Gratuities Gone Wild: You’re Now Expected To Tip When An Agent Rebooks Your Flight

Tipping is out of control. We now get presented with an option to tip even at airport self-checkout and at self-serve hotel breakfast buffets. At the Austin airport I was asked to tip when buying a water from a machine that was programmed not to accept $0 as an input.

The U.S. tipping culture always seemed strange, with customers supplementing worker wages, but this used to be limited to personal services provided by low wage workers. Now it’s everywhere, especially in travel. Tip your flight attendants? Sometimes!

This is the first time I’ve seen a request to tip a reservations agent who helped rebook a passenger. It shows the logo for Oojo Travel.

I’ve never seen a travel agency solicit tips before, however I’ve seen it from an online hotel booking website where they were literally asking for tips for the website.

We don’t now only tip people. We tip self-checkout kiosks, so why not websites too? And even imaginary tipping is out of control, since AI chatbots apparently perform better when you offer a tip, too.

Our future appears to be tipping our AI overlords. The madness must stop now.

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. No problem – more and more I select “no tip”, don’t feel bad about it and have no problem if the employee is insulted. Don’t get me wrong I tip very well to servers, bartenders, taxi/uber/lyft drivers and the woman that cuts my hair. I also almost always leave a tip for hotel housekeepers and tip for any service service request at a hotel or resort.

    However I refuse to tip for fast casual or fast food where I place the order and pick it up, at retail establishments or for any other service that traditionally didn’t request tips. The only way to stop the madness is not give in. Sure I would love to eliminate tipping culture totally but don’t see that happening in the US at least for many years. However we can all contribute to stop the spread and not reward those who traditionally didn’t receive tips.

  2. My wife and I no longer eat in restaurants in the USA when we are at our USA residence. We spend enough time out of the country (and will eventually retire not in the USA) to enjoy good restaurants and service without the tip pressure. We also consider wait staff to be more professional in Europe, as the fake nice-ness for the tip doesn’t exist. They just do their job, remain in the background as expected, and aren’t in your face to ensure their tip.
    We just quit going at all in the USA. We don’t miss it. House there has the typical American kitchen; we use it.

  3. Cancel the transaction and out a note on the machine advising people that this machine requires a tip be made to complete the transaction.

  4. We were in Europe in December and noticed the service at restaurants was terrible compared to USA. Yes they get paid hourly better but lose tips. It is illegal to be forced to tip in the USA. I never tip for places that do not deserve it

    Billy Bob if your that cheap then go back to Mexico or wherever cause you’re an idiot

  5. Also deduct the service fee from your tip on Uber eats and the like. Enough of this.

    (Whiny ears drivers – yes, I tip bait you. Take it up with Uber. I dont care).

  6. Took my fur baby to the vet last week. There was a tip jar on the receptionist’s counter. I guess why not? Some idiot will probably put money in it.

  7. Honestly Gary, at this point you should probably just embrace the madness and cash in. Add a tip button to the bottom of every post.
    “Did you enjoy this blog post? Please consider tipping $5 to help ̶G̶a̶r̶y̶ ̶b̶u̶y̶ ̶a̶ ̶v̶a̶c̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶h̶o̶m̶e̶ bring you more great content!”

  8. Since prices have went up so much, I don’t go to restaurants in the USA any more other than to pick up take out and that is limited. Even the sidewalk Mexican food stand has gone up in price so much that I limit my buying there. I cook more at home to make meals.

  9. Sad that even Starbucks Coffee has TIP options. So make sure your finger doesn’t slip and just choose NO TIP.

  10. The “madness” will only stop when people stop bashing those who are fed up of this culture and who rail against it and direct that energy and (often) sanctimonious preaching at the people and corporations who refuse to pay a living wage.
    Obviously this won’t happen as that would take effort, and it’s far easier just to call people names on the internet.

  11. When I remembered I can make delicious food, the carry out, airport purchases stopped. Yes there is the ridiculous water buy but nothing else. I save the money for my over the top room service. And that makes me happy!

  12. As long as there are people dumb enough to tip everything and/or anything that moves, the tipping culture will continue to grow. This can be easily stopped by human beings who can think.
    Pick your side and pay attention!!

  13. @Ziggy, I think you are being very naive. Corporations will not voluntarily pay a living wage. They will only do so when required by law. Like in say Australia or most of Western Europe. When they are required to pay a living wage, like in California they complain, increase prices, and lay people off. It’s also a lot easier when everyone has to pay a living wage, you can’t gain a competitive advantage by not paying a living wage. What I find hypocritical is people using services based on “value for money” and then complaining about being asked to tip. The service/store that doesn’t ask for a tip will almost always be more expensive.

  14. I think this is one of those things where I’d welcome legislation – No Tip Solicitation Bill (NTSB). I’d vote for anyone who supports it. Call your representative.

  15. “Empathy”? What has that to do with tipping for good and professional service? It is not that long ago when Uber was supposed to be no tipping!

  16. I am in NOLA for the weekend and was infuriated today by the shady tactics restaurants out here employ. Had pizza for dinner and when it came time to settle, the server just gave me the handheld device with the tip screen on it. I tipped 15% and then selected to get a printed receipt. Only then I realized the restaurant added an undisclosed 18% in gratuity before the tip. Pretty shady to do it in an undisclosed manner, and now that I think about the meals I’ve already had here – this seems to be standard practice in NOLA. Going to dispute the gratuity with the CC company once the charge posts. Call me petty if you will, but I am not going to support this shady practice. For the remainder of my trip, I am going to confirm with the server (when they hand me the device with the tip screen on it) whether or not gratuity is already included.

