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Automatic tipping

Some friends and I gathered recently for a day of fun. We decided to go out to a local sub shop for lunch. Nothing unusual about that. We went in, placed our order, got our food, paid and ate.

The unusual bit was the checkout process. The pad where you put your card to pay brought up a screen offering options to pay an 18%, 20%, or 25% tip, or a custom tip, or no tip. At a full sit down restaurant, I could see this. There you sit at a table, and the waitstaff take your order, bring your food to you, and refill your drinks. There’s a lot of work going on.

But a sub shop? They take your order and make your sandwich. That’s it. You take it to your seat, or out the door with you. You even get your own drink. Yeah, there’s some work on the part of the employees but that is what they are expected to do. They aren’t going above and beyond to help you out. So when did automatic tipping become the norm for this?

I mean, yes, if you feel the sub shop employee did a particularly great job fixing your sandwich, maybe you want to leave a little extra for them. But it should be your choice. It shouldn’t be a default option for checking out.

I’ve been told that ‘tip’ stands for ‘to insure promptness’ and that you should tip your wait person before your meal starts. The bigger the tip upfront, the better the service? I’m not sure that works out exactly as intended but I might give it a try the next time I’m at a full restaurant.

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1 thought on “Automatic tipping”

  1. As I have spent most of my adult life working in customer service, I feel almost constrained to comment. There has been much discussion about tipping in the last decade or so, and quite frankly most of that discussion, on both sides, has been nonsense.

    On the one hand, a lot of people say tipping should stop, that they shouldn’t have to pay extra, that the restaurant owners should be paying the servers enough. As far as I can tell, most of these people don’t seem to grasp the fact that higher salaries for the waitstaff will mean higher prices on the menu. They will still be paying extra.

    On the other side, as James pointed out, more and more stores, whether intentionally or inadvertently, are soliciting tips for there employees – even in cases where no employee is providing any service. I say possibly because it may be a technical limitation. How do you make it possible to allow people who would like to tip electronically without the appearance of soliciting a tip from everyone? A solvable problem, but I see little evidence that anyone is trying to solve it.

    Personally, I have never solicited a tip. I consider tip solicitation to be unprofessional, low class, and an indication that you are not in the right job. Unfortunately, far too many people working in customer service do not adhere to this standard.

    I have always held that one tips for (good) service, but not for productivity. Not everyone agrees. Apparently, there are people who think that someone who just takes your order, takes your money, and hands you a bag with food in it is deserving of a tip. I don’t. But the whole paradigm of tipping is certainly changing, and the formerly clear lines between production and service are growing blurry. And true generosity should never be discouraged.

    Bottom line: Tipping is NEVER required. You should tip when, if, and how much you feel is appropriate. If I give you the best possible service and you opt not to tip me, that is not required. But, keep in mind, it is neither required for me to think of you as a decent human being (but acting on that thought would of course be unprofessional).

    If you are having something delivered to your front door and the invoice lists a “delivery charge”, that charge is almost never going to the delivery person. Include that in your tip/don’t tip calculus.

    Finally, a thought experiment: You are going to 1 of 2 restaurants. Both restaurants are pretty similar, except at one, the servers are paid $2.19/hr plus whatever tips they can make. At the other restaurant, there is no tipping, the prices are about 20% higher, and the servers are paid a supposedly livable hourly wage, meaning they get the same money per shift regardless of whether they serve 1 customer or 100. At which restaurant do you think you will get better service?

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