Consumers cry foul at self-checkout tip screens

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The Future. As self-checkout grows more prominent in retail outlets, consumers are distressed by the proliferation of electronic tipping prompts. While tipping is expected in the American service industry, it’s harder to justify in situations without human interaction– especially because businesses might be exploiting the custom.

Gratuitous gratuities
Consumers complained to the Wall Street Journal that tip prompt screens are guilting them into tipping even when it’s unwarranted.

  • Some feel that the prompt amounts to “emotional blackmail” by implying that a tip is expected even during transactions that lack verbal engagement with an employee.
  • Others said they tipped only when a friend or employee could see the screen when they entered their answer.
  • Data suggests these prompts work. According to point-of-sale tech firm Square, tipped transactions rose 17% YoY at full-service restaurants and 16% at quick-service restaurants in Q4 2022.

Just business
More tipping seems better for workers, but some tipping researchers say that tips entered via automatic checkout circumvent federal labor laws and let companies take some or all of that money. Even if they don’t, businesses can use these tips in place of wage increases for workers — so maybe less is more.

Luke Perrotta


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