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Someone hands a credit card to the cashier.

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To quote the late Nancy Reagan, “Just say no.”

Main points:

  • Consumers are increasingly being asked to supplement workers’ wages by tipping everyday purchases.
  • Don’t wait until you’re at the box office to decide who is (and isn’t) on your “number list.”
  • Tips are optional. you control who earns a tip for excellent service.

If you’ve yet to encounter a point-of-sale (POS) tip, you surely will. Requests for POS tips are popping up everywhere from concession stands to automated car washes. That’s right. Some car wash owners would like to be paid and then tipped even though there are no employees working.

How does it work?

Here’s an example of how POS tip requests work. You walk into a store to pick up a new shirt, select the item you like, and pay for it with a credit card. The store clerk swipes your card, then returns the card reader to you for a signature. Instead of finding a line to sign your name, you’re prompted to leave a tip. Retailers determine tipping recommendations, but they typically range from 10% to 30% of your total bill.

How you can set up POS tip requests

No matter how much pressure there may be to please the person on the other side of the counter, you have options when asked to tip.

1. Just say no

Press the button that reads “no worries” and walk away with a clear conscience. Only you decide when tipping is appropriate.

2. Create a list of prompts

Etiquette expert Thomas P. Farley, better known as “Mr. Manners,” told ABC7 New York that he has a list of tips that only come down to three people: servers, bartenders and laundry attendants. Include everyone on your tip list who would normally be tipped without a tip. For example, you could include your hairdresser, barber, or the person who cleans your hotel room.

3. Stick with the list

Embed the list in your mind so you never leave home without it. Clicking “no tip” when asked who doesn’t make the cut is a smart way to leave money in your bank account.

4. Pay in cash

If you want to avoid the inconvenience at the register, pay in cash. This is especially useful when you expect to shop at a store that you know will ask for a tip. It’s a win/win. You don’t have anyone watching to see what you’re up to, and you don’t have extra credit card debt to pay off.

The scam behind POS tip requests

While you’re standing there trying to decide if the service you received is worth a tip, the employee who ran your card is looking at you, waiting for your response. Although tipping is intended to reward excellent service, studies have shown that most people are motivated by social pressure to do what is expected.

Imagine you’re walking through a boutique and buying a gift. Even though the store clerk doesn’t help you find what you’re looking for, they are friendly and you strike up a short conversation. Now, instead of leaving the store wondering how nice the employee is, you’re asked to appreciate their pleasantness by leaving a tip. And all while they’re looking at you from across the counter.

Harry Brignull is an expert on how design can manipulate people into making specific choices. In an interview with Vox, Brignole said it’s “easy to cross the line from honest persuasion to malicious manipulation.”

Brignole explains that touchscreens sometimes highlight buttons that leave a big clue. However, they highlight a button that leaves no tip at all. In the industry it is called “dark patterns”.

Growing trend

ABC7 News spoke with University of South Florida marketing and business professor Deepayan Biswas in New York.

Biswas, who has studied tipping for a decade, says businesses allow tips to make jobs more profitable for their employees. An employer does not have to raise workers’ wages if customers are willing to pay the bill.

As the practice grows, the concern is that more businesses will adopt POS applications to keep their employees happy. You have to decide if you are willing to supplement their income.

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