Friday, October 19, 2018

You Want 20% for Handing Me a Muffin? The Awkward Etiquette of iPad Tipping

-RW notes:  #BehavioralEconomics #PayCash #TipWhenYouWant

By Jennifer Levitz

Mina Dimyan frequents a Stamford, Conn., cafe, where he orders a cup of strong coffee for $3. It comes with a splash of guilt.

The clerk swipes Mr. Dimyan’s credit card and then swivels the store’s white iPad around. There is an uncomfortable pause. Prompts on the screen ask the 33-year-old human-resources recruiter to sign his name and pick a tip: 18%, 20%, 25%, a custom amount or “no tip.”

It’s so awkward,” says Mr. Dimyan, who taps 20%. “You press the middle button so you don’t look cheap to the people behind you in line.”

Consumers face that disconcerting ritual at bakeries, coffee shops, food trucks and other businesses that use tablet credit-card readers such as Square. The devices often ask customers to make tipping decisions on the fly—with the person who just served them looking on, along with everyone else waiting in line.

“It guilts you into it,” said Thom Kenney, a patron at Squeeze Juice Company in Boston on a recent morning. “It absolutely does, because they are standing there. You want to make them happy.”

Mr. Kenney, who is 48 and runs a recruitment firm, had just ordered the citrus and greens juice for $8.50. He picked the $1 tip option on a tablet screen displaying tip choices that rose to $3.

“I feel so weird,” said Mr. Velez, 31. “We feel like we are pushing you to give tips.”

Johan Velez, who works at a juice bar in Boston, looks away when customers are paying so he doesn’t feel he is pressuring them to tip.

Tipping has long been a sticky part of etiquette, and payment technology is making it more so. Susan Randall, a 49-year-old private investigator in Burlington, Vt., says she will tip for stellar service, such as “a little heart on my latte,” but that she is surprised by how often the iPad tip prompts appear—and by the suggested amounts. “You buy a muffin, and you tip the person who carried it 14 inches from the case to the counter? Please.”

Read the rest here.


  1. The simple solution is to go elsewhere. If limited competition prevents avoiding them, then skip the purchase. When using these systems hurts business they will go away.

    1. The first step is just to tip zero. If you find that, as a result, service deteriorates, then I would agree that you should go elsewhere. But I routinely tip zero and don't suffer any adverse consequences. (By the way, is hair in your coffee a new trend?)

  2. they ought to have an option to return the coffee

  3. In some countries tipping is not expected. I understand this is the case in Italy. While in Columbia I found that they are almost insulted when tipped. By the way we found the people in Columbia to be at the top of being trust worthy and cordial.

    Where I receive good service I leave a tip. In most cases it’s not just the server that you are tipping but the whole staff. The person handing you the muffin didn’t do much work in that instance of exchange but they typically have done and will do other work that allowed that instance of service to be efficient and pleasant. And what about the bakers in the back (assuming the muffins are made on site)?

    Most of us frequent establishments on a regular basis where tipping is the norm. I find that leaving a tip goes a long way in receiving better than good service. On the other hand I dislike that tipping is expected. And the automation of tipping exacerbates this. 99.9% of the time I pay in cash and rarely go to coffee shops so have not experience the automation part very much.

  4. The tipping got out of hand years ago.

  5. "Tipping has long been a sticky part of etiquette." Nope.

    JJM is correct. In fact, if I were the owner, I'd split the place in two, with $2 coffee and "No Tips Allowed."

    I can already see heads exploding on the west coast.