Across the country, quiet frustration is brewing over an age-old practice that many say is getting out of hand: tipping.
Some fed up consumers are posting rants on social media complaining about tip requests at drive-throughs, while others say they are tired of being asked to leave a tip for a muffin or simple cup of coffee at the bakery. your neighborhood. They wonder what’s next: are we going to tip our doctors and dentists too?
As more businesses adopt digital payment methods, customers are automatically asked to leave a tip, often in excess of 30%, in places where they normally would not. And some say it’s gotten more frustrating as the price of items has skyrocketed due to inflation, which dipped to 6.5% in December but remains painfully high.
“Suddenly these screens are in every store we find. They are also popping up online for online ordering. And I’m afraid there is no end,” said etiquette expert Thomas Farley, who calls the whole thing some kind of “invasion.”
Unlike tip jars that shoppers can easily ignore if they don’t have spare change, experts say digital solicitations can build social pressure and are harder to circumvent. And their generosity, or lack thereof, can be exposed to anyone close enough to look 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 provides a useful supplement to his $15 hourly wage as a barista at a Philadelphia cafe housed inside a restaurant. Most of those tips come from consumers ordering coffee drinks or interacting with the coffee shop for other things, like takeout orders. The tip helps cover his monthly rent and eases some of his burdens while he attends graduate school 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 don’t leave anything extra, especially if they are regular customers.
“Tipping is about making sure that the people who perform that service for you get paid that they are owed,” said Schenker, who has been working in the service industry for about 18 years.
Traditionally, consumers pride themselves on tipping well at places like restaurants, which typically pay their workers less than minimum wage in the expectation that they will make up the difference in tips. But academics who study the issue say many consumers now chafe at automatic tip requests at cafeterias and other counter-service restaurants where tips are not normally expected, workers earn at least minimum wage, and service is often 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 for 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. She is usually happy to leave a tip at restaurants and sometimes at diners and other fast food places when the service is good. But Ella Moore said she believes consumers shouldn’t be asked to tip almost everywhere they go, and it shouldn’t be expected of them.
“It makes you feel bad. You feel like you have to because they ask you to,” she said. “But then you have to think about the position in which you put people. They are paying for something they don’t really want to pay for, or they are tipping when they don’t really want to tip, or can. They don’t have the luxury of tipping 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, such as Uber and Lyft, as well as on food and beverages, including alcohol. But they also write that it’s up to each person to choose how much to tip at a cafeteria or takeout service, and that consumers shouldn’t feel embarrassed about choosing the lowest suggested tip amount and don’t have to explain themselves. themselves if they don’t tip.
Digital payment methods have been around for several years, though experts say the pandemic has accelerated the trend toward more tips. Michael Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University, said consumers were more generous with tips during the early days of the pandemic in an effort to show support for restaurants and other businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic. COVID-19. Many people genuinely wanted to help and sympathized with workers who had jobs that put them at higher risk of contracting the virus, Lynn said.
Tips at full-service restaurants grew 25.3% in the third quarter of 2022, while tips at quick-service or counter-service restaurants increased 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 tip requests have become more common, some companies advertise them in their job postings to attract more workers, although extra money is not always guaranteed.
In December, Starbucks launched a new tipping option on credit and debit card transactions at its stores, something that had been called for by a group organizing the company’s hourly workers. Since then, a Starbucks spokesperson said nearly half of credit and debit card transactions have included a tip, which, along with tips received in cash and the Starbucks app, are distributed based on the number of hours a customer worked. barista on the days tips were received. He got.
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 businesses and wouldn’t chafe at automated requests. But for others, research shows they’re less likely to return to a particular business if they’re irritated by solicitations, he said.
The final tab can also affect how customers react. Karabas said that in research he did with other academics, they manipulated payment amounts and found that when the paycheck was high, consumers were no longer as irritated by tip requests. That 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 on 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 work for them,” said Mike Janavey, a shoe and clothing designer who lives in New York City. “They’re not supposed to be squeezing consumers who are already spending money there to pay their employees.”
Schenker, the Philadelphia barista, agrees, to a point.
“The responsibility should absolutely lie with the owners, but that doesn’t change overnight,” he said. “And this is the best we have right now.”