  17. @Alinsfca, Uber has allowed tipping since June 2017. Uber started offering UberX in 2012, so Uber has been tipping allowed for longer than it was “included.” Not just that tipping has actively encouraged on both the Lyft and Uber apps since before the pandemic.

    Regarding, empathy, it’s because drivers rely on tips to make a decent living. If you don’t tip them, you are displaying a lack of empathy.

  18. I have to say, I honestly welcome the excessive tipping prompts because they have successfully turned off my tipping guilt and now I tip only my hairdresser and the servers at my favorite local restaurant. I truly don’t care anymore. If the Uber guy doesn’t like it, don’t pick me up. (They always pick me up.)

  19. I tip based on service.

    ANY business that asks for a tip (whether optional, or not) BEFORE service is rendered are NEVER patronized by me again.

    I suspect most businesses (fast food restaurants, etc.) don’t realize they’re selling my frequent and repeated business for a measley one-time $5-8 tip…and unless they begin advertising “we no longer solicit tips at check-out”, I’ll never know whether they change their policy.

    Such is life 🙂

  20. I was at the Cajun Country Alligator Farm near Natchitoches, Louisiana and they asked for a tip when I was buying admission tickets. This craziness is happening even in rural areas. In addition to asking for a tip on admission tickets they had tip jars all over the property.

    Also I have seen this in many restaurants where they automatically add 18% and then bring you the bill with a place for a gratuity. I feel most people do not notice the first gratuity. I will never go back to places that have this practice.

  21. I’ve been traveling throughout SE Asia for the past 97 days. NOBODY tips here. It’s refreshing!

  22. If it’s possible for you to rebook a flight using an app, then I understand why an agent would ask for a tip if you go to him/her. If you did receive great service, then why not? Think of it of treating the agent who helped you to a cup of coffee.
    I mainly tip the people who I encounter with on a regular basis (server at my local diner, barber, etc.) For Uber drivers, I tip if they help me with my luggage, etc.

  23. Tip prompts are like junk email or phishing scams. They cost nothing to put on your website/POS scanner, but you might get something (as H2oman notes above with the vet). Everybody likes getting something for nothing, so tip prompts will continue and become more absurd. We just have to learn to ignore them, as we ignore junk email.

    I was definitely in the wrong profession. As a public school teacher, if you’re caught accepting any money from a parent, you’re gone. I don’t care how powerful you think your union is, it’s bribery.

  24. @Kami: things must have changed! When I was in Vietnam (Dalat) in 1997, everyone wanted a tip! In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) the pedicab drivers would tell you they had been generals in the South Vietnamese army to try to get bigger tips.

  25. Drivers make money by driving. Empathy has nothing to do with it. If you want to show empathy, donate to charity or help out your neighbor, period. What a nonsensical way of trying to guilt people into tipping. and it is obviously failing by the day.

  26. What is a “living wage”, and are all unskilled labor entitled to such a living wage? In CA, in April the min wage for fast food employees will be $20/hr. That’s higher than the state & local min wage (in my local area the min wage is $17.75/hr). I hear NY is trying to have servers earn the full min wage (in CA, all workers, even normally tipped workers like waitresses, earn the full minimum wage; in CA it’s $16/hr unless the local min wage is higher, like my local). Don’t think that just because the servers are earning the full min wage that you can stop tipping — HAHAHAHA. They will expect tips on top of whatever wage they earn. The restaurants will probably raise rates to compensate them for the higher wages though, so your food cost & tip will end up being larger than before. Just the servers will earn more money. Chipotle has stated they don’t expect to raise prices in 2024 except for in CA, where they will be subject to the $20/hr min worker wage. I don’t each out much anymore.

    Also, I have been hoodwinked by the double tipping scam — ending up tipping like 40%. I thought something was wrong with the amount, but I was in conversation with other people and didn’t give it my full attention like I should have. They did not give me a receipt after either, but I figured it out. I will never go back to that (local, small business) restaurant again. But like I said, I don’t eat out much anymore anyway.

  27. I pick up a sandwich and drink off the rack at a Starbucks in Waikiki. When paying the cashier, he flips the screen where I get to select a tip. I select $0 and the guy glares at me. No service provided, no tip. And I should not feel guilty. Tipping has gotten way out of hand.

  28. I always find it funny when people rail against the system on this topic. I’m not suggesting that you should be tipping, but it’s comical to think that by not tipping, “you’re going to show ’em” or that employers are going to magically see the light and pay their staffs more. LOL. Get real. All it’s going to do is speed up automation, robotics and app usage as the only way to do business with that company. Those same jobs will vanish like a fart in the wind forever.

  29. Recently I was at a take-away vegan fast food place. Order at the counter, cashier flips the screen around, and several tip options are displayed (at escalating percentages of the after-tax amount). I’m feeling generous because I like their menu, so I select what I consider a generous amount.

    Then before I get the prompt to print my receipt, I get “Would you like to round up your tip to the nearest whole dollar?”

    Sheesh… I’m never going back there.

  30. Joey – no, that’s literally their job. You don’t get a tip for that.

    Empathy? KMA.

    Living wage? Not my problem. You took the job. Get a better one. You’re going to be replaced by automation? Works for me.

    Auto grat? Nope. You’re adjusting that to zero. Service fee? Nope. And I’m not tipping on either of those. Suck it.

  31. It’s because (reported) tips garner different tax treatment from the IRS. Welcome to tax-and-spend America.

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