Tip Me is an initiative to help consumers ensure that the producers of their stuff receive a decent wage. Offering more transparency than conventional Fair Trade label however - by dropping a few coins into an electronic tip jar.
The Tip Me initiative wants to create a direct connection between consumers and producers and allow the former to ensure the producers receive a fair wage by topping up their pay with a tip. When it comes to fair trade products, a large proportion of the costs that the customer pays actually go to intermediaries or end suppliers, with unfortunately only a tiny share landing in the pocket of the original producer.
With the Tip Me system, the tip that's given goes directly to the people who made the product.
The whole process happens digitally: when the product is in your basket you can decide how much money you would like to pay - on top of the price - as a tip. Kind of like when you're asked if you want to offset your C02 emissions when you fly. It's easy as can be. But with the system currently only available for online purchases, it means that you won't be able to use the system on your next trip to the supermarket.
Can Tips Change the World?
The tips that are given go directly to democratic cooperatives and are meant to supply start capital that can be invested in the beginning of the production chain - capital which can be used to improve profits. Investments could include land and extra machinery or also improved school education for the children of the producers.
It sounds like the concept is only designed to work for products with simple supply chains - and there doesn't seem to be any easy way to reward anyone else further down the chain, such as the people in charge of logistics or any kind of refinement processes. In the textile industry, known for its very low paid work, the product is produced in several stages - from the cotton pickers to the spinners to the weavers and dyers and finally those in charge of sewing. How would a tip system work for this kind of supply chain?
In my opinion, tips can't replace a decent basic wage that covers all basic local costs and allows people to save for the future. Although the Tip Me system is still in development, there's a big focus on transparency, and the idea that you - and others - will be able to see exactly what happens with the money you give (100% of which will land by the producers).
And offering us the possibility to express our thanks and gratitude to the people who worked hard to make your stuff - that's not a bad thing at all.