Should You Tip Before The Meal?

(Image: Monkey Business Image/Shutterstock)

You've experience this before: after you place your order, the cashier smiles at you and turn the touchscreen to face you to reveal a tip option. How much do you tip? Fifteen percent? Twenty? Or - gasp - none at all?

Now, I understand tipping at restaurants after the meal service. In this case, you can decide how much to tip based on how good of a service you received. I also understand putting a buck or two in a tip jar by the cash register.

But there's no mistaking the new trend of tipping ten, fifteen, or even twenty percent of the bill at the register - before you receive any service.

Eun Kyung Kim wrote in this intriguing article over at TODAY:

Today, it’s nearly impossible to avoid deciding whether to add an extra dollar or two onto a bill for products or in businesses people never previously associated with gratuities.

“I don’t call it a guilt trip, but a guilt tip,” said Thomas Farley, an etiquette expert and modern manners coach.

“With that big ‘no tip’ button staring us in the face, and you know two seconds later that screen is going to be spun back around to the person who just waited on you, suddenly we feel we’re being cheap if we don’t give any kind of a tip.”

What do you think of this premature tipping (or "guilt tip" as Farley in the above quote called it)?

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I came upon this at a buffet a while back. You pay going in, and they ask if you want to add a tip to your bill. I said, "I thought this was a serve yourself place." She said, "The waitresses refill your drinks." I looked at the quart of water they gave me that would never need refilling. So she said, "And they take your plates." I thought, but did not say, well, don't you pay them? The girl at the register wouldn't know what to say. So I said, "I'll leave a cash tip." Which I did, but I'm not going there again. I can serve myself at home, and the food is better. Besides, I don't want to pay $15 to feed a vegan kid one meal. If they are paying the "tipped worker rate" of $2.13 an hour for three women to clear plates at 100 tables, something is very wrong.
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My favorite local breakfast place has this. At first I was pretty taken aback by it, it felt so presumptuous. Since I always tip a standard 20% anyway I just grit my teeth and hit the button. But since then we've grown to love the place and the staff, and they've been very good to us every time we've visited, so it's no longer a big deal.
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