I posted this on the Etsy forums. It's something I've been thinking about for a while now and I felt like sharing it here as well. To see some of the comments on the subject, your can check out the forum post here.
One of the most awkward parts of my day job is when a customer spots the tip jar on the counter and asks with a very confused facial expression "Oh...am I supposed to tip you?" I work in a small uncommon business where tipping etiquette isn't exactly common knowledge. Most people don't know what to do in an unfamiliar business setting especially with tipping. Because of this, even if a customer leaves me a $2 tip, I am grateful. It's them saying "Hey, I appreciate your help. Go treat yourself to a coffee."
When frolicking in Etsyland, I think about comparisons between my "real" job and being a member of the Etsy community. Etsy sellers and buyers alike try to do little things every day to make the buying and selling experience more pleasant for one another. We can't "tip" each other necessarily, but a customer taking the time to write me a nice long thank you e-mail for how satisfied she was with her necklace brightened my day so much it literally brought me to tears. That doesn't happen with a factory made necklace that you bought under the florescent glow of the mall. It was the best "tip" I've ever received.
Even though I spend most of my Etsy time alone behind a computer screen, I try and remember that my latest purchase of totally awesome earrings were made by a person. So what can I do to thank them? How can I make their day? Support their business? Whether it's a blog shout out or a tweet, I try and do ANYTHING at all to show how thankful I am for pleasant convos, prompt shipping, and the sweet handwritten note in my envelope.
We're here for each other. We share our stories and struggles and advice. I am a member of this community because I want to be able to connect with people and I want to brighten someone's day even if I can't afford to spend a lot of money in their store.
I guess my point is that the best part of my business is you. It's cheesy, but it's true and it's why most of us are here. We're all trying to pay our bills and feed our kids and it's so easy to get swallowed up in the frustration and negativity of being a struggling small business owner. I find the little things that we do for each other here are better than any business savvy and I'm going to keep "tipping" everyone the best I can.