Man speaking into mic(l+r), Hand signing toast tablet(c)

/@matt_epstein/Tiktok Toast/Facebook

‘Toast is going out of their way to make tipping as normalized’: Man has theory why tipping culture is getting worse—and it has to do with those tablets

‘I will never tip on one of these devices.’


Jack Alban


Debates on tipping culture have rattled every corner of the internet. Many customers, even those who believe workers should be paid a fair wage, feel the extent of tipping options has gone too far.

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Buying a cup of coffee? A bagel? A sushi burrito? Purchasing jewelry online? Or maybe you’re keying in your own order at Shake Shack? Why does every single business, even the ones that pay their employees set wages not dictated by gratuities, try to get its customers to leave a little something extra?

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It’s a phenomenon that’s been decried from a variety of different angles on social media, but there’s one question about the sudden prevalence of tipping that hasn’t been addressed: why?

Why does it appear that there’s a concentrated effort by multiple businesses, all over the country, many that seemingly have no affiliations with each other, are participating in this flip-around-the-iPad-it’s-going-to-ask-you-a-few-questions protocol?

TikToker Matt Epstein (@matt_epstein) has a pretty compelling theory as to why we’re seeing so many tip options at places where, just a few years ago, gratuities were considered more of an afterthought.

Epstein argues that because point-of-sales system providers (he cites Toast as an example) are giving expensive equipment away to businesses to get them to sign up for their services, they need to turn profits somehow. Because Toast receives a percentage of a business’s profits for processing these transactions, especially for the free equipment, it’s in the company’s best interest to get customers to spend as much money as possible.

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It’s for this reason, the TikToker argues, that Toast has made tipping the default setting on its tablets and that the brand had intentionally made turning tipping off a pain. The reason why tipping culture is trending in businesses, he says, isn’t because companies are trying to get workers more money but because Toast is trying to get more cash off of its 3% transaction fee cut.

Epstein breaks it all down in his clip. “Ten years ago, when you were getting your morning coffee, you weren’t berated at the end with the flip of a screen, with the question we all know and hate: would you like to leave a tip?” he says. “But now it feels like every place we go asks us to leave a tip. Included but not limited to grocery stores and even self-checkouts. But here’s the real reason why tipping culture’s gotten so out of hand and this might surprise you.”

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The TikToker claimed that the tipping selection prompted on Toast devices intends to make customers feel bad for not tipping. He also claims that Toast sends its tablets to businesses for free.

The company does offer a free plan that includes one terminal, per Toast’s website. However, business owners need to pay a $69 per month fee to access multiple tablet terminals and other features.

Epstein says that this “free” equipment comes with a price that is often shouldered by the patron. “Yes, they’ll send you this iPad, this card reader, all this high-tech technology, but instead of it being $3,500 it’s completely free,” he says. “But then how the hell does Toast make any money? They’re giving you this expensive, sleek equipment completely for free. Well, Toast’s business model charges 3% of every single transaction that goes through on the machines. Meaning if a customer spends $100 on the machine, Toast will make $3. Essentially meaning if a customer leaves a tip, Toast makes more money.”

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As a result, Toast wants to make it as smooth as possible to have customers simply tap their cards and give their money away, Epstein says.

“So Toast has gone out of [its] way to make tipping as normalized and frictionless as possible,” he speculates. “And of the ways they do this is by making tips default for all restaurants and making you as a restaurant owner have to sort through hundreds of pages of documentation to figure out how to turn tips off.”

Epstein says he places the blame for the ever-growing tipping culture on Toast and its similar competitors. “So essentially, it’s my opinion these guys are responsible for the tipping culture that we now know and hate, but I’m curious to hear if you guys tip when they turn the iPad around or if you guys press zero,” he asks.

Toast does indeed have detailed guidelines online for changing tip amounts and enabling features like tip withholding for its businesses. Still, numerous folks online have discussed this default feature and recommended tip percentage amounts, like Redditors on the r/bartenders sub. Some claim that 20%, 25%, and 30% tip amounts are the default on their POS tablets.

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The real reason why tipping culture has gotten out of hand

♬ The Champion – Lux-Inspira

Commenters who responded to Epstein’s video shared their disappointment and unwillingness to participate in tipping.

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“$0 Every. single. time…and I don’t feel bad,” one person said.

Someone else said that no matter how many times that iPad is flipped around on them they will not take the bait and keep their money to themselves: “And just as shamelessly I hit ‘no tip’ unless I’m at a sit down restaurant.”

Others didn’t like the idea of Toast potentially taking a cut of these tips, which they want to go directly to the employees.

“I will never tip on one of these devices, a tip jar? sure. but not giving my money to that company,” one user said.

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The Daily Dot has reached out to Toast and Epstein via email for further comment.

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