After I swiped my credit card to pay for a cake that I ordered from a local bakery, the cashier swiveled the credit card machine to face me.
Thinking it was for my signature, I was surprised to see the screen was actually indicating the amount of tip I wished to leave in increments of 15 percent, 20 percent or 25 percent.
I have to admit, I was bit startled. I know the difference between a cashier and a server, so I asked the cashier if she assisted in making the cake. She replied no, and then gave me a “laser gazer” stare waiting to see which tip amount I would choose (not to mention the guy in the line behind me, who also shared an interest).
I felt awkward with eyes both in front, and behind me watching to see what I would do. Feeling pressured, I clicked 15 percent, and the screen then advanced to let me sign for my purchase. So essentially, I tipped the cashier 15 percent for carrying my cake from behind the counter and handing it to me. Even though I was not forced into the tip, it felt a little intrusive. The more I thought about this, the angrier I became.
When I told a friend about the incident, she said her husband had experienced a similar situation at a “grab-and-go” food establishment. He was quite surprised to find the electronic tipping amounts to choose ranged from 20 percent, 30 percent and even 40 percent!
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely believe in tipping. I was a waitress during my college days. The tips I received sure came in handy when it was time to pay the bills. It’s also important to remember that most servers don’t make minimum wage, so tips can dramatically help their bottom line. However, this electronic-in-your-face-techno-coercion tipping, is a bit jarring. Judith Martin calls this practice “tip-baiting.”
On the one hand, electronic tipping may help the restaurant patron. It takes the guess work out of figuring 20 percent (or there about) of a bill for tipping purposes. Payment becomes more seamless. It may also help to increase the frequency of tipping for the server, by jogging the memory of a patron who may have forgotten. However, as was my case, it could open a whole new can of worms in the nontraditional tipping arena.
In a recent Consumer Report study of over 1,000 American adults, almost 30 percent said there are more situations today, than just two years ago, where they are expected to tip. Also, electronic tipping in the nontraditional arena may cause some to resent the fact they are tipping workers for merely doing their jobs. Others may be angered that the obligation to leave a gratuity means they are indirectly being asked to help finance the salary of somebody else’s employee, thereby making the business appear stingy and cheap.
So what to do? Get used to it — electronic tipping is here to stay. Just be ready. I will still tip at least 10-15 percent for takeout food, especially if it’s a large or complicated order. If I am a restaurant patron, I will tip at least 20 percent, unless the service is bad and doesn’t warrant that amount.
But, now I’m prepared. If I get the swivel “tip-bait” for someone just to hand me a cupcake they didn’t even make, I won’t feel pressure to click the tip. I WILL however, smile and say thank you.