Payments

Asking customers for tips at self-checkout is labeled ‘emotional blackmail’

The self-checkout and tipflation trends have collided, and it isn’t pretty
article cover

Dianna “Mick” McDougall

· less than 3 min read

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Our free retail newsletter delivers insights to keep retail leaders and decision-makers up to date.

It’s bad enough when you bite the bullet and decide, yes, you’ll shell out $6 for bottled water at the airport. But then you scan it at self-checkout and are prompted to add a 10% to 20% tip?

That’s what Garrett Bemiller told The Wall Street Journal happened to him at an OTG gift shop at Newark Liberty International Airport recently, and he called it “emotional blackmail.”

We told you about tipflation in a two-part series earlier this year, detailing the broadening range of scenarios where consumers are encountering tip-prompt screens, including at fast food drive-thru windows or for takeout orders at restaurants.

But the WSJ report heralds a new order of magnitude for tipflation, with consumers at self-checkout being asked to tip for a service they are providing.

Cue the backlash.

“Rather than tipping, there should be a discount for self-checkout,” Edward Armstrong wrote in a comment on the WSJ story.

Writing on LinkedIn, Shelton Banks asked if employers were shifting their obligations to their workforce to shoppers.

“Should companies take more responsibility in ensuring fair wages, or is it acceptable for them to rely on consumer generosity to bridge the gap?”

As for OTG, where the shopper was asked to tip on a bottle of water at self-checkout, an unnamed spokesperson from the company told WSJ those tips are split among workers.

“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,” the spokesman said.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Our free retail newsletter delivers insights to keep retail leaders and decision-makers up to date.