Apr 29, 2022
Consumers were eager to tip in the early stages of the pandemic to support local establishments, but tipping fatigue has reportedly set in.
One reason is because tipping has moved well beyond full-service dining to cafes, bakeries, yogurt shops, food trucks, juice bars and fast-casual or quick-service restaurants. Major chains including Starbucks, Panera, Five Guys and Sonic offer tipping options.
Newer POS technology that encourages tipping is particularly making tip requests more pervasive. Payment through touch-screen tablets often offers tip options of 15, 20 or 25 percent – or “no tip.” Similar tipping options are offered when paying through mobile apps. In some cases, the minimum tip on mobile POS starts at 25 percent.
The screen query adds “more anxiety and social pressure into the tipping decision,” according to a New York Times article exploring tipping fatigue, versus the old-fashion tip jar.
This development is not simply a result of the pandemic. A 2018 article from Today was already wondering whether mobile payment systems were “guilting customers into paying those gratuities.”
Whether tipping is necessary for takeout is also a widely debated topic on social media. Critics note that most workers are at least making minimum wage and wonder if it’s fair to low-wage workers in other industries. Around delivery, confusing surcharges for service fees that are separate from optional tips to delivery personal are also feeding tipping fatigue.
The Wall Street Journal reports on recent data from Square that suggests that inflation and the “return to normal” are leading people to be less generous in tipping, particularly at establishments where there is no waiter or waitress service.
In a penned article for New York Magazine in response to a Times’ article on tipping fatigue, Ashley Wells, co-owner at Los Angeles restaurant All Time, said she recently instituted a 20 percent gratuity on takeout orders because takeout requires more staff and “more complex logistics” than dine-in and she has to support her staff.
She wrote, “Restaurant economics aren’t without their flaws, but think about it: There’s also a reason that your experience at the DMV feels different than your experience at your favorite restaurant.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has tipping become excessive and/or confusing? What’s your feelings on tipping for take-out, tipping food establishments where wait staff is earning a full wage and tipping in addition to delivery surcharges?
“Tipping has always been one part appreciation and four parts psychology. Mostly guilt. The ethics discussion should really be part of every POS implementation project.”