"Just the prompt in general is a bit of emotional blackmail."


Tipping workers is undeniably good, but we may officially be through the looking glass now that self-checkout machines — which replace human cashiers — prompting customers for tips at the end of transactions.

In interviews with the Wall Street Journal, confused consumers admitted to being confounded when self-checkout kiosks asked them if they wanted to tip.

"They’re cutting labor costs by doing self-checkout," Ishita Jamar, a senior at Washington, DC's American University, told the newspaper. "So what’s the point of asking for a tip? And where is it going?"

While multiple business owners who spoke with the WSJ said that these sorts of prompted tips are pooled among the humans working on staff, others — including some food labor researchers — are not as convinced.

"Just the prompt in general is a bit of emotional blackmail," Garrett Bemiller, a twentysomething public relations worker in New York City, told the paper after being caught off guard by a tip prompt at a convenience store inside Newark International Airport. He and another person who spoke to the WSJ both said that they declined to tip at these airport self-checkouts.

New Norms

Holona Ochs, a Lehigh University assistant professor who co-wrote two books on tipping, told the WSJ that federal laws that require employers to pay tips out to employees don't apply to machines, and some employers are, thusly, exploiting "the high adherence to tipping norms as a way to generate more revenue for the company."

Translation: there's no way to know for sure that a self-checkout-prompted tip is going to the actual workers and not into their bosses' pockets.

At the end of the day, it's still definitely good to tip — but it's understandable that people are nonplussed by being asked for a tip by a machine, in an uncanny valley type of way that's becoming all too familiar.

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