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Shoppers Slam Self-Checkout Tipping Requests: "Stop This Madness"

Customers say this fast-spreading tipping trend doesn't make any sense.

We all have our own thoughts about tipping. Some of us make sure to always carry cash on-hand just for tips, while others bristle at the idea of leaving anything over 20 percent. But what about leaving a tip when no one has even served you? Many shoppers have started to notice tipping requests at self-checkouts, and they're not happy about the fast-spreading trend. Read on to find out why they're asking businesses to "stop this madness."

RELATED: Server Pleads With Customers to Always Tip in Cash: "We Don't Get Instant Money."

Tipping requests are popping up at self-checkouts.

A photo showing a woman's hands scanning a box of strawberries at the grocery store's self check out service.

As tipping has turned digital, the demands have become more pervasive. Requests to leave a gratuity of at least 20 percent have started making their way to self-checkout machines across the U.S. at places like airports, stadiums, cookie shops, and cafes, The Wall Street Journal reported in May.

Corey Gary, who works at a cybersecurity startup, told the newspaper that he was asked for a tip at San Diego's Petco Park while grabbing himself a beer from the stadium's self-checkout beer concession stand.

"I was confused, because it wasn't entirely clear who I was tipping," he explained to The Wall Street Journal, adding that he still left 20 percent.

RELATED: 6 Places You Should Never Tip, According to Etiquette Experts.

More shoppers are now talking about this trend online.

Reddit user posts photo showing a self-checkout tipping request at an airport

Self-checkout tipping requests are still fairly new, but they've already earned some heated feedback.

In an Aug. 17 Reddit post on the r/mildlyinfuriating subreddit, user @BurningRiceHouse revealed that they had just experienced the trend.

"It finally happened," they wrote. "I was prompted to tip at the airport self-checkout station."

Other users sounded off in the comment section of the now-viral Reddit post, which has already been seen by thousands of people. "But who are you tipping exactly? Nobody has provided a service to you," one person responded.

Another asked, "Do they really expect people to tip on a self checkout?"

RELATED: New Law Wants to Introduce Tipping at Walmart and Other Major Retailers.

Shoppers are asking businesses to "stop this madness."

Close up of person hand inserting a credit card in the terminal and entering the pin code. Equipment for paying with bank cards without the use of cash. Payment through the terminal of purchases.

Columnist Arwa Mahdawi just spoke out about the emerging phenomenon of gratuity requests at self-checkouts in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

"The U.S. may be a bitterly divided country, but I think I've found a topic which pretty much everyone can unite behind: tipping culture is out of control," she wrote.

As Mahdawi explained in her article, tipping prompts have become "ubiquitous" across the nation—meaning that there is practically no payment transaction you'll encounter without being asked for additional gratuity.

"If you go to the local convenience store to buy a pint of milk or a pack of crisps, chances are you'll still see that tip screen pointed at you. You're even prompted to leave a tip at some self-checkouts," she wrote. "How can we stop this madness?"

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But some say these tips are still going to employees.

Hand giving money isolated, hard worked hand taking dollars money. Currency transfer on white background.
Vlad IspasShutterstock

Many people are calling for an end to self-checkout tipping requests, largely because they feel it's unclear where their tip is going. Rachel Wolfe, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, told CBS News that a major problem with this trend is that there's no proof that the money tipped at a self-checkout machine goes to an actual employee.

"Machines don't have the same protections as tipping human employees, so while the law requires that something called a 'tip' has to go to employees, when you're tipping a machine, you can't be quite so sure," Wolfe explained.

But businesses claim that employees are indeed the ones reaping the benefits. A spokesperson for OTC, a self-service concessions company with locations at hundreds of U.S. airports, told The Wall Street Journal that tips at self-checkout machines are pooled among staff working during the shift.

"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 spokesperson said.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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