10 Ways to Increase Tips as a Budtender
The budtender is often seen as the low-level workhorse within the retail side of the cannabis industry. While wages can vary from $10–$20 per hour, there still is an opportunity for budtenders to maximize their earning potential through customer tips. T.I.P.S originally stood for — “To Insure Prompt Service,” but since has evolved into a universal symbol to show appreciation for service that goes above and beyond. Here are 10 ways to increase the quality of your guest interactions, potentially leading to better tips. (Remember, tips are the result of incredible service, not an expectation)
1. Know Your Dispensary or Venue
Dispensaries and social consumption venues are as unique as the individuals working within them.
Being familiar with the area surrounding your place of work will allow you to talk to guests about where they should and shouldn’t go. Get to know local gas stations, restaurants, bars and nightlife close to you. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times guests ask me where they should go next after making their cannabis purchases.
Great recommendations come with increased gratuity.
2. Be Mindful of Grooming & Appearance
Grooming falls into three main categories:
- Wardrobe- clothing and uniforms.
In many hospitality establishments, employees are required to wear a specific uniform.
Cannabis businesses are no different. As cannabis businesses grow and evolve, uniforms and dress codes will become more common.
Avoid overly wrinkled, unwashed, ripped/torn clothing. Also, be mindful of what is displayed on the clothing itself. Stay away from offensive designs or phrases.
- Cleanliness– hair, nails, teeth, breath and personal hygiene.
Avoid budtending if you look like you just rolled out of bed or have been avoiding the shower for a few days. The basics go a long way here: brush your teeth, shower before work and make sure you are presentable. Even simple things such as too much perfume or cologne can be off-putting to guests, so be mindful.
- Attitude– positive and hospitable attitude.
Grooming includes your demeanor as well. Make sure that you bring along a kind, positive attitude.
Be mindful of your grooming habits and outward appearance, as appearance does pave the way for strong first impressions. Positive first impressions help secure a trusting relationship with the guest.
My rule of thumb? You can never be overdressed. (With the exception of tuxedos and extraordinary cocktail dresses, but dang do those look good)
3. Know Your Products and Promotions
One of the most basic things a budtender can do to increase their gratuity is to know the products that are available in their dispensary. Beyond knowing every type of product that you carry, knowing how the products can affect a guest is an non-negotiable skill. There are numerous resources, training classes and one-on-one intensive courses available to make take your cannabis knowledge to the next level. Strive to further your education. When you know the answer to nearly any product question, you are seen as an authority. Being an authority eases the guest and re-assures them of their purchase. Guests love saving money, be aware of all specials and product packages that could help them get the most value from their purchase.
The extra bit of money you save them could end up in your tip jar.
4. Make Product Education Fun
Budtenders who earn the best tips create an experience around the products. Create a scenario in which the guest can understand and envision how the products will work for them, here are some examples:
- Tell a story about how you personally have used the product.
- Detail a scenario where you explain how the guest can enjoy the product. (“The giggles this Jillybean creates will be an absolutely perfect match for the comedy show that you were talking about going to later tonight!)
- Let the guest physically touch packaged product while explaining it, I often use this to sell packaged edibles, giving guests an idea of the consistency. This same method can be applied to consumption accessories like pipes, glass and vaporizers.
- Guide the guest through an olfactory adventure. When smelling the cannabis at the bud bar, explain the terpene profiles with very simple terms and compare them to things that the guest has experienced before. When I explain how “Tangilope” smells I describe it as such: “Tangilope smells like peeling a tangerine at a gas station.” This technique gives the guest an “ah-ha” moment before committing to the purchase.
Telling stories, creating scenarios and guiding guests show them that you care. Creating fun, memorable experiences will most certainly increase your tips per hour.
5. Speed, Efficiency and Proactivity
Let’s face it, we are all very busy. Dispensary customers are no different and we must respect that. With every transaction, make sure you are paying attention to the wait times guests are experiencing. No one likes waiting too long. Wait times can absolutely kill a budtender’s tips per hour. Make sure to give each guest adequate time to make a selection, but you can lightly nudge them along in the process to help keep the overall wait time between each guest down.
Here are some strategies to keep your guests moving along in a timely manner:
- Ask the guest what they are looking for specifically, instead of giving a blanket product pitch.
- Know your systems well enough to perform essential duties quickly (such as product searches and POS systems) This prevents you from holding up the transaction.
- Engage intake staff to keep guests moving.
