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How Businesses Trick Customers into Over Tipping

The evolution of payment methods and the introduction of touchscreens have given rise to new strategies aimed at maximizing tips.
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Patrick Tomasso
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Patrick Tomasso

In the age of digital payments and touchscreens, tipping has not only become more convenient but also more contentious. A recent surge in anger towards tipping stems from what experts are calling "tipflation," a practice where businesses attempt to extract higher gratuities from customers through various tactics. While tipping has long been a customary practice, the evolution of payment methods and the introduction of touchscreens have given rise to new strategies aimed at maximizing tips. But before you succumb to the pressure, it's important to understand these tactics and protect your hard-earned money.

Image Source: Unsplash|Photo by Viacheslav Bublyk
Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Viacheslav Bublyk

One of the most insidious methods employed by businesses is the inclusion of sales tax when calculating suggested tips. According to a Square spokesperson, some establishments sneakily incorporate sales tax into the total bill before suggesting a tip, significantly inflating the gratuity amount. This practice can catch customers off guard, leading them to unknowingly leave a larger tip than intended.

Etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute recommend tipping between 15% and 20% on the pre-tax total at sit-down restaurants. However, the decision of whether to calculate tips before or after taxes can have a substantial impact on the final amount, especially for larger parties. In some states, this discrepancy could mean leaving nearly 10% extra on your overall gratuity, emphasizing the importance of being vigilant when tipping.

"People are really feeling imposed upon," Etiquette expert, Thomas Farley says. "We’re already living through inflationary times. Everything is crazy expensive. And on top of that, you’re being asked, every time you turn around, 'How much would you like to tip?' It feels pushy."

Moreover, the rise of digital prompting has exacerbated the pressure to tip. A report by Forbes Advisor revealed that nearly 75% of Americans admitted to leaving higher tips when prompted digitally, such as through tablets or smart card readers. This phenomenon, dubbed "guilt tipping," affects roughly 31% of Americans, who feel compelled to pay it forward when prompted digitally.

Image Source: Photo by RDNE Stock project | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by RDNE Stock project | Pexels

Some restaurants have even gone as far as making tipping mandatory by adding a fixed gratuity percentage to bills, regardless of party size. While this move is often justified as catering to international tourists unfamiliar with tipping customs, it has faced opposition from hospitality workers who believe in leaving gratuity decisions to the discretion of customers.

Besides restaurants, other businesses have also adopted creative ways to solicit tips. Tip jars have started appearing in unexpected places like dry cleaners and hardware stores, signaling a shift towards a culture of tipping in traditionally non-tipped industries. Additionally, online businesses are now prompting customers to tip employees they never interact with directly, further blurring the lines of traditional tipping etiquette.

Image Source: Photo by Helena Lopes | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Helena Lopes | Pexels

In recent months, consumers have also expressed frustration over additional fees sneaked onto bills, including "wellness charges" and even a "bad parenting" fee in one brazen restaurant. These hidden fees, coupled with aggressive tipping practices, highlight the need for consumers to be vigilant when making payments and to question any unexpected charges.