In a post-Covid world, the emergence of digital kiosk systems has allowed businesses to offer consumers a new tipping option. These high-tech point-of-sales machines are popping up across all sorts of businesses, not just restaurants.
Consumers are finding more and more tip requests in unusual businesses, such as coffee, deli shops, and even car washes, which has fueled a tipping invasion.
'Tipflation' is a relatively new phenomenon. The culprit behind it is the boom in the use of digital kiosks after the pandemic.
While consumers have no issue tipping bartenders, servers, doorman, and all the traditional folks working less than minimum wage, adding 18% or even 20% gratuity for a cup of coffee or a sandwich has infuriated some.
"Suddenly, these screens are at every establishment we encounter. They're popping up online as well for online orders. And I fear that there is no end," etiquette expert Thomas Farley told AP News. He considers widespread tipping somewhat of "an invasion."
AP provided more color on the silent frustration brewing amongst consumers:
Traditionally, consumers have taken pride in being good tippers at places like restaurants, which typically pay their workers lower than the minimum wage in expectation they'll make up the difference in tips. But academics who study the topic say many consumers are now feeling irritated by automatic tip requests at coffee shops and other counter service eateries where tipping has not typically been expected, workers make at least the minimum wage and service is usually limited.
"People do not like unsolicited advice," said Ismail Karabas, a marketing professor at Murray State University who studies tipping. "They don't like to be asked for things, especially at the wrong time."
Clarissa Moore, a 35-year-old who works as a supervisor at a utility company in Pennsylvania, said some tip requests have come up in some very odd places, including her mortgage company.
Typically, she's happy to leave a gratuity at restaurants, and sometimes at coffee shops and other fast-food places when the service is good. But, Moore said she believes consumers shouldn't be asked to tip nearly everywhere they go — and it shouldn't be something that's expected of them.
"It makes you feel bad. You feel like you have to do it because they're asking you to do it," she said. "But then you have to think about the position that puts people in. They're paying for something that they really don't want to pay for, or they're tipping when they really don't want to tip — or can't afford to tip — because they don't want to feel bad." --AP News
It's hard to say how bad tiplflation will become before people start boycotting non-traditional places that request tips. And a reminder, the tip means the business incurs a larger processing fee, which implies service workers won't see all of it.