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Americans can't stop tipping despite 'emotional blackmail' at self-checkout — tips are up over 10%-15% nationally
Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Americans can't stop tipping despite 'emotional blackmail' at self-checkout — tips are up over 10%-15% nationally

American consumers are reporting "tipping fatigue" and feelings of "emotional blackmail" at checkouts; however, tips are steadily inclining across the board.

Stress amid high inflation rates and cost-of-living increases among consumers has been echoed throughout reports showcasing "tipping fatigue," but this hasn't stopped the frequency at which customers are tipping.

According to point-of-sale platform Toast, 48% of transactions at quick-service restaurants on their platform included a tip in the form of a card or digital payment in the fourth quarter of 2022, an increase of approximately 11% since Q1 2020.

Additionally, Business Insider spoke to payment platform Block (formerly Square), which revealed that tips in full-service restaurants were up 16.5%, while gratuities increased by 15.86% in quick-service restaurants in Q4 2022. This was in comparison to the same time frame in 2021. The data represented all tips received, not just self-service kiosks.

It is at those self-service locations that customers are most confused. Wall Street Journal spoke to several patrons who were completely unsure where their tips were going but decided to throw in a few bucks to their robotic servers anyway.

Emily Clulee and Gracie Sheppard told the outlet that they felt the need to tip when buying cookies for just $5. Despite their only interaction with humans being when they were told to step to the side and wait, the pair of 20-year-old college students still tipped.

Sheppard said that she understood the importance of tipping and would have felt guilty if she didn't voluntarily fork over more money. “But when no one even helps us, I feel like there shouldn’t even be the option to tip,” she added.

Another man, Corey Gary, used a self-sustaining beer fridge at Petco Park, home of the MLB's San Diego Padres. Gary helped himself to his preferred beverage and then was asked for a tip by the payment processor at checkout.

“I was confused, because it wasn’t entirely clear who I was tipping,” the 28-year-old stated. Despite his confusion, he still decided to leave an extra 20%.

It was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal that tips are optional at the stadium, but they go to employees.

“Guests are not required to leave a tip and may select ‘No tip’ at checkout if they so choose," a spokesperson said.

Crumbl, which sold the young women their cookies, also stated that the tips are distributed among their bakers.

Similarly, a spokesperson for the OTG gift shop at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport said that any tips from self-checkout machines are divided between the staff that worked at the time.

A 26-year-old described the gift shop's practice as "emotional blackmail” and declined to tip for his $6 bottle of water.

While morale is down in America, tips are up, and they remain — as vendors have stated — entirely optional.

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