New York struggles to come to terms with new tipping points

Visitors to New York – not to mention the locals – are being warned that they will reach a new tipping point fairly quickly when it comes to add-on payments for taxi and restaurant services. This follows new methods in tipping where customers are asked on-screen options at various service outlets which at times can be up to 75% of what has been purchased.

Payment with a tip

Payment with a tip. Image by Tzuhsun Hsu / CC BY 2.0

The New York Times report a recent case where a $4 purchase of coffee was followed by a suggested $3 tip on the waitress's iPad device.

This asks on screen if the person wanted to add a tip for $1, $2 or $3 - a major hike on the normal 15% level applying for full service in New York and other areas. Lower levels of tips were deemed ok when applying for quick transactions.

Taxi customers who decide to pay with plastic cards are confronted with buttons suggesting tips for between 20% and 30%. Because anything less has to be manually entered and then calculated by the passenger, it becomes an attractive option for those in a hurry at the end of their journeys.

A company offering guidelines in etitquette – The Emily Post Institute says “20% absolutely,” as a recommended top level on tips.

The reason the issue has become more of a talking point is due to the fact that tipping is now expanding beyond the traditional services such as taxis and restaurants. New platforms such as the internet now ask for such gratuities to reward their creative input into what they are offering.

The US tipping system has always been something of a mystery to the rest of the world. Now the locals are wondering if they have the right system, given the way new tip levels are being ‘suggested’ on electronic payment machines.

One blogger has lamented the new approach, saying he would prefer if workers got a raise and Americans paid “the way Europeans do it.”

The new tipping method has been highlighted at a time when the plight of low-wage workers has hit the spotlight on a national scale with calls for minimum wages to be increased.

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