Note: I’ll update this post if/when you add suggestions. You can read about the Goldilocks Effect here.



Dear Fringe Buskers (and Andy),

You have an insanely good opportunity to find out what the sweet spot is with cashless payments. How much should a busker set their card machine to, to maximise the amount of tips they get? Where’s the level that works most often?

It’s amazing because a) you have lots of buskers performing at the same time, b) they’re all basically performing to the same people, in the same spot, at the same time of year, for four weeks, and c) I reckon you could get this test funded at no expense to the buskers or to the Fringe. Hey, take the money you save on this research and rent another equipment container!

Best thing? Everyone will likely earn more money while doing the experiment!

Okay, my suggestions below. Please add/disagree as you think. All these options require a TAP and/or SWIPE card and/or phone reader, with pre-set amounts. iZettle could work (and even sponsor this test (also here).


First of all, and most importantly, the below methods work with having one central Fringe account, but having buskers be able to enter their code to ensure that tips received are attributed to them. This means that you don’t have to give your super secret PayPal account password to some random redcoat.

Second, the codes you get assigned don’t necessarily have to be your name – each busker could be assigned a nickname (bunny, bear, badger etc). The people who know how much each nickname has earned are not the same people as those who know what nickname belongs to which performer. In other words, someone might know that “£4 is owned to Bear”, and someone else knows that “Bear = Timothy Terror”, but ONLY TIM HIMSELF knows both of those facts (hello Bear!).

Also, if you’re going to do this research, the result you’re looking for IS NOT a figure of how much you can earn. It’s ONLY about finding the best way of using the machines. Nobody will be printing “with this method every busker can be a millionaire!!”

Okay, onto the options.


SET UP: There’s a single Fringe account. There is one cashless payment reader for each pitch, and they’re all connected to that fringe account. Each performer is assigned a different code, which is how you will know how to distribute the money at the end of the day/week/month. Each busker can set their base tip amount as whatever they individually like before each day’s show starts.

PROS: Buskers can do their own experiments, and nobody’s telling them what to do. And, at the end of it, if the buskers self-report well, they could get a fairly good idea of “what works the best for the most number of buskers”.

CONS: The set up before each show requires a little extra tinkering as the busker chooses their tip amount. Also, all buskers are different, have different hat lines, feel confident about different amounts, and aren’t likely to be entirely scientific in their testing. They might even exaggerate a little…


SET UP: Same as Bronze, but all buskers have the same tip amount in the machines, which is set for the whole day. E.g.:

Day 1: all machines are set to £7
Day 2: £5
Day 3: £10
Day 4: £3

And so on. At the end of the week, you’ll get a good idea of what generally works well for buskers in general. Each busker will also learn what works best for them.

PROS: You do MUCH better in finding out how much THE PUBLIC wants to pay. Yes, some buskers are better at hatting high numbers than others. But 205 shows per day, by wildly different performers, but to the same audiences, will give you a fantastic data set that will show what generally works best at the Fringe. It will help at all future fringes.

CONS: MAYBE there will be buskers who are better at getting high-figures on cash machines than others. Those buskers could potentially earn less (but only at the cost of helping all buskers learn how to use a cash machine).


SET UP: Same as above, but you have THREE tap-payment machines on EVERY pitch. The machines will be sitting on a table, with the tip amount CLEARLY LABELED on each (e.g. £3, £5, £10). Also, ALL THREE options on a pitch would need to be assigned to the same busker. And, across all pitches, the tap-payment machines are set to the same amount.

Why? Because humans are naturally inclined to go for the one in the middle – not the cheapest shoes, not the most expensive shoes, but the shoes in the middle (this is why it’s called the Goldilocks Effect).

So, you’re maximising the chance that people will tip more than they normally would, by giving a middle option that’s intentionally set higher than people would normally donate.

Day 1, you could set the machines at first to £5, £10, £20. People that were inclined normally to only give you a £5 tip might be convinced to up it to £10, because at least they aren’t tipping £20!

Each day, you could change the amounts – £3/7/10, £5/7/10, £10/20/50 – until you get an idea of how high you can get people to go, just by offering different choices.

PROS: Seriously the best way of making money from donations (read below).

CONS: Requires 3 readers on each pitch. So, about 27-30 readers in total. I’m guessing that would be expensive.


Everything is manipulating people. “Don’t look cheap like that guy”. “Just fold it up and put it in my hat”. “I’ll go home with you tonight.” Even “This is my job” is manipulating.

Also, the goldilocks effect is intentionally used absolutely everywhere! It influences the clothes you buy, the food you buy, the stores you go into, the online donations you give, the services you buy, the insurance you buy, the coffins you buy (ever wonder why they have those £100k marble monstrosities on offer, even though nobody is ever going to buy them?). Every single time you’ve clicked a pre-set amount on a donate form online, you’ve been intentionally manipulated by people using the Goldilocks Effect. When offered 7 options to choose from, it feels a little shitty picking the lowest one, doesn’t it?

I mean, if you were Andy, you wouldn’t go for the SILVER option now, right?


I’d bet you (Andy) a tenner that you’d be able to get the University of Edinburgh to fund 30 machines, volunteers and a data expert. And you could get them involved under the strict clause that total amounts are not published, only the findings of what methods worked best. Maybe even the Big Issue would fund it (they’ve been looking into this technology for a few years now).