Credit Card Tipping Is Getting Out of Control


Several years ago I ranted about the tip section on credit card receipts. I actually can’t find the post because I think I deleted it while doing some spring-cleaning on this site.

But the gist was that every time you paid for something with a credit card there was that annoying little tip section. You know the one – where you’re awkwardly put on the spot to tip something while the cashier waits for you to sign and return the piece of paper.

Kind of reminds me of the credit card minimums some merchants put in place to drive you crazy.

Well, amazingly, it’s become even worse, somehow. Well I know how, I’m just shocked it’s worse than before.

Thanks Square?

The culprit happens to be those new Square credit card terminals known as Square Stand. I don’t want to pick on just one company as there are probably others like it, but I’m pretty sure it’s Square that has created this new out of control tipping environment.

Allow me to explain. When you go into a store, typically a smaller shop that serves food, many merchants now have the Square Stand as their credit card register.

It’s a nice looking unit and easy to use. You get to swipe your own credit card, see the total, and then, drumroll…leave a tip, if you’d like.

Here’s where it gets silly. The thing defaults to a 15% tip, and also has two other options, like 20% and maybe even 25%. Whoa! Seriously, my options are 15-25% on my ice cream purchase?

For the record, my two helpings of organic farm raised ice cream already set me back $10, and you want a tip on top of that?

Sure, I might be willing to tip because you were nice and the service was satisfactory, but being presented with a 15% service charge “recommendation” is a bit presumptuous.

The Service Distinction

How about we start at $1, if that. That whole 15% thing is tied to service at a sit-down restaurant where you stay for about an hour and get waiter service, drinks, refills, regular check-ins, and so forth.

You don’t earn 15% for one minute worth of work that you’re getting paid to do anyway, while also being paid a normal wage.

Restaurant workers are often given a lower salary because of anticipated gratuities, but workers at fast casual places, ice cream shops, coffee houses, and so forth are probably paid a normal wage, albeit low.

This whole culture of tip everyone all of the time is completely out of control. And these new credit card machines are exacerbating the issue.

It’s especially awkward when you have to make your decision as the person waits on you. Oh, and one more thing. If you choose not to give them the default 15% tip, there seems to be a lack of decimal places when you manually enter your own amount.

I went the manual route and started typing 1-0-0…I figured that would be a buck, but it quickly popped up as $100! Fortunately, I saw my mistake and was able to hit the backspace, but I could see someone quickly going through the process and tipping much more than expected.

I’m honestly at the point now that when I see these machines, or know they’ll be in use, I just opt to use cash instead of plastic.

Maybe I’ll give them the change.

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.

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