July 5, 2023 | Eul Basa

Has Tipping Culture Gone Too Far?

To tip or not to tip: that is the question. Customers are voicing their concerns about today’s tipping culture on social media, claiming that some businesses are taking it too far.

The outrage is specifically directed toward places that are automatically prompting customers to leave a tip for services that traditionally don’t warrant one. This includes businesses outside of the hospitality sector, such as fast-food drive-thrus, retail stores, and even dentist offices. With inflation already making the prices of common goods skyrocket, customers are not appreciating the nudge to drop even more dollars.

Thomas Farley, an etiquette expert, shared his thoughts on the issue. “Suddenly, these screens are at every establishment we encounter. They're popping up online as well for online orders, and I fear that there is no end,” he said.

The shift to digital seems to have ushered in this growing trend of automatic gratuity prompts. While customers can choose to ignore such prompts in the same way that they can choose to ignore a tip jar, some argue that the practice still adds unnecessary social pressure which, at times, can be hard to circumvent.

Tipping culture has always produced a spectrum of opinions. On one end, there are people who believe it should be mandatory for customers to tip service workers regardless of how satisfied they are with the service they’ve received. On the other end, there are people who believe they have the right to decide how much to tip (or if they should tip at all) based on the quality of service they received from service workers. In both perspectives, there is, at the very least, a substantial service being provided to the customer that justifies a decision to tip or not.

With automatic gratuity prompts, customers are urged to leave a tip for small tasks such as being handed over a bagel through a drive-thru window or picking up an online delivery, which arguably do not justify a tip.

“People do not like unsolicited advice,” said professor Ismail Karabas, who studied tipping culture at Murray State University. “They don’t like to be asked for things, especially at the wrong time.”

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