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‘Tipping Has Gotten Out of Hand’: Arizonans Torn on Gratuity as Technology Ramps up Tip Requests

Tipping is everywhere these days.

The practice used to be primarily reserved for sit-down restaurants and hotels. Now the option to tack on 20% is commonplace at every coffee shop, corner store, and fast casual counter.

“Tipping has gotten out of hand,” said Steve Chucri, CEO and President of the Arizona Restaurant Association. “It’s not only happening just in Arizona, it’s happening on a national basis and it needs to come into check. I believe it will.”

Jordan Bubin is not so sure a shift is on the horizon.

“I think barring some larger social change, it is going to be how things function for the near future,” said Bubin, who runs a dog daycare business, Bark 23, out of his Phoenix home.

In Bubin’s booking and payment app, there is an option to add a tip.

“It’s built into the app,” said Bubin, who said he does not expect any extra cash. “But also, I suppose we’re providing a very personal service by looking after someone’s dogs – and we try to go above and beyond.”

Bubin, though, has noticed not every tipping exchange involves personal service.

“I’m always surprised when I have tips at drive-thrus. When I pull up and we’re interacting for 12 seconds. This is something already pre-wrapped, and you’re kind of handing it to me through the window. Why is there a tip all of a sudden?” said Bubin.

Arizonans ABC15 spoke with said they do not mind supporting the employees in front of them. The frustration is if those employees’ wages are factored into prices and the tips go entirely to executives or managers.

“I’ll ask employees, ‘Do you guys actually get these tips – or should I just give them to you in cash?’ said Bubin. “That way I know it’s going to the people that are working, as opposed to management who I never see.”

The small business owner is far from the only Arizonan perplexed by the recent proliferation.

“I like to be able to offer a tip for service, but it kind of feels extortionary,” said Tony Harrison. “They’re demanding tips when they haven’t done anything.”

“This wasn’t like an interpersonal exchange…But now there’s an option [to tip]. So that feels like extra,” said Stacy Stravitz, who added that she tips whenever the option is available because she says it shows appreciation for the employees.

The recent rise in optional gratuity has a lot to do with technology.

“It’s the software doing it,” declared Harrison.

“When you have that easy ability [for] a screen to pivot on an axis, and you can tip with the person standing there, we were not accustomed to that three or four years ago,” said Chucri.

Chucri, a former Maricopa County Supervisor, is in no way against tipping as a whole.

“The restaurant industry believes that tips should be earned. They’re not an entitlement,” he said.

Many Arizonans told ABC15 they feel anxious when faced with the unexpected option.

“I feel like I should tip or they’re gonna be mad at me or I feel bad if I don’t tip them,” said Elliot Gautreau.

“Sometimes you feel pressure, you know, when they flip the iPad,” said Jonathan Crosby.

“If I’m asked to tip before I get any service done, it makes me feel a little uncomfortable,” added Josh Stone.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Emily Bashah, says there are ways to combat that uneasy feeling.

“We are driven by social pressures that influence the way we think,” said Dr. Bashah. “So much of it is covert. So if people really consider this and spend time thinking about:

What behaviors do I want to reinforce?

How much am I willing to give, that is within my means?

And when do I want to give it?”

Dr. Bashah encourages individuals, couples, and families to determine their philosophy on tipping ahead of time, in order to avoid the potential panic or guilt at the checkout counter.

Chucri believes many people are already shifting their mindset when it comes to quick, transactional tip requests.

“Let’s get real,” said Chucri. “When you go and get a bottle of water out of a cooler…is a tip really necessary? No, I don’t believe it is. And I believe that over time the public’s going to say enough is enough.”

Bubin is a bit more philosophical and wishes the whole practice was not necessary.

“It’s one of those things that is meant to cover holes in our social safety net. And if everybody was making enough money, we wouldn’t have to worry about it,” said Bubin.