Are tip requests getting out of hand? Many consumers say yes.

Across the country, there’s a quiet frustration over an age-old practice that many believe is spiraling out of control: tipping.

Some tired consumers show rants on social networks complain 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 has eased to a annual rate of 6.5% in December but still remains painfully high.

“And they’re talking about like 18% tip already included in the bill. Honey, that’s water,” one person said. said recently on TikTok.

“Suddenly these screens are in every establishment we come across. They’re also popping up online for online orders. And I’m afraid there’s no end to it,” said etiquette expert Thomas Farley , who considers it all “an invasion”. .”

Social pressure from on-screen prompts

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. But he added that it is primarily up to the employer to ensure employees are paid fairly.

“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.”

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. Salaries for restaurant workers vary widely by state, with hourly wages in some states frozen at $2.13 per hour, according to Department of Labor data.

But academics who study the subject say many consumers now feel irritated by automatic tipping requests at cafes and other counter-service restaurants where tips are not usually expected, workers at least do. the minimum salary 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.”

“It hurts you”

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 like you have to do it because they’re asking 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 were hard hit 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.

“It’s a relatively new phenomenon,” said Dipayan Biswas, professor of marketing and business at the University of South Florida. told CBS Philadelphia.

Professor Biswas has studied tipping for a decade. Like Cornell’s Lynn, he says this new tipping trend started with the boom in digital kiosks, then the pandemic “added flux to that fire,” along with inflation and more companies allowing tips to be returned. more lucrative jobs at your expense.

“I see it becoming more prevalent,” Biswas said.

Biggest restaurant tips

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.

Danny Meyer, CEO of upscale restaurant group Union Square, announced in 2020 that his restaurants would walk away from a long period of five years no tip policy when they reopened after being closed for months at the start of the coronavirus.

The company, which owns Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, laid off more than 2,000 workers after New York ordered restaurants to close in 2020. Fears workers would return without the lure of tips were a factor important in the decision to reinstate the tip. , Meyer said on LinkedIn at the time when announcing the decision.

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.

“Tipping the Recession”

Karabas, the Murray State professor, said 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.

Analysts at technology firm Branch are signaling a “tipping recession” as continued inflation causes U.S. consumer attitudes to shift. Since the start of COVID-19, the number of restaurant customers who tip has been steadily declining, falling to 73% in 2022 from 77% in 2019, according to a survey by

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.

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.”

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