash register that some customers donate to. After a purchase, I normally give change back from highest bills to lowest (e.g. I would give one $20 bill instead of four $5) but today a customer asked me to break his change even further so he could tip. I have been thinking of splitting the change smaller so customers can tip and I tried it with one, but he got upset and asked for bigger change (though I don't see this as a problem, I'm not technically obligated to give change in a specific way and if someone wants it done differently, all they have to do is ask). I'm thinking of small denominations e.g. giving two $1 instead of a $2 (though it upset the one customer I tried). I think they would be more likely to give tips, also because people dislike carrying small change.

Any thoughts on if this is moral or a good idea? There is also a secondary benefit as we need to count all the money at night and it's easier to do it with larger change.

EDIT: in response to Pete, the idea is someone's probably not going to tip something large, like a $5, but if it were broken down into $2 and $1, they are more likely to tip a $1.

I wouldn't do $5 bill to five $1 but may breaking $2 into two $1, and only if I had plenty of coins (which we always do).


9 Answers 9


In addition to the answers about people usually not wanting a lot of small notes (let alone coins) to carry around, there is also another issue here:

You're going to run out of change pretty quickly. If you return someone's 5$ change as 5x1$, then an hour later you'll not have any more $1-bills to give out to people who really need one. That's also one of the main reasons why change is given from highest to lowest; it's the most efficient way to handle change.

So not only are you creating a hassle for the customer (imagine if everyone changed like this; your wallet would overflow with low-denomination money), you're also creating a hassle for your manager, who will need to go the bank more often to get money for change (which you often have to pay extra for, so it's costing them money)

  • 6
    In German bakeries where individual things have prices like 32 cents, they are happy if you pay them in tiny coins. There are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Euro cent coins. We don't tip in places like that, but it's not uncommon to apologize as the customer when paying with a large note. Even if there was a tip jar, the would never hand out their small coins unless they have to, simply because they need them in case someone really pays a small amount with a huge bill.
    – simbabque
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 10:27
  • 14
    In the USA, customers typically don't tip in a retail scenario so its best to just be as efficient as possible. However if the OP did a favor for the customer like searching a back room, carrying something heavy, or reserving an item for the customer, a small tip would be fully appropriate but not expected. In those occasional cases breaking the change in to some $1's is not going to hurt.
    – teego1967
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 11:55
  • 1
    @teego1967 That would make a pretty good answer on its own. Or maybe edited into an answer if you don't want to make it an answer in its own right. (I'd upvote either way)
    – user56887
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 16:40
  • 1
    no he wont. with all the tips he will be getting he could exchange his tipped denominations to larger bills again.
    – JJ_Jason
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 19:50
  • 5
    FWIW in the UK a tip in retail would be utterly unheard of. If you give awkward change (i.e. a handful of coins) it had better be because you have had a particular busy day and ran out of shiny fivers, or I'm gonna give you a scowl. Although, that being said, I don't remember the last time I paid for anything in town with cash. Cards have existed for, well, decades now. Dunno, maybe we're just more ahead than you are. Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 3:32

This is kind of absurd, at least to me. If you were a bartender at a strip club, this would make perfect sense, as the customers are actually there sometimes for the thrill of throwing dollars. But you work in a liquor store. You get a bottle off the shelf, place it in a bag with customers' other goodies, ring up the sale, and send them on. Maybe you give advice on where to find something, or what tastes good. This isn't tipworthy. It's customer service, and you're being paid for that already.

You're new on the job, and trying to force your hand into customers' pockets for a little change. But you'll end up costing your boss, or the owner. There will be a need to carry more small bills from the bank, or go more frequently - that will likely incur a fee, and I'm pretty sure you're not the person who has to deal with or use your time to go to the bank and stand in line.

Repeat customers WILL notice, and your approach will annoy them. Let a few of these people mention your behavior to your boss, and you'll quickly be on the hook to justify it.


Just give change normally (largest denominations you have in the till).

Generally speaking, people want less stuff to carry around, so a $20 bill is preferable to carrying around four $5 bills.

I'm not sure how you assume that people will give you tips either, they might not appreciate being told "I'm giving you smaller bills so you can tip me".


Practically: Every customer I've ever seen is clever enough to ask for small bills if they need them to make the tip come out to what they want to give. Just give change normally unless they say otherwise.

  • 6
    Exactly. I say something like "Can I get change back with a couple of fives?" I assume the server knows exactly what's going on.
    – mskfisher
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 16:00

The problem here is you are inconveniencing the customer in the hope that they will give you a tip. If anything, that would cause me not to give a tip. It would be better to be nice to the customer and provide good customer service to get a tip then suggesting by giving them pocket change.

Morally, there is no issue, as long as they get the right money.

The customer is in charge of if they give you a tip, you need to work to make their time a positive experience and giving out small denominations is not a good way of giving a positive experience.


In businesses where tips are customary, like bar and food service, it’s normal for servers to return change appropriate for common tips. For example, in bars where the customers usually tip $1 or $2 per drink, the bartender will normally make sure to give you enough singles to tip a round of drinks.

However, in places were tipping is less common, like retail stores and cafés, customers normally expect to receive the change that is most convenient for fitting into their wallets. If a customer would like more small bills for tipping, they will ask. This is common even for some restaurant food servers, especially if they get tips more from credit cards instead of small bills.

In short, be sure to serve the customer’s convenience. Unless $1 tips are very common, that means returning larger bills in change when possible.

  • Why would anyone expect to trip in a pub or a bar given that the customer gets their own drinks?
    – Ian
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 22:17
  • I'm talking about places where customers tip a bartender. Apparently they don’t have those where you live. Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 0:59

It's not immoral at all. When a cashier hands me lots of small denominations I assume they're running out of larger ones and trying to manage their cash reserves.

It has never occurred to me that someone's trying to encourage my tip-jar contribution, but there have been times when I didn't donate to charity tip-jars because I didn't have any loose change.

  • Normally if I get a few smaller bills instead of a larger one it's accompanied by "Hey we're running low (or out) of X, do you mind Y?" Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 18:09

There's no single way of doing that will make everyone happy, so you'll have to test. If you have more upset customers than tipping customers, you'll know this is not working out. Otherwise, I don't see a problem.

Perhaps splitting a $20 or larger bills is counter-productive: assuming a tip of $1 or $2, you'll have to give away $5+$5+$5+$2+$2+$1 for them to be able to tip, which will run you out of change and annoy your clients. But splitting a $2 or a $5 doesn't seem to be a problem to me.

  • 2
    A simple way is to make the most people happy if e.g. the change comes out to $40.17, would be to ask "Would you like two twenties" while starting to take the change from the register. If someone just wants the two twenties, they will not be delayed, but if they want something else they'll won't need to waste time with "Excuse me, but could you break one of those", but could instead simply reply with "Some fives too, please".
    – supercat
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 16:25

I recently was at an event where a bottle of beer costed $5. When paying with a ten or a twenty the bar tender ALWAYS made change with at least 5 $1 bills. That was a) annoying and b) came across as blatantly greedy. That's why I didn't tip him at all.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .