Tipping point: Viral video sparks questions about gratuities


(NEW YORK) — Tipping has seen a shift, especially compared to pre-pandemic, when the cost of food and everything else was lower, but one man’s recent experience that went viral on social media has sparked new questions around gratuities.

Mark O’Brien shared a video on Instagram showing an electronic screen that displayed the suggested tip percentages on his $27 check total. The problem he said, “15% of $27 is not $6, 18% of 27 is not $7, 20% is not $8.”

The fuzzy math prompted hundreds of varied comments from viewers, with some writing that “restaurants need to pay their employees, not us,” and one person arguing that “tipping is out of control.”

The payment device in the video, however, displays a disclaimer that states “tip is calculated after tax and before discounts.”

The unnamed restaurant said that O’Brien received a discount for the cost of an entree, which he sent back to the kitchen. And while he wasn’t charged for that item, the discounted cost was included in the tipping calculations.

“This is not a scam. We have a disclaimer that alerts guests that the tip is calculated before discounts. We also allow for a custom tip for guests’ convenience,” a representative for the restaurant told ABC News.

O’Brien claimed the discount wasn’t made clear to him.

“I just want people to be alert to it,” he told ABC News about why he chose to speak out. “But definitely don’t take it out on the servers for sure, because they’re just trying to make a living like everybody else.”

John Waldmann, founder and CEO of restaurant software Homebase, told ABC News the confusion and frustration surrounding tipping these days is not totally surprising.

“Part of the consumer frustration is the expectations and behaviors around tipping changed dramatically in the last four years,” Waldmann said. “I think that that has really confused a lot of people.”

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