When you're out for a night of dinner and drinks at your local bar, it's often simplest to open a tab at the start of the night. But leaving your credit card behind the bar, along with your ID, seems a little outdated (and frankly dangerous, for the identity-theft-paranoid of us out there). Clipp is a mobile bar tab app for Android and iOS that streamlines the process, and does so almost seamlessly.
Clipp set Gizmodo Australia up with two $50 coupons to try out the service. We used them at Darlo Bar and The Colombian in the Sydney CBD, if you were interested, on a bunch of gin and tonic and chips. C'est la vie.
What Is It?
Clipp is a "mobile payments solution for the hospitality industry." If you're not in marketing or start-ups, a more transparent and straightforward explanation is this: Clipp is an app that lets you create, add to and close out on bar tabs at hundreds of venues across the country. If you're the kind of guy or girl that leaves your credit card behind the bar at the start of a long night — with the danger of losing track of your drinks, or how much you've spent — then Clipp simultaneously lets you track your spending and track your drink consumption in a convenient interface.
It's also one of those little conveniences that means you can leave your credit card at home — your whole wallet, if it were not for the fact that these days you need to show your ID to get in basically anywhere. After you associate your credit card with Clipp, you don't have to use it again — cards are securely stored and linked to your account, so once you're logged in you can make payments on your tab with a couple of taps. If this sounds open to abuse, it's not — the Clipp system ensures that both you and the bartender need to go through the process of opening a tab on Clipp.
The process is simple enough. Once you're at one of the venues that supports Clipp, open the app, select the venue, and open a tab. You can set a certain maximum dollar value — excellent if you have a preset budget, or you want to qualify for certain Clipp promos, or if someone has given you a freebie code for a set amount of dollars. Once that tab is opened, you head over to the bar, tell the bartender you're on a Clipp tab, they'll assign you a number, and then you can start ordering food or drinks. The app itself after this point only functions to show your tab number — you can't use it to order food or drinks like Menulog, since that's entirely controlled by the venue you're at.
What Is It Good At?
700 bars, pubs and clubs across Australia use Clipp, and especially if you're in New South Wales, you have a lot of choice within each state's capital city as to which particular venue to visit and use Clipp at. There are no varying levels of integration, either — either your local uses Clipp, and you can use all the features of the app, or it doesn't and you can't. In the areas around the Sydney CBD that we tend to frequent here at Gizmodo, there are plenty of Clippable venues, ranging from the downmarket (Darlo Bar) to the premium and exclusive (Eau De Vie).
Setting up a Clipp account is simple. You can sign up via Facebook or create a dedicated account via your email address, and all you have to do after that point is associate a credit card that you use to open and close the electronic bar tabs that Clipp enables. You get that same level of security that you would with any account that authenticates through one of those two services. The app itself is perfectly easy to drive, too. It's primarily location-based, so you can see the locations near you that support Clipp, although you can search more broadly if you're planning an extended night out.
Clipp is, once you're up and running in a pub or club or bar, very easy to use. All you have to do is take your smartphone up to the bar, show your tab number to the bartender, and then order food or drinks — the bartender will add them to your order via the bar's POS terminal or a dedicated Clipp iPad. If you're keen enough, you can take a screenshot of your Clipp tab number and share it with your friends without the app, making the process a little simpler, although that's a bit of a hacky workaround. Much simpler is to have your friends use the app and share the tab itself. After you're done, you can close the tab without visiting the bar again, by simply paying through the app. After that, you're emailed a detailed and a basic PDF receipt of your drinks and the total amount charged to your credit card.
At least for the couple of months that we've been keeping track of Clipp, there have been a couple of pretty attractive deals timed around national events — the weekend of the NRL Grand Final, for example, where Clipp offered $15 off any tab of $50 or more. Several bars also have their own promo codes. If these continue, Clipp might even be a useful way to get cheap drinks and meals if your regular establishment doesn't have deals of its own. That particular promo code was a massive 30 per cent saving, and while we don't expect these to be regular, keeping an eye out for them might save you some money if you were planning to use Clipp anyway.
What Is It Not Good At?
When you open a tab at a Venue, Clipp charges a pre-authorisation to your associated credit card; in the case of my particular tab at The Colombian on Oxford Street, it was $50. That pre-authorisation is presumably to put a hold on funds, and you get it back after you close your tab, but if you're the kind of person that looks at your credit card statement like a hawk, it might be a little annoying. We get why it takes place — neither Clipp nor the bar want to be left holding your bar tab when you run out on it — but it seems slightly paranoid.
One of the barriers that Clipp has to overcome is the fact that in our testing, only half the bartenders we asked about it actually knew what the app was and what it did. Once the tab is set up, any other bartender doesn't need to know anything about Clipp — just the number of the tab you're on — but you might run into a hurdle if the staff aren't trained on how to get you up and running. To be fair, as Clipp expands to more bars and restaurants and becomes more ubiquitous, it'll be less of a hassle. The hurdle that we ran into was having to tell a couple of people what Clipp was — not exactly an insurmountable obstacle, obviously, but if you're just looking to have a quiet drink and avoid social interaction, you're out of luck.
Clipp ties itself to your credit card, and there's an option to split payments over a couple of different accounts — so a friend can chip in for their share, if you're unwilling to foot the entire bill yourself — but in our testing there's no way to pay the bill down with cash. This isn't exactly a downside, since it keeps things simple, but you'll have to plan ahead and buy a couple of drinks with the cash in your wallet if you want to put it to good use. This kind of inflexibility can be a boon and a burden, to be honest, but it probably depends on how many drinks you've had.
And, of course, it's a minor addendum, but there's no Clipp app for Windows Phone. Whether this is a bad thing or completely irrelevant depends on your choice of smartphone.
Should You Buy It?
Clipp is a really handy app if you're the kind of barfly that has one favourite establishment (that necessarily supports the app), and you're the kind of drinker that settles in for the night in one particular bar. It loses its appeal if you're heading out on a multiple-bar crawl, where you'll have to set up a new tab at each bar, or if you're heading to somewhere that doesn't have a Clipp account. With the recent news that 300-odd pubs from Australia's biggest hotel operator are signing up to Clipp, bringing the total to around 700 around the country, it's easier than ever to suggest Clipp as a way to keep track of your bar tab spending.
It's not without its flaws, but all things considered they're pretty small impediments and if you're willing to commit to the Clipp lifestyle — the 'ecosystem' that we always drone on about, where you have to buy into a certain way of going about things — then you're able to wrangle a combination of convenience and extra data on what you're eating and drinking and where. If you're the kind of Lifehacker reader that runs a budget or likes to track their spending, Clipp is more useful than spending cash or trying to keep credit card receipts.
For the average punter, Clipp is useful mainly because it simplifies the process of opening a bar tab — no credit card and driver's licence behind the bar, no waiting in line to close your tab, and so on. It's easy to understand, simple to use, secure, and works well.