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18th Feb 2024

Customers left fuming after being asked to tip at self-checkouts

Charlie Herbert

It’s been labelled ’emotional blackmail’.

Shoppers have voiced their anger after self-checkout machines have asked them for a tip.

Self-checkout machines have arguably been the most significant change to shops and supermarkets in the last decade or so, and it’s rare you go into any store now without seeing them.

Although they have their glitches (why can you not detect that I’ve placed the item in the bagging area??), on the whole, they’ve helped make shopping quicker and more convenient for many of us.

Yet, it seems like some of them might be getting ideas above their station. Over in the US, customers have been left baffled by self-service machines asking for tips. The Wall Street Journal spoke to shoppers who were “confused” by the prompt.

One person recalled grabbing a beer from a self-service fridge at San Diego’s Petco Park, before being asked to include a tip.

He told the publication: “I was confused, because it wasn’t entirely clear who I was tipping.”

He added that he still tipped 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, another person said it was like “emotional blackmail” when they were asked to include a 10-20 per cent tip on a $6 bottle of water at an OTG shop in Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey.

They refused to tip.

Spokespersons for both the stadium and OTG said any tips collected at self-checkouts were shared amongst employees.

Tipping culture in the US is of course on a very different scale to here in the UK.Across the pond, tipping isn’t just considered a nice gesture – it’s taken as a given and is essential for workers in services and hospitality.

Laws around tipping differ from state to state, with the federal minimum wage currently being $7.25 (£5.76) an hour.

However, for tipped employees – such as waiters or bartenders – businesses in some states can pay as little as $2.13 (£1.69) as long as they can demonstrate the employee makes the minimum wage when tips are included. This is called the ‘tip credit’.

Some restaurants also include ‘tip pools’, where servers ‘tip out’ back of house staff in the kitchen. This became legal in 2020 when the Department of Labor introduced a new rule allowing tips to be shared.

But restaurants can only do this if they pay all their staff the full federal minimum wage and don’t use the tip credit.

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