Here’s A Tip: Let’s Quit Pre-Tipping.

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Picture this …

It’s Monday AM. You’re at your favorite non-GMO, conflict-free coffee shop. Your favorite barista, dressed in what appears to be his girlfriend’s jeans adjusts his unironic handlebar mustache as he scans the Spotify playlist instead of helping you. Because “The Black Keys are sooo mainstream.”

Finally, you lock eyes. “The usual?” he asks.

You nod politely.

But before he walks approximately three feet to pour your overpriced black coffee he scrolls/mashes the screen of the iPad/cash register before flipping the tablet towards you to ask how much you plan to tip him.

For a second you’re gripped by fear. Will the people behind you think you’re a poor boi for selecting “No Tip?” Will the attractive female behind you in line think you’re a boss for tipping $3 on a $4 coffee? Will the staff go all “Waiting” on you next time if you don’t tip to their liking?

Name something more anxiety-inducing. I’ll wait.

Thanks to cool tech companies with the goal of disrupting the retail space and blurring the lines between brick and mortar and e-commerce we’re forced to struggle daily with the dreaded pre-service, 30% tip at every turn. We see you, Square.

Which leads one to wonder: “why the fuck should we be forced to tip (an amount historically determined by the level of service) on our food truck avocado toast before we even get to taste it?” Have these small business owners have no shame?

And, moreover, when did a 30% tip become the norm?

In a world where crippling student loans and credit card debt have doomed an entire generation to live with their parents, unchecked tipping can cost us precious cheddar.

You see, we’re already paying more than our stingy grandparents …

The average tip in the 1940s was 10% … and is over 20% today.

And it’s not just the amount we’re tipping, but who. Uber began accepting tips last year. FFS even Cold Stone asks for cold hard cash.

Science agrees that this is a fucking problem. In studies, participants found “pre-service tip requests as unfair and manipulative and reduced the likelihood that they would become repeat customers.”

But at The Water Coolest we’re interested in identifying solutions, not problems. So here are some suggestions for fighting “tip creep”:

  • Go the boomer route. Only frequent spots with tip jars/typical receipt tipping. Stick it to the man by kicking it old school.
  • GTFO. Move to Europe where they don’t tip. This, of course, falls into the “Bold strategy, Cotton” category.
  • Don’t be so self-conscious. Tip a reasonable amount (spoiler: the total babe in line behind you is not into you).
  • Be better at math. Seriously, if a clever point of sale device only asks you to tip in dollar amounts take a second to calculate the percentage of your total bill. Don’t be embarrassed to download a tip calculator app if you graduated from the University of Phoenix.
  • Go the “doorman” route. If you frequent a spot, don’t tip daily but give your favorite barista a holiday bonus (read: a fat stack of cash).
  • Just don’t tip. Duh.

Of course, the best way to combat this national epidemic is to talk with your pocketbook, er … debit card. Giving reasonable tips for reasonable services will show business and point of sale algorithms alike that demanding 100% tips isn’t kosher. And we won’t fucking stand for it.

Good luck fighting the good fight, Weekday Warriors.


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The Water Coolest is a daily business newsletter consisting of business news, financial advice, and unfiltered commentary. Delivered fresh in your inbox every morning so you're ready to snap necks and cash checks. Written by Tyler Morrin, AJ Glagolev, Nick Ellis, and Ian Barto.