Tech makes tipping harder to avoid. This angers some people.
Ugh, the worst
TIPPING CULTURE: President Biden has spoken against it. The National Restaurant Association is for it. Plenty of experts have said it exacerbates inequality in service culture, reinforcing outdated and unfair practices, and much has been written and shared about the trouble it presents. Entire organizations have been created to enact change in the space.
Yet the practice still angers a subset of restaurant customers, a few of whom lent their names and, surprisingly, photos to the New York Post complaining about “guilt tipping,” or, adding a tip they otherwise wouldn’t have given because they’re prompted by the screen. It’s like a digital tip jar, except tapping the screen once to select a predetermined percentage of cash to add to the bill is a lot easier than fumbling for cash to stuff in an unsightly jar.
“I don’t tip people who just are doing their jobs by doing counter work,” one Manhattan resident told The Post. (Of course the same guy says he tips servers in full-service restaurants, who one might also argue are “doing their jobs.”)
Restaurant and food business employee pay structures vary greatly by state. In some places, restaurant employees can earn as little as $2.13 per hour before tips, a rate set by the Federal government in 1991 and left unchanged since. (Really!) In some places, this could apply to employees at counter-service establishments if they receive a certain amount of their compensation via tips.
According to data from payments and point-of-sale company Square, customers at quick-service restaurants did tip more during the pandemic — the median percentage rose from 19.73% in pre-pandemic February 2020 to 22.22% in April. But the numbers fell off as Covid restrictions waned, dropping to 18.6% in August 2021.
They seem to be mostly annoyed by the technology involved. In the Post piece, one diner said that workers don’t show enough appreciation for tipping that happens on a screen. “You don’t get a lot of ‘Wow, thanks so much!’ It’s just kind of like there’s an expectation from their side,” they said.
Expectation or not, tips are a vital part of how many people are paid in the service industry, and technology is adapting. Last week, Instacart introduced changes in its system to protect contracted shoppers against the reprehensible practice of “tip baiting,” or promising a certain tip to the laborer to incentivize their work, only to rescind it upon delivery. (It’s the tech equivalent of those stories we’ve heard from stingy great-uncles about putting a server’s tip on the table upon sitting down and then taking parts of it away throughout the meal.)
Instacart is also changing shoppers’ “cash out” window from 24 hours to just 2, reducing the amount of time a worker needs to wait to receive the payment they are rightfully owed. And, finally, it’s adding a prompt to encourage its customers to tip their shoppers more if they rate the service with five stars. A beta test of that program resulted in a 6 percent earnings increase, according to Instacart.
Why all the bad customer behavior?
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