- Connect with management to address issues quickly.
6. Understand Your Customers
There’s a little saying I go by when budtending: “Treat every customer like a blank canvas.” This is not only important from a hospitality perspective, but from a safety perspective as well. Understanding the guest and their unique tolerances, preferences and habits go a long way in building rapport and ultimately trust. You wouldn’t recommend a concentrate to a brand new, first time consumer now would you? I’ve seen bad things happen when the budtender refuses to understand the guest. Not understanding the guest can have a negative impact on your tips and in a worst case scenario could lose you a customer permanently.
No customer, no tips.
7. Watch Your Topics of Discussion
I’ve learned in any hospitality or retail sales environment there are three things you avoid discussing; politics, religion and sex. (The exception being products or services related directly to those topics. Ex. an infused lube)
Some examples of avoidable topics:
- Sexual topics
- Offensive jokes or profanity
Polite societies expect that you won’t attempt to change people’s mind on such topics during a retail shopping experience. So you don’t discuss them, for the sake of keeping things civil especially when running a business or trying to sell your customer a product. Now, there are some exceptions. If the politics being discussed are related directly to the products you are selling (in this case, cannabis) go ahead and tread the waters, but always use a rational and fair basis for each conversation. When discussing sex products like lube or suppositories please act like an adult. Remember, the dispensary is not a place to collect phone numbers or hit on customers, it makes you look unprofessional.
Civil conversations will result in better tips, I promise.
8. Create a Culture of Repeat Business
Never, ever undervalue the importance of repeat business. Repeat business and referrals are what drive any business forward long-term.
I suggest using these strategies to build a repeat business culture within your workplace:
- Know your guests by name.
- Remember something interesting about your guests and reference it during the interaction. (Kids, pets and hobbies work very well)
- Make them feel special with exclusive offers and deals.
- Spend extra time with the guest, when you are able to.
- Use loyalty and rewards programs.
Repeat customers tend to tip better.
There is magic in your smile, truly. There is a lot of science that has gone into understanding what impact our smiles and body language have on human interaction. In fact, we are a naturally smiling species and no matter what social situation we are in, smiling can improve it. Smiling is naturally contagious. Anyways, enough with the science… how can smiling help your tips? When we smile we are perceived to be more courteous, likeable and competent! Who wouldn’t want those qualities, perceived or not?!
Here is what we know about smiles:
- When you smile, your guest is more likely to smile as well
- When you smile, you look, feel and interact better
- Smiling enhances the exchange of knowledge and product
- Smiling reflects your mindset
- Smiling is a reflects your place of work
- Smiles can repair complications during transactions
- Smiling is an invitation to our trust
Your smile is the best tool you own, make sure that you use it often.
For the days you don’t feel particularly happy, remember…smiles = tips.
10. Tips: Always Appreciated, Never Expected.
Here are some tipping etiquette points to remember:
- Never, ever expect tips from a guest.
- Never make the guest feel pressured or forced into giving a tip.
- Never ask for a tip directly.
- Never assume the money they are giving you is for a tip.
- Always verbally confirm that the tip is for you.
- Always thank the guest, any tip amount requires acknowledgement.
- Creative tip jars are fine, make sure they aren’t inappropriately labeled:
Some inappropriate tip jar examples include: “Just the tip,” “Gently slide your tip in” and “Please tip, my boss is a cheap bastard.” You won’t believe some of the other ridiculous examples I have seen in my career. Please, just don’t do it.
The golden rule for accepting tips — “Tips are always appreciated but never expected.”
There you have it, ten strategies to increase your tips as a budtender!
Do keep in mind that some establishments DO NOT allow customers to tip. Sometimes accepting tips at establishments could result in disciplinary action, including termination.
Please consult with your workplace on their individual policies surrounding tipping.
About the author:
Budtending Strategist & Founder of TopShelf Budtending
As a Budtending Strategist, Andrew facilitates the responsible consumption of cannabis and creates intelligent budtending solutions within the retail and social consumption space. Over the past 3 years, he has successfully served cannabis to over 10,000+ guests, at 130+ events spanning 5 legal cannabis states.
He has been quoted in High Times, Rolling Stone, CNN, FOX, VICE and Newsweek for advice on serving cannabis to guests in private event and social consumption lounge settings. When he’s not behind the bud bar serving guests, he is working with state and local governments to create standard operating procedures, safe serving practices and sensible regulations regarding the social consumption of cannabis.
Connect with Andrew Mieure online!