Affiliation vs. charity

Or are people trying to encourage the production of a public good?  Here is David Sedaris:

"A couple of books ago, I put a tip jar on my signing table and I made over $4,000 on my tour … I told people it was all for me to spend on candy. They were delighted because it’s funny to give money to someone who doesn’t need it. If there had been a beggar outside the bookstore, at the end of the evening, he might have had 75 cents. Whereas at the end of my best evening in Dallas [I had] $530 in tips."

For the pointer I thank Bob Cottrell.


Perhaps it is that we live in a culture of tips and, even when absurd, they seem natural on a subliminal level. Sedaris' tippers probably bought his book and probably didn't normally tip more than 20% of the book price. OTOH, they bought nothing from the theoretical beggar so wouldn't feel the impulse to add gratuity onto nothing.

I mean, people love David Sedaris and they don't like beggars, and they like giving money towards people/causes/etc that they love.

It doesn't sound very complicated or confusing. People feel that David's contribution to their well-being is well beyond they price they've paid for his books/signings/etc, so why not kick him back some?

John's right.

This is just people voluntarily foregoing part of their consumer surplus in the hopes that Sedaris will continue producing books (and, hence, additional consumer surplus).

I view it as an indication that Sedaris needs to figure out how to price discriminate better.

They probably think it is a fee for the signing. Or if they think it's a voluntary tip, they don't want to be embarrassed by not tipping. Or, they may think he *does* need the money and is just making a joke to hide *his* embarrassment for needing the money.

Some political comics I read also are funded by a tip jar. The people try to encourage the production of this good.

I think the answer is simpler: most people who aren't poor have an aversion to them. They don't want to get close to them. Some people, possibly many American conservatives and tea-party-members, think that the poor are undeserving and that giving to them reinforces a bad habit of begging.

PMSL after reading Mr. Buttock's comment

Also, many beggars actually make out pretty well - such that a goodly number of them are not, in fact, homeless, and panhandle because it's less work than a straight job.

(Of course, many, probably more, are pandhandling because they really are homeless, typically because of mental health or substance abuse issues or both.)

Andry: "Fraud" would require that people actually thought he was going to spend it on candy, rather than assuming it was a joke and he just wanted to see who'd donate.

I don't think that's a reasonable assumption about people (that they "really thought it was for candy and nothing else"), so I don't see any fraud.

If I were getting a book autographed by Sedaris tomorrow and he had a tip jar, I'd put in some change or even a dollar to hear his take on people continuing to put money in.

For Tyler's tip jar, I'd put in some lint, gum, and ticket stubs, and give the beggar a tip, to see how Tyler analyzes the tips or lint or chewing gum that follow. Will others see the lint as a signal to put their lint in as a signal, even if they don't know what I was signalling?

If I had business cards in my pocket, I'd put them in, but I haven't been to any meetings or shows where everyone gives you one so don't have any random ones to put in. i know that would trigger lots of professional to put their business cards in.

i don't normally give money to beggars if only because i pass so many each day and it would add up to a huge expense if i gave money to all of them and if i gave money to some i'm afraid they would remember me and target me more aggressively.

that said, if i were at that point in life where all hope has been expired i too would not be willing to work for a living at some low paying job and would rather beg and smoke crack and hope for an early death.

if i were rich i'd give a lot of money to beggars to go get really high every day. i think that would be the most utilitarian use of my money.

I don't know if that is accurate about the beggar. They do better than we think. I think his point still holds, though. But you are buying 2 different things. With Sedaris you are buying entertainment. The other is charity.

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