Is tipping getting out of hand? Consumers say yes, according to The Associated Press. Traditionally, tips are standard for waitstaff at restaurants and bartenders, but people have noticed tip requests popping up in unusual spaces such as drive-thrus, cafes and fast-casual restaurants. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, consumers' latest bout of tipping outrage is aimed at self-checkout machines.

The Wall Street Journal reported that prompts for customers to leave 20% tips at self-checkout machines have appeared at airports, stadiums, cookie shops and cafes around the country. Consumers have cried out against this practice, even claiming “emotional blackmail.” This leads many to wonder, why would a self-checkout kiosk ask for tips?

Why? Several business owners told the Journal that tips left at self-checkout kiosks will go directly to the paychecks of employees, an “optional thanks for a job well done.”

  • A spokesperson for an airport OTG station says that at the end of each shift, any tips left are pooled and split among staff. At Crumbl Cookies, where the self-help kiosks offer a tip suggestion at the end of each transaction, a spokesperson for the company says that the tips are given to bakers and other employees, the Journal continued.
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Pushback: Despite claims from business owners, some restaurants and other businesses have faced lawsuits over tipping dilemmas. Some research, the Journal reported, found that tips given to a machine might not even reach human hands, given that “protections to tipped workers in the federal Fair Labor Standards don’t extend to machines.”

  • Some say that the increase in tip requests is a way for companies to place the financial burden on customers, rather than raising wages themselves, per the Journal.

Tipping increase: Despite the financial strain much of the country has been facing recently, Americans are tipping more frequently than in the past, according to a report from Toast, a point-of-sale platform. However, the amount being tipped has decreased.

  • CBS News reported on a phenomenon called “tipflation,” where kiosks will set the minimum tip option around 18%, so that customers are prompted to tip more. This rate is a marginal increase from the 15% that has previously been commonplace in tipping etiquette.
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When should you leave a tip? Whether to leave a tip or not can be confusing, with the ever-growing presence of digital kiosks that make it easy for businesses to request a tip.

  • Brian Warrener, a professor of food and beverage operations at Johnson & Wales University, told CBS that it’s a good rule of thumb to always tip federally underpaid workers, such as waitstaff and bar staff, whose wages can sit as low as $2 an hour. He also suggested that you always tip food delivery drivers between $3 and $5.
  • Warrener says that in every other circumstance, tips should be optional and only rewarded when an employee offers “exceptional service.” That being said, customers shouldn’t feel guilty about not tipping for fast food or quick interactions.
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