Research Shows People Hate Tipping Before They Are Served

David Nour
David Nour

You order a coffee, insert your card or tap your phone to pay … and then you get the blue screen asking you to add a tip. What button do you press? Do you owe a tip to the server who scans your purchase, delivering the bare minimum of “service”?


A team of researchers decided to explore this “pre-tipping” scenario on point of sale kiosks to uncover whether consumers would be likely to tip higher or lower when asked to leave a tip upfront before any service had been delivered. What did they learn? After studying 7300+ transactions at a smoothie chain, they found that “tips were 75% higher on average at the location that asked for them only after people received their smoothie [because] participants viewed pre-service tip requests as unfair and manipulative.


“The entire study strikes me as a perfect example of what Rory Sutherland warns about in his recent article on the dangers of letting data blind you to the obvious. The research points to a human truth that should be obvious: people don’t feel good about rewarding someone for a service they haven’t yet received. 


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