KSL INVESTIGATES

People hate tipping before they’re served, but does it affect the quality of service?

Feb 12, 2024, 10:30 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2024, 6:52 am

OGDEN — You place an order. You insert your credit or debit card. And before you get the service you’re about to pay for, you’re asked for a tip.

We’ve all encountered the latest gratuity trend. So, do you reward service that hasn’t happened yet? Or does waiting until the job is done jeopardize the quality of service?

Changing culture of tipping

“There are different motivations for tipping,” said Bankrate’s Ted Rossman.

Historically, tipping was used to either reward good service or as a motivator to ensure good service. Now, new automated technologies, such as tablets and online orders, and the rise of digital payments is shifting the sequence and the culture around tipping.

“Sometimes we tip because it’s expected and it’s part of that social contract,” Rossman said.

The limits of that social contract are being tested. We have all seen the iPads asking for 10%, 20% and even 30% before any service has been done. Suggested tips are even popping up for transactions with no service at all.

“I’ve been asked to tip at a self-checkout machine at an airport,” Rossman said. That can account for why Bankrate finds around two-thirds of Americans now have a negative view of tipping. And about 30% think that tipping culture has just gotten out of control.

Two out of every three people recently surveyed by Bankrate say have a negative view of tipping. (Josh Szymanik, KSL TV)

Pre-tipping for delivery drivers

While many establishments have insisted that if you choose not to tip in advance, it will not impact the quality of their service, others – like DoorDash – say it will.

Dave Sawyer delivers food for both DoorDash and Uber Eats.

He said he thinks fondly of customers who throw him a little something extra as a tip to say, “Thanks for the effort.” However, he does not remember the generosity as much as he does the deliveries that he didn’t receive any tip.

“I get mad,” Sawyer said. “It’s like, why’d I even do that order?”

Heather Myers is also a dasher.

“It’s just horrifying to find out that you’re going to be losing money delivering this order,” she said about not receiving tips for the deliveries she makes. “Zero tip. I was basically working for charity.”

Myers said she has been undertipped or not tipped at all so many times that she has learned to be very selective about which orders she accepts.

DoorDash driver Heather Myers tells KSL’s Matt Gephardt that she’s refused to make deliveries if there hasn’t been a pre-tip added. (Meghan Thackrey, KSL TV)

“You want to know what you’re getting before you go very far,” she said. DoorDash actually encourages drivers to be selective. It recently launched a program that nudges customers to be better tippers, and warns users who choose not to leave a pre-tip, “their order may take longer…as a result.”

And DoorDash drivers have said they “accept or reject offers” based on whether they believe a delivery is “valuable and rewarding.” Since launching this test, the company said it has seen a meaningful decrease in no-tip orders.

Pre-tipping and service levels

As for critics who might argue people who have already been tipped lose the motivation to work hard and earn a tip, the gig workers the KSL Investigators spoke to say the opposite is true.

“I’m a good worker and I’m going to work for that money,” said Myers.

“You pre-tip me, you give me that money,” said Sawyer, “I’m going to work my tail off, and get you the best service.”

Tipping in advance is not entirely new.

People who are going to be at a place for more than a few minutes – say a hotel, resort pool, bar – have been known to grease the palms of servers as an inducement for good service throughout their stay. And maybe you’ve been a little extra generous at the end of a meal when you know you’re going to be back and want to bank some goodwill for future good service.

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People hate tipping before they’re served, but does it affect the quality of service?