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Electronic Guilt Tipping

Did you know that you do not always have to tip when asked?

“Guilt tipping” appears to be on the rise. The clerk at your favorite bakery, food truck, or coffee shop swipes your credit card and spins an electronic screen around that asks whether you want to tip. Do you select 15%, 20%, or 25% for being handed a pre-made sandwich? Or do you select “no tip” under the awkward gaze of the clerk?

More of us are being explicitly asked to tip in non-traditional venues thanks to popular technology such as Square, which gives all merchants the option of asking for a tip as a percentage of the total sale or in fixed amounts. While etiquette has long dictated that decent table service warrants an appropriate tip (currently 20%), what about these limited service settings that traditionally did not request tips or did so by way of an unobtrusive tip jar? If any level of “service” defines all who should be tipped, then do we tip our dry cleaners, those who work behind the meat counter, and girl scouts selling cookies (the latter has happened!)?

What should you do? It depends. Tipping is optional in counter-type service situations; if you choose to tip, tipping less than 20% is appropriate. However, you should consider the context. Are you a regular at that coffee shop or do you plan on staying a while? Did you place a large, complex order? Do you know if the clerks are paid at least minimum wage, which is not the case in some restaurant settings?

Electronic tip requests should never “guilt” you into leaving a tip. Your purchase, a smile, and saying “thank you” is often enough, but remember that tipping is an easy—and for many service workers, a meaningful—way to express gratitude for exceptional service. How do you want to be remembered?™

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