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  • Writer's pictureBret & Amber Tueller

Tipping the Scales

As more local businesses adopt digital gratuity, tipping fatigue is growing among consumers.

We’re tipping past the point of no return.

Across the county, there’s a silent frustration brewing about a cultural practice that many say is getting out of hand: tipping.

Some frustrated consumers are posting rants on social media complaining about tip requests at every store they enter. They’re tired of being asked to leave a gratuity for a muffin or a simple cup of coffee at their neighborhood bakery. What’s next, are we going to be tippingour doctors and dentists, too?

As more businesses adopt the new trend, customers are automatically being prompted to leave a gratuity - many times as high as 40% - at places they normally wouldn't. And some say it has become more frustrating as regular prices have skyrocketed due to inflation.

Unlike tip jars that shoppers can easily ignore if they don’t have spare change, experts say the digital requests can produce social pressure and are more difficult to bypass. And your generosity, or lack thereof, can be laid bare for anyone close enough to glance at the screen - including the workers themselves.

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 places where tipping has not typically been expected; workers make at least the minimum wage and serviceis usually limited.

So Americans are tipping less.

The tipping percentage for quick-service restaurants last quarter was 15.9%, dropping from 16.4% last year. People are tipping less in part because of inflation, experts say. They are also overwhelmed with the number of places that give them the option to tip with a card on an iPad, leading people to be less generous.

Adding to the changing dynamics, customers were encouraged to tip generously during the pandemic to help keep restaurants and stores afloat, raising expectations.

The shift to digital payments also accelerated during the pandemic, leading stores to replace old-fashioned cash tip jars with tablet touch screens. But these screens and the procedures for digital tipping have proven more intrusive than a low-pressure cash tip jar with a few bucks in it.

Customers are overwhelmed by the number of places where they now have the option to tip and feel pressure about whether to add a gratuity and for how much. Some people deliberately walk away from the screen without doing anything to avoid making a decision.

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