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Technology pressures consumers to tip at self-checkout

Families squeezed by high inflation now are being asked to leave a tip even at many self-checkout kiosks.

Many companies, including airports, bakeries, coffee shops and sports stadiums, have now introduced the self-serve tipping option, where customers can leave tips including the typical 20 percent, despite facing minimal to no interaction with any employee. Customers report feeling obligated to leave a tip as they question where and to whom the extra money is actually going, but businesses are increasingly embracing the option to boost pay for workers outside of salaries.

William Michael Lynn, a consumer behavior and tip culture professor at Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration, said businesses “are taking advantage of an opportunity” and “who wouldn’t want to get extra money at very little cost if you could?”

At the start of 2023, consumers already were feeling the frustration as unexpected companies were not only requesting tips but some businesses were asking for up to 30 percent. Customers, including a Wall Street day trader and college students, shared their experiences with leaving tips at fast-food restaurants with drive-through service and brand-name coffee shops such as Starbucks with Fox News Digital in January.

“I feel like if there’s an automatic question to ask for tipping, there should be fine print stating where these tips go,” day trader Shaun MacDonald said “It doesn’t have to be huge, but it should be in writing on the screen saying these tips help out employees or these tips go to all employees, which includes management. It should be specified.”

Leaving a tip at the counter is not necessary, lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann said. “Etiquette would dictate that that is not a requirement,” she said.

Swann, founder of The Swann School of Protocol in California, explained that leaving a tip is based on the worker’s salary. Most servers who wait tables at restaurants or bars don’t earn a full salary and instead rely on tips to make a living. Employees who work behind counters and registers most likely are earning standard salaries, however, so a tip would be above and beyond what they normally make, she said.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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