Does tipping get out of hand? Many consumers say yes


“Suddenly these screens are present in every establishment we come across. They are also appearing online for online orders. And I’m afraid there is no end.”

X-Golf manager JW Park, left, helps Ashley Moreno to X-Golf indoor golf course in Glenview, Ill., Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

NEW YORK (AP) — Across the country, there’s quiet frustration over an age-old practice that many believe is spiraling out of control: tipping.

Some weary consumers are posting rants on social media complaining about requests for tips at the drive-thru, while others say they’re tired of being asked to tip a muffin or a simple cup. of coffee at their neighborhood bakery. What’s next, they wonder – are we going to tip our doctors and dentists too?

As more businesses embrace digital payment methods, customers are automatically being asked to tip – many times up to 30% – in places where they normally wouldn’t. And some say it has become more frustrating as the price of items has skyrocketed due to inflation, which fell to 6.5% in December but still remains painfully high.

“As a result, these screens are in all the establishments we meet. They also appear online for online orders. And I’m afraid there’s no end to it,” said etiquette expert Thomas Farley, who sees the whole thing as something of an “invasion.”

Unlike tip jars, which shoppers can easily ignore if they don’t have spare change, experts say digital requests can produce social pressure and are harder to circumvent. And your generosity, or lack thereof, can be laid bare to anyone close enough to peek at the screen, including the workers themselves.

Dylan Schenker is one of them. The 38-year-old earns about $400 a month in tips, which is a useful supplement to his $15 hourly wage as a barista at a restaurant-based Philadelphia cafe. Most of this advice comes from consumers ordering coffee drinks or interacting with the coffee shop for other things, like takeout orders. The gratuity helps cover his monthly rent and eases some of his burdens while he attends college and juggles his job.

Schenker says it’s hard to sympathize with consumers who can afford expensive coffee drinks but complain about tips. And he often feels demoralized when people leave nothing more, especially if they are regulars.

“Tipping is about making sure the people who perform this service for you get what they’re owed,” said Schenker, who has worked in the service industry for about 18 years.

Traditionally, consumers pride themselves on being good tipsters at places like restaurants, which typically pay their workers less than minimum wage with the expectation that they’ll make up the difference in tips. But academics who study the subject say that many consumers now feel irritated by automatic tipping requests in cafes and other counter-service restaurants where tips are generally not expected, workers earn at least minimum wage and service is generally limited.

“People don’t like unsolicited tips,” said Ismail Karabas, a marketing professor at Murray State University who studies tipping. “They don’t like being asked things, especially at the wrong time.”

Some of the requests may also come from strange places. Clarissa Moore, a 35-year-old woman who works as a supervisor at a utility company in Pennsylvania, said even her mortgage company has been asking for tips lately. As a rule, she is happy to tip in restaurants, and sometimes in cafes and other fast food places when the service is good. But, Moore said she believes consumers shouldn’t be asked to tip almost everywhere they go — and it shouldn’t be something expected of them.

“It makes you feel bad. You feel compelled to do it because they ask you to do it,” she said. “But then you have to think about the position people are put in. They pay for something they really don’t want to pay, or they tip when they really don’t want to tip – or can ‘ not afford to tip — because they don’t want to feel bad.

In the book “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” authors Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning advise consumers to tip on rideshares, like Uber and Lyft, as well as food and beverages, including alcohol. But they also write that it is up to each individual to choose the amount to tip at a takeaway cafe or food service, and that consumers should not feel embarrassed to choose the lowest suggested tip amount, and n don’t have to explain if they don’t tip.

Digital payment methods have been around for a number of years, although experts say the pandemic has accelerated the trend towards more tipping. Michael Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University, said consumers were more generous with tips early in the pandemic in a bid to show support for restaurants and other businesses that have been hit hard by COVID- 19. Many people really wanted to help and felt sympathetic to workers doing jobs that put them at greater risk of catching the virus, Lynn said.

Tipping at full-service restaurants increased by 25.3% in the third quarter of 2022, while tipping at quick-service or counter restaurants increased by 16.7% compared to the same period in 2021, according to Square, one of the largest companies operating digital payment methods. . Data provided by the company shows continued growth for the same period since 2019.

As tipping requests have become more common, some companies advertise them in their job postings to attract more workers, although the extra money isn’t always guaranteed.

In December, Starbucks launched a new tipping option on credit and debit card transactions in its stores, which a group organizing the company’s hourly workers had called for. Since then, a Starbucks spokesperson said nearly half of credit and debit card transactions include a tip, which — along with tips received in cash and the Starbucks app — is distributed based on the number of tips received. hours worked by a barista on days when tips were received.

Karabas, the Murray State professor, says some customers, such as those who have worked in the service industry in the past, want to tip workers at quick service companies and would not be irritated by automatic requests. But for others, research shows they might be less likely to return to a particular company if they feel irritated by the demands, he said.

The last tab can also have an impact on customer reaction. Karabas said that in research he did with other academics, they manipulated payment amounts and found that when the check was high, consumers no longer felt as irritated by tip requests. This suggests that the best time for a coffee shop to ask for that 20% tip, for example, might be on four or five orders of coffee, not a small cup that costs $4.

Does tipping get out of hand? Many consumers say yes
A tip option is displayed on a card reader tablet at X-Golf Indoor Golf in Glenview, Ill., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. – AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Some consumers may continue to ignore tip requests, regardless of the amount.

“If you work for a company, it’s that company’s job to pay you to do work for them,” said Mike Janavey, a shoe and clothing designer who lives in New York City. “They’re not supposed to rush consumers who are already spending money there to pay their employees.”

Schenker, the barista from Philadelphia, agrees — to some extent.

“The responsibility should absolutely rest with the owners, but that doesn’t change overnight,” he said. “And it’s the best thing we have right now.”


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