Unrecognizable coffee shop customer using tip jar

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If you’re anything like me, you usually have an internal argument when picking up takeout or having someone take your order at a fast-casual place like Panera. If I tip the person simply handing me my food bags, I'm annoyed because I’m not sure what I’m tipping for. But if I don’t tip, then I feel like a jerk. 

Does not tipping mean I’m not supporting workers? Should it even be my problem, when prices of everything are out of control and tipping gets the business owners off the hook for offering a better salary? The whole system is B.S., and every interaction sparks anxiety about the “correct” thing to do.

If it feels like you're getting asked for tips more often, you're not alone: The latest etiquette dilemma is being asked to tip as much as 20% for self-service. According to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, a rising number of self-checkout machines are popping up at airports, stadiums, and cafes, where customers are being prompted to tip — despite having zero interaction with an employee. Um, excuse me?

@todayshow Have you ever found yourself being asked at a register to tip, even at a self-checkout kiosk? The #TipCreep has many talking, and we debate what the proper #Tipping #Etiquette is as technology changes. #TODAYShow #3rdHourTODAY ♬ original sound - TODAY Show

The article reports that tipping for self-service has become a way for employers to put the onus of a better wage on consumers. Meanwhile, companies insist tipping is always optional and a way to thank employees for doing a good job. But what are you supposed to do if there’s literally nobody doing a job?

As an example, the report shares an anecdote of a traveler who was prompted to tip at a self-service machine at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey recently. The customer, who bought a water bottle, didn’t tip, but felt like they were being “emotionally blackmailed.”

In this scenario, it may not make sense to tip, as the Journal reports that tips added to self-service may not even reach the employees, considering that Fair Labor Standards don’t extend protection for tips put in a machine.

The co-founder of Chaia Tacos, a counter service taco chain in Washington, D.C., claims in the article that adding tipping to the self-service kiosks is “a way of acknowledging all our employees do to provide a hospitable environment.” Or … you could acknowledge your employees by paying them better, am I right?

Another person interviewed for the article handles the moral dilemma by tipping if a friend or employee can see the screen. Sort of like if a tree falls in the forest and no one sees it, did it really fall? If no one sees you tip, is there a point to doing so?

It’s universally considered correct etiquette to tip waitstaff and bar staff for their service, as well as a delivery person. But in pretty much every other situation, you can skip the tip, unless someone treated you exceptionally well, according to the article.

Of course, that doesn’t assuage the guilt I feel if I don’t tip for an order, and the person can see that I didn’t when they swivel the screen back around. 

But is the joke on me for trying to be a “good person”? It seems that the rule to follow is: Just because you took my order doesn’t mean you get to take my money.

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