Airport customer left shocked after self-checkout machine asks for tip

Reddit post sparks debate about tipping culture, as many people believe tip screens at self-checkout kiosks have ‘gotten out of hand’

Meredith Clark
New York
Wednesday 14 June 2023 11:03 BST
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A Reddit user has gone viral after revealing that they were asked to tip at a self-checkout line at an airport. Now their post has sparked a debate about gratuity, as many people believe that tipping culture in the United States has “gotten out of hand”.

A woman with the username u/_seaweed_ went viral on Reddit earlier this week when she came across a point-of-sale (POS) system for transactions at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, she revealed in a comment.

In the image, which was posted to the popular Reddit forum r/mildlyinfuriating, she had rung up a pre-packaged chicken caesar wrap for $14.99 and a bottle of Vita coconut water for $6.39. After tax, her total had come to $23.05, before she was prompted to leave a tip at the self-checkout machine.

“Would you like to leave a tip?” the tip screen read, with the options to leave a 15 per cent, 18 per cent, or 20 per cent tip, and no tip at all. She captioned the Reddit post: “It finally happened. I was prompted to tip at the airport self-checkout station.”

The post received more than 108k interactions and over 4,700 comments on Reddit, as many people shared their equal frustration at being prompted to leave tips at self-checkout. Some internet users argued that they shouldn’t leave a tip at all because they bagged their own items.

“Tip who exactly?” read the top comment from u/Head-Investment-8462. One person replied: “The robotic overlords”

“I had this conversation with my brother last week,” another user shared. “Tip who? Myself? Am I the employee now? Are y’all gonna send me a paycheck and a W2? Can I put this on my resume?”

“Tipping for self checkout is absolutely stupid,” said someone else. “If anything, you should get a discount for doing the cashier’s job for them. Ridiculous.”

Others shared how tip screens prompt them to feel “guilt tipping” at self-checkout lines – in which they leave more sizable tips when they normally wouldn’t.

“My partner panics every time these come up and doesn’t want to seem rude ever and always tips any time it prompts. It’s a horrible system that traps some people into feeling guilty if they don’t,” said one person.

“American tip culture has gotten out of hand,” another wrote. “It’s f***ing embarrassing how they all have their hands out for simply doing their job, or in this case, doing nothing at all.”

A recent report from theWall Street Journal revealed that Americans have turned a corner on tipping culture. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the report suggested that tipping practices have rapidly changed, as customers are being prompted to leave tips in self-checkout lines at airports, grocery stores, stadiums, and cafes.

While companies and organisations claimed that tipping is completely optional and tips at self-checkout stations are split between staff members, some customers said that being prompted to tip in a self-checkout situation feels like “emotional blackmail” – a means of guilt-tripping customers into tipping even when they ordinarily wouldn’t.

In the US, it’s customary to leave between 15 and 20 per cent of the total bill before tax is included. Some people say that 18 per cent is the bare minimum, while others argue that a 20 per cent tip is standard – for restaurants, fast-casual establishments, food delivery drivers, and bartenders.

Last year, a woman on TikTok went viral after claiming that she was asked to tip an airport worker for checking her bag. In the video, TikTok user Addysen Drake said: “Tell me why when I get to the airport, after paying $400 for a flight, and I’m going to pay for my $35 checked bag, the guy says to me: ‘OK, you have to pay in credit card, but you can tip in cash.’”

Drake claimed that when she took out her credit card, the worker handed her an iPad screen and asked her, “What would you like to leave for a tip?”

“What am I tipping that man for? What do we pay all this money for?” she said.

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