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Tipping up sharply since arrival of new payment systems

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Posted at 6:28 PM, Mar 12, 2023

BILLINGS — Whether you’re grabbing a coffee or your favorite sandwich, chances are you will tip. However, instead of using tip jars, more and more businesses are using point-of-sales spin-around card readers.

According to payment processing company Square, these machines could be why tips at full-service restaurants grew by 25% in 2022.

Owner of Topz Sandwich Company Tucker Veltkamp is very familiar with tipping culture.

“I personally love tipping. I tip 20 to 30 percent wherever I go, with the service being good,” said Veltkamp on Sunday at his Topz Sandwich Company location on the West End.

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As a business owner, he pays his team members over minimum wage, but he knows they appreciate their tips.

“As far as taking the financial edge off even during Christmas time, things like that, tips are a big deal for my staff for sure,” said Veltkamp.

In the past few years, he’s seen many changes with tipping trends, especially during the height of the pandemic.

“During the pandemic, we were seeing big-time tips and a lot of local support,” Veltkamp said.

Veltkamp said that those tips helped his company survive during the pandemic, and that’s not the only tipping trend around these days.

According to Square, tips were up nearly 17% for restaurants with counter service restaurants, like Topz, in 2022.

The payment processing company said it could be because of the widespread use of point-of-sales spin around card readers.

“Often we feel like other people can see what we’re tipping, maybe even the employees themselves and so it can feel a little uncomfortable. So, I think it’s really worth just thinking through, it’s okay to decline a tip if the situation doesn’t call for one,” said a spokesperson for NerdWallet, Kimberly Palmer.

It’s a statement that Topz customer Natasha Barbotiko agrees with.

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“Well, it’s like way more persuasive versus when there’s just the jar or something. ‘Cuz it’s like right there, it’s an option when you click it, it’s more in your face instead of just on the corner,” said Barbotiko.

A growing number of consumers think that these systems are adding to tipping fatigue. Barbotiko and her boyfriend Dominic Slayton don’t seem to think so, especially if they’re receiving good service.

“Tipping’s fun sometimes, you know? ‘Cuz then you can show them you appreciate them,” Barbotiko said.

Veltkamp said that at Topz, tips are appreciated but absolutely not necessary.

“Where you see a problem is when staff is starting to expect since you bought this, you owe me a tip. Which shouldn’t be the case. It really should be, if you provide good service and someone wants to leave a tip, you got to have that function available so they can leave a tip. Lots of places don’t even have the function to tip,” said Veltkamp.

It’s an option that sets local businesses apart from some corporate ones, helping them grow in those hard times like the pandemic.