As Americans Are Tight on Money, Tipping Insanity Reaches New Level: 'Emotional Blackmail'


You just bought several hundred dollars worth of groceries for you and your family. There’s only one cashier’s lane open, so you opt for self-checkout. The struggle is real as you hoist every item, from that 45-pound of dog food to all 10 individual cans of soup, across that red-hued scanner.

You’re tired and annoyed, only to be reminded by the little keypad that you owe $450.49. You slip your card in… and are then asked if you want to add a tip.

That mildly dystopian creepypasta is an unsettling reality in America as more and more businesses have begun combining self-service with a mysterious tip, despite the lack of service provided.

That has obviously annoyed swathes of Americans — particularly in this economy where grocery bills are already exorbitant — according to the Wall Street Journal.

“They’re cutting labor costs by doing self-checkout. So what’s the point of asking for a tip? And where is it going?” one incredulous Washington, D.C., student told the Journal.

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Another person who spoke to the Journal, an airport traveler, described the shock he felt when asked if he wanted to contribute a 10 percent or 20 percent tip for his $6 bottle of water.

“Just the prompt in general is a bit of emotional blackmail,” the traveler told the Journal.

“I thought maybe I was going crazy,” a different airport traveler recounted after a similar experience.

Both of those travelers had that experience at an OTG gift shop within their respective airports, and the chain explained to the Journal that those mystery tips are pooled together and divvied among whomever was working the shift at the time of the tip.

Would you tip at self-checkout?

“It is always our goal to create valuable experiences for our guests while taking care of our crew members, and the option to leave a tip if you have received assistance allows us to do both,” an OTG representative told the outlet.

For some Americans, having that above explanation would alleviate quite a bit of the consternation.

“I feel like if there’s an automatic question to ask for tipping, there should be fine print stating where these tips go,” one consumer told Fox Business. “It doesn’t have to be huge, but it should be in writing on the screen saying these tips help out employees or these tips go to all employees, which includes management. It should be specified.”

Both Fox and the Journal note that this relatively recent tipping craze is affecting all manner of businesses.

Grocery stores, convenience stores, virtually anything in an airport, and even cookie shops are getting in on the tipping frenzy.

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On the business end, a virtual screen asking for a tip where one traditionally isn’t required is a zero-cost, high-upside proposition.

“Who wouldn’t want to get extra money at very little cost if you could?” William Michael Lynn, a professor who studies consumer behavior and tip culture at Cornell University, told the Journal.

Researchers like Lynn and labor advocates speculate that this proliferation of tipping is a way for the business to “put the onus” on the customers to pay the employees more, while avoiding actually raising employee wages.

That comes counter to frequent calls about raising the federal minimum wage to unsustainable levels, which itself is called necessary due to the soaring cost of everything.

If it seems like a vicious cycle, it is.

And the ones paying the heftiest price are everyday Americans.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
Phoenix, Arizona
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