Is Your iPad POS System Guilting Customers Into Tipping?

Even though there’s a ‘no tip’ button, it may not feel like an option to your patrons.

Wondering why you may have noticed a surge in tips after you switched over to an iPad POS system? It’s actually hardly related to customer service, but it has a lot to do with the pressure customers feel when presented with the dreaded “Would you like to add a tip?” screen.

“These payment systems are super convenient, but they make a lot of customers feel guilted into tipping,” said Thomas P. Farley, also known as “Mister Manners,” a New York-based etiquette expert and speaker. “They feel that staff and other customers are hovering over them, and that declining to tip makes them look cheap or ungrateful for the experience in the establishment.”

Related: Holiday Tipping Guide for Small Business Owners

Customers are accustomed to tipping 15-20 percent for stellar service. But being asked to leave an extra buck or two when a barista simply popped a pastry in a bag leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Here’s how to put patrons at ease — even if they don’t want to tip.

Assess the need for tips at all

While leaving gratuities for servers and hairstylists is a well-established tradition, the rules around tipping other types of service workers are murky at best. Does the type of service offered at your business warrant regular gratuities?

“Every establishment needs to think long and hard about whether it’s truly appropriate to be prompting for a tip at all,” said Farley. “Some don’t need the tips, so they just ask customers to pay the amount due and sign. Just because you have the option for the tipping screen built into the system doesn’t mean it should be the de facto thing you do.”


“Every establishment needs to think long and hard about whether it’s truly appropriate to be prompting for a tip at all.” – Thomas P. Farley, etiquette expert

Generally speaking, customers expect to tip for service that is highly personalized, time consuming or extraordinarily helpful, he explained. The same is true for workers who are paid below the regular minimum wage, such as servers.

“For tips, the level of service has to go beyond retrieving something from a pastry case or handing somebody a bottle of iced tea from behind the counter,” said Farley. “It’s up to the businesses to consider whether they want to put customers in the awkward position of deciding to tip something if all they’re doing is facilitating a transaction.”

Set reasonable amounts

If you’ve decided that tipping is appropriate at your business, the next step is setting reasonable numbers for the default gratuities on the POS system. Customers may resent choosing from numbers that are disproportionately high.

“I sometimes see the tipping options as 20, 25 and 30 percent, or no tip. For some customers, that’s more than they would have left if they paid in cash, and it ends up making them feel guilted into spending more,” said Farley.

Bringing the standard percentages down to 10, 15 and 20 percent could make customers feel better about leaving a little extra for your staff.

Give customers space


If you’ve left customers the option to tip, don’t hover over them while they decide. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Signing the check at a traditional sit-down restaurant comes with a certain amount of privacy that helps customers feel comfortable to tip however much they wish. That’s not the case with iPad POS systems, where staff can easily see the amount a customer chooses to leave in real time.

“Customers feel that the staff is going to hate them, and maybe never make their coffee the way they like it again because they’re not choosing the biggest tip option,” warned Farley. “They imagine all sorts of horrible things going on in the mind of the cashier simply out of guilt.”

Train your staff to avert their eyes, turn away or start preparing the order when the customer goes to choose the tip. Giving them that sense of privacy might be enough to pacify feelings of guilt.

Related: Best Practices to Protect Your Tablet POS System

“The staff should be sure not to change their facial expression if they catch a glimpse at the tip. They should just thank them for their business, whether they left nothing or 50 percent,” he said.

Being watched by staff isn’t the only thing pressuring patrons into leaving guilt tips — the line of customers also makes people feel that an audience is judging their gratuities. Look for ways to make the iPad POS system feel more private when customers are using it.

“Putting a private shield on the tablet or laying it out flat on the counter, only in sight of the person signing it, can help,” he said.

Taking steps to reduce the awkwardness around tipping on a tablet can ensure that every gratuity is given with genuine appreciation — not left under a shroud of guilt.

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