It’s happened to everyone — you’re presented with an iPad to pay for your purchase and a screen appears asking how much you want to tip. The problem is, you’re at a coffee shop, bakery, fast food restaurant or other establishment where tipping wasn’t previously a thing.
But, since the option is now in front of you, the pressure is on to leave a tip — even if you don’t necessarily feel it’s warranted. However, you want to handle the situation correctly so you can proudly show your face at the business again.
What Do the Etiquette Experts Say?
Pamela Eyring, president of The Protocol School of Washington, said that while it is discretionary, tipping at checkout is appropriate — if you receive extra service.
“If they greet you by remembering your name and giving you eye contact with a smile, sharing any specials or new items, they repeat your order in detail — just the way you ordered it — and are friendly — not just barely acknowledging your presence,” she said. “Or, if someone delivers food to your home or brings it out to your car, you could consider a tip.”
She said you can also opt to give a tip to be extra kind. “Times are tough,” she said. “If you’re in good shape financially, providing gratuity is an appropriate act of kindness.”
If there happens to be a tip jar next to the iPad prompting you for a tip, she recommended choosing the cash option. “Cash is still king,” she said. “Tipping in cash is always appreciated because there are no deductions.”
While that’s all fine and good, Maryanne Parker — founder of Manor of Manners, an etiquette consulting firm based in San Diego — said you also don’t need to feel guilty about not leaving extra at common spots where people don’t necessarily expect to tip. Here’s some guidance on a few of these places.
“Most of the time in the coffee shop we are not served; we simply order the coffee and wait a few minutes to grab it and go on with our daily routine,” Parker said. “We can round up the bill — for example if the coffee is $2.50, we definitely can leave $0.50 extra — but we are certainly not obligated.”
“I love the donut shop nearby and I often get donuts for my family,” she said. “At times, if I purchase a dozen, they might add an extra donut. I always give them a little tip because I love their generosity.”
However, she said if she just purchases a donut and a coffee, she might just round up the bill or opt not to tip at all if she doesn’t have change. “The service is still great, but it is not time-consuming just to pick up a donut,” she said.
Fast Food Restaurants
You might feel pressured to tip at a local fast food restaurant, but Parker said there’s no obligation. “I do not tip at my local taco shop every single time,” she said. “However, I am a regular customer and they know that I will be back and support their business.”
She said she isn’t able to tip on every trip to the restaurant, but shows her support by being their customer.
“A good business won’t be upset if we do not leave a tip every time,” she said. “Depending on how time-consuming our order was, and if it was a takeaway, it shouldn’t be that complicated and we can just move on without tipping every single time we see the tip option on the iPad.”
Ultimately, Parker said tipping should always feel like your choice. “Many people believe that in the U.S. the tipping practice is a little excessive,” she said. “However, from an etiquette perspective we should tip based only on good service.”
Therefore, she disagrees with the idea that you need to tip regardless of the quality of service you receive.
“Tipping for any kind of service, even a bad one, doesn’t help the purpose of tipping,” she said. Since leaving gratuity is supposed to be a show of appreciation for receiving excellent service, she said there can be further implications for unwarranted tipping.
“If I did experience bad service and I am required to tip — based on people’s opinions or exaggerated charges — I would leave the establishment frustrated and unhappy,” she said. “On another hand, the customer service will start deteriorating because the wait staff won’t work for their tip, because they will be expecting it either way.”
So there you have it — the next time you’re faced with an iPad at checkout prompting you to leave a tip you don’t feel is necessary, you can opt out guilt-free.
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