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Self-checkout machines are now asking customers for tips: ‘emotional blackmail’

Self-checkout machines expect to receive gratuities for their services.

As the corporate greed driven inflation costs continue to rise, businesses are placing additional burden on customers by introducing fresh tipping alternatives at self-checkout machines.

The Wall Street Journal reports that customers are being provided with the option of leaving a standard 20% tip despite the absence of any interaction with employees during transactions at self-checkout machines in coffee shops, bakeries, airports, and sports stadiums.

Entrepreneurs think that the suggestion to leave a tip can enhance employees’ salaries and elevate the amount of money given as a token of appreciation. However, clients are uncertain about the destination of the additional funds, given that self-service operations are performed without assistance.

WSJ spoke with Ishita Jamar, a senior at American University in Washington, DC, who has observed an increase in prompts for self-serve tipping. Jamar questioned the purpose of requesting a tip when labor costs are being reduced through self-checkout and wondered about the destination of these tips.

Researchers who advocate against tipping argue that companies are using this practice as a means of shifting the burden of compensating their employees onto the customers instead of raising the salaries of their staff.

Self-checkout machines are now asking customers for tips: ‘emotional blackmail’
The notion that a tip prompt can elevate employee compensation and augment tips is upheld by entrepreneurs. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

William Michael Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior and tip culture at Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration, suggests that businesses are taking advantage of an opportunity.

The inclusion of a gratuity option in self-checkout is a manifestation of “tip creep,” which encourages customers to give more substantial tips in transactional settings.

Many customers perceive self-tipping as a method to pressure individuals into tipping for something they wouldn’t ordinarily tip for.

After being prompted to add a 10% to 20% tip on his $6 water bottle at an airport self-checkout machine, Garrett Bemiller, a 26-year-old public relations worker in Manhattan, stated to WSJ that the prompt was a form of “emotional blackmail.”

According to WSJ, several companies stated that the tipping reminders are entirely voluntary, and the additional gratuity is divided among all staff members.

Although, tips made at a self-checkout machine are not protected under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, experts suggest that they may not reach an actual employee.

Self-checkout machines are now asking customers for tips: ‘emotional blackmail’
The inclusion of a gratuity option in self-checkout is a case of “tip creep”, which encourages customers to offer more significant tips during transactions. (Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

According to Holona Ochs, an associate professor at Lehigh University, self-checkout tipping is a method of utilizing the strong inclination towards tipping in order to increase revenue for the company.

The introduction of various tipping choices has generated significant online discussions among customers, particularly in establishments such as Starbucks.

In September 2022, Starbucks introduced the ability to leave tips via credit card, which elicited a variety of reactions from customers and staff alike. Some employees confessed feeling uncomfortable asking for gratuities in a fast-food environment.

Studies indicate that providing customers with digital tipping choices often leads to gratuities ranging from 18% to 30% or more. However, some individuals maintain that they decline to tip for quick-service and self-service encounters.


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