Austin Airport Shop Demands Tip When Buying A Bottle Of Water ‘To Go’

I ran into a retail shop at the Austin airport that requires a tip when paying by credit card. This isn’t a sit down restaurant with table service. You pay at the counter, and I was buying a bottle of water.

My upgrade wasn’t going to clear so I decided to stop at the store closest to my gate to buy a bottle of water. The payment terminal at the concession requires you to select a tip amount prior to processing your card.

  • They suggest amounts like 20% and 25%, but you can go to the extra effort for a custom tip aount

  • The terminal would not accept $0.00. You must tip at least $0.01.

You can call me cheap if you want but when did we start tipping for bottles of water to go?

To be clear the terminal would not allow payment to proceed until a tip amount other than $0 was chosen. $0.00 would not submit. Staff confirmed this. As soon as the amount was changed to $0.01 payment was permitted. I’m also not the only one to report this:

Maybe I should have boycotted that shop, but if I’d gone elsewhere I’d still be paying the same company, Delaware North! You aren’t usually doing business with a local brand when you walk into a store at the airport, regardless of the store name. You’re usually dealing with a company like OTG (iPads!), Delaware North, or HMSHost. The airport, for its part, promised to “check[..] on this.”

You might think ‘the employees just make a couple of bucks an hour and rely on tips’ and I’m being unfair to those workers thinking that the store should take some of the margin on their $4 water bottle to pay them But, in fact, starting salary is $20 an hour.

Tipping is out of control in the United States. Being presented a terminal requesting a tip, where you have to go through hoops to avoid tipping, while standing in front of the employee – when it’s not an activity that traditionally involved tipping at all – is a huge turn off as a customer. And I’m going to go out of my way to avoid dealing with these merchants in the future.

Unfortunately at the airport concessions companies are given a monopoly, which isn’t good for passengers but makes lives easier for management at the airport and often fills political coffers like in St. Louis, Baltimore, and Atlanta.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] A passenger at New York JFK airport shared that they were charged $7.66 for a single bottle of water on Thursday at the ‘Downtown Market’ store near the airport’s gate two inside terminal 1, which houses mainly the international airline partners of Delta-led SkyTeam and United-led Star Alliance. The payment tablet at the store asks the customer to tip on top of this. […]


  1. @Dean Salter. The last time I flew was before the pandemic. I don’t recall any fee to enter DFW or Love field in Dallas. I’m planning a trip in June 2024 so I might see it then. By the way you are mistaken. The fact is the only reason Texas doesn’t slide into the gulf is because Oklahoma sucks. Not Texas.

  2. @Carol Lewis – the road through DFW is a public highway and there has been a toll on it for at least 30 years (moved there in 1992 and there were tolls then). At one time people were charged if they spent less than 5 minutes on airport property (to cut down on people using it as a short cut) but no charge of over 5 minutes and less than either 30 or 60 minutes (so people could pick up or drop off passengers). Not sure if there is any waiver now or if everyone is charged.

    This really isn’t new for anyone familiar w DFW

  3. @AC I fly out of Love when I can. It’s closer, smaller, less complicated to me. I hear bad things about Southwest but I haven’t had any significant problems with them. I have taken shuttles and parked my car at the airport garages while I was on trips. It seems like I have heard something about DFW road and them not wanting people driving there with no airport business. The toll part just doesn’t stand out for me. A long time ago I-30 going to Fort Worth was a toll road. When I get on George Bush I know it is a toll road. When I visit my cousin in Little Elm I get on 635 West and exit Preston. I get a bill for that from NTTA. I’ve been on flights from DFW. I’m just not familiar with this.

  4. I tried buying a beer at newark last month. Had to have a QR Code & smart phone – and could NOT PAY WITH CASH!
    I told them all to eff off.

  5. My suggestion? Terminate the purchase, telling the counter person why, leave the item desired on the counter and walk out. If enough people use this approach, personnel have got to act to stop the clutter and reshelving nuisance.

  6. If you can’t fail to leave a tip, leave one cent and protest the charge through your bank. Tell the bank it was an overcharge.

    If enough people protest and the business must take time to respond to the bank, that practice will disappear.

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