Technology makes tipping easier

Some customers say it’s a good thing, others feel more pressure

Every day, customers at several businesses in New Ulm see a screen like this asking them for a tip. Public reception is mixed on these screens and their widespread adoption.

NEW ULM — To tip or not to tip?

That is the question for customers in New Ulm as tip screens on card readers have become widespread across the city.

In New Ulm, the phenomenon can be found in restaurants such as Subway, Jimmy John’s, and Domino’s. With many food trucks using card readers and tablets from Square, tip screens are now popular on the festival scene as well. The options of ten, fifteen, or twenty percent tips are hard to avoid in the current retail landscape.

Some are glad the option is there. Stephanie Affeldt said she often tips at familiar places or businesses she had a good experience with. With the added option of tipping with a card, Affeldt believes it will provide better dividends to employees.

“It’s a good thing,” she said. “Companies will use it to help their employees. Usually [I tip if] the people are very friendly, or they do good like giving me the correct order or if they were a nice person or I’m feeling very nice.”

Some customers of establishments with tipping on card readers say the option is a helpful reminder. Overall, they said tip screens are a positive.

For others, there are stipulations with tipping on a screen. The main concern identified was tipping before service had been given, which is the case on most tip screens. Without having the full meal and service, they are not sure about leaving a tip.

Mark Kardall said he’s not opposed to the tip screens, but he usually associates tipping with waiters.

“My attitude toward tips is it’s something you give the waitstaff,” he said. “People who come out and clean tables. That’s where tips are usually done for people who personally come out on the floor and take your order. I don’t think of tips as something you usually give when you order counters. To me, [the tip screen is] an extra thing to press before continuing.”

Some believe the practice has devolved into a negative situation. They feel like there’s more pressure — you’re expected to give a tip.

For businesses, the practice has been generally positive. Caribou General Manager Miranda McKeeth said they instituted tip screens six months after they opened in March 2021. McKeeth said the decision was customer-focused, as many did not carry cash but still wanted to give back.

“A lot of customers felt bad they couldn’t leave tips if they didn’t carry cash. It was a big part of the customer base; showing loyalty and letting their baristas know they appreciate them. There was also a huge benefit for my staff, they had the opportunity to raise their wage.”

McKeeth said her employees typically make $3-6 more than their regular wage per hour from tips. Tips are given out automatically based on who works when and what was tipped during their shift. McKeeth said this has made a once complicated process easy and being a barista more appealing to those looking for employment.

As for customer response, McKeeth said the initial response was a 70-30 split between those who liked the option and those who didn’t. She said most of the disagreement came from those who were confused about how it worked or those who don’t usually tip and didn’t like being asked about it. In the two years since the split has leaned further into those who agree with the practice.

“It’s gotten easier for people to tip,” she said. “I think the customer base starting to lean toward understanding and realizing we’re not pushing to take their money.”


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