Do You Owe A Tip To The Barista Who Poured Your Black Coffee? New Payment Systems Leave Some In A Quandary

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Digital payment systems, which ask customers if they wish to leave a gratuity, are pushing people to tip more frequently and more generously for services they may have skimped on before.

CHICAGO

Working the register at Dollop Coffee Co. in the Loop one recent evening, Evelyn Rangel rang up a $4.39 almond croissant and stood by as her customer, having swiped her credit card, studied the tip screen that popped up.

Did the service merit a $1 tip? $2? $3? Those were the options prominently displayed across the top of the Square payment touch screen. Below there were additional buttons that gave the option of leaving a custom tip or “no tip” at all before signing to complete the purchase.

Rangel, 28, has seen customers freeze at this juncture in the payment process, unsure whether to tip for counter service.

“Sometimes I’ll notice someone is hesitating and I’ll find something else to do for a couple of seconds and walk away,” said Rangel, insisting that she was not miffed when the buyer of the almond croissant selected the “no tip” option. “Customers are way more worried about it than we are.”

Social norms around tipping are shifting in the U.S., thanks largely to the widespread adoption of technology that puts tipping front and center when paying for a coffee, a trip in a taxi or ride-share vehicle, or food delivery.

The payment systems, which ask customers if they wish to leave a gratuity, are pushing people to tip more frequently and more generously for services they may have skimped on before.

That’s good for the wallets of low-wage employees. But shifting tipping norms are causing headaches on the other side of the counter.

The default settings can make some people feel they are caught between two bad choices: leave 20 percent and feel stretched, or 15 percent and feel cheap, both unpleasant experiences, said Alexander Chernev, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

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