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Tipping has become a real point of contention for many people in the United States. In my humble opinion, tipping is frankly out of control and I’ve written numerous posts on the subject, like this one that asks: Should you tip on takeout?

A video shows what one diner says is a tipping scam at a restaurant.

There also seems to be a rise in the number of tipping scams as well as strategies that waitstaff have tried on diners, like what happened at Boston’s Logan International Airport when the server crossed out the lowest suggested tip and circled the highest (20%). I’m a regular tipper when both the situation and service warrants it but tricks like this makes me want to leave zero tip, even if the service was good.

Even businesses pull stunts like this, either by trying to pressure diners into tipping more or flat out tricking them and hoping they’re either drunk or not paying enough attention to notice. The first time I noticed this was in a Las Vegas taxi about a decade ago where the suggested tip started at 20% and went up to 30%. Are you serious?

Restaurants and hotel room service are notorious for tricking customers by automatically adding a tip and then suggesting more. A professional photographer recently posted on social media, “the check seems to show a 20% service charge added. But then when the credit card comes back it says gratuity not included and suggests gratuities.”

The latest scam that I just learned about, thanks again to an Instagram post, will really make your blood boil and is the inspiration for this post because I want to make sure you don’t fall for it, too.

Mark Obrien, who goes by @big_beau7 on Instagram, posted a video (embedded below) that has gone viral and for good reason. His caption: “EVERYONE needs to watch this video and share this! This is a pay at the table kiosk. The screen autogenerates the tip percentage options for you in hopes that you won’t look at the dollar amount it’s factoring! Every single choice was way off! Total bill was $27.00. 15% should be $4.05 it autogenerated $6.22! At 18% it should be $4.86 it autogenerated $7.47! At 20% it should be $5.40 it autogenerated $8.30! And at 25% it should be $6.75 and it autogenerated $10.37! So whenever you choose to use kiosk CHECK YOUR MATH!”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mark OBrien (@big_beau7)

In his video, he shows that the math doesn’t add up and if you’re like me and struggled with math class through school, then you might not notice either. I admit I would not have noticed and would have probably just chosen the lowest option. However, if the bill was an even number like $10 or $100 and the 20% suggested tip was more than $2 or $20, I would have caught on. One thing is for sure, thanks to Mark, I will definitely now be on the lookout for this type of scam.

As you can imagine, plenty of Mark’s followers had some choice words:

@Woodsnathan: The tipping culture in the US is crazy!!! Employers need to pay their staff more, not the customers

@liike23: Tipping is such a scam. Employers need to do better.

@Errolwebberus: Just for that, they would get $0. I heard someone say this a few days ago, “I don’t tip if I order standing up.” And it makes so much sense.

@steve.nobile: Funny how every other country in the world has zero to little tipping and the food prices are more affordable that here in the US??!!!!!!!!! Yall need to see the world!

@brendasue_muller: I always select “custom”, do my own calculation, subtract discounts and taxes, and base my tip on the food and service quality. DON’T let these places PRESSURE or SHAME you into when to tip or how much to tip! (Some places should not be requesting tips, like fast food or coffee drive-throughs!) The employer should pay better wages and stop counting on consumers to pick up their slack. Also, you could select $0.00 tip and just give cash directly to your server if they’ve provided excellent service and made your dining experience a pleasant, relaxing one!

Your guide to tipping in the 25 most popular countries around the world
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14 Comments On "Don't fall for it: The restaurant tipping scam that makes you tip extra without knowing"
  1. Anthony|

    Yep. Experienced this without success by restaurant. Most common in CA (where taxes are no joke at almost 11%) is tip calculated on food / beverage + tax. I always do “custom” and take out my trusty iPhone calculator, eliminate taxes and then do real 15% (unless service is really extraordinary.)

  2. thomas siracusa|

    i will not tip on tax ,only food and long as all was ok i will tip at least 20% which makes it easy to calculate ..

  3. Becky|

    I started noticing this back in 2017 when a Fort Lauderdale restaurant suggested the following tips for our (post-tax) $62.54 tab: 15% ($11.55), 18% ($13.86) & 20% ($15.40). A new scam I encountered yesterday was a restaurant bumping up the tax amount. Taxes in our area are 9-10%. I ordered $29.90 of take-out and the tax came to $4.41 (14.75%). They’re getting tricky out there!

  4. Karma|

    I HATE it when places calculate tip with tax. I’ll always calculate tip on subtotal and, if the amount is correct, I’ll might add a little extra. If the total is calculated with tax, I do less

  5. David R. Miller|

    I ONLY tip with cash.

  6. Max Weber|

    If employers pay there staff more, those costs will be passed on to the customers with increased menu prices or surcharges.

  7. Gold River Pete|

    Big_Beau7’s Instagram post has a reply from the restaurant. There is more to this story. The bill had been discounted for some reason so the actual food and beverage total was substantially higher before discounts. The tip percentages align with the pre-discount price according to the restaurant.

  8. RC|

    Like the others have identified, I’ve noticed suggested tip amount based on the post-tax amount. Plus on recent travels, I identified that pretty much every restaurant in NYC Little Italy is adding a 3.5% surcharge at the end. (Some are adding surcharges if credit payment.)

    Sadly, in those situations, I deduct the restaurant additional surcharge from the tip amount, assuming they will pay their servers. Otherwise…they list the entree items at the correct price.

  9. Shari Hall|

    I recently made a tipping mistake. We were a group of 7. They added the tip without mentioning that they added the tip. The waitress came to the table with a credit card charging gadget. She swiped my card then showed me the screen which had tip options, so I chose a tip and gave it back to her and she finished charging my card. Later I looked at the paper receipt and saw that she had charged a tip already. So I inadvertently tipped her twice. So she ended up with a 38% tip. It was my fault because I didn’t look at the paper receipt closely before I paid.

  10. Steve|

    My BFF says tips have gone down 50% after COVID. Now she can’t even afford rent much less the other bills, working on min wage. I have been paying her rent for months!

  11. Dan Nainan|

    If I’m tipping on check out, I asked the employee if they actually get the tips, and I’ve had employees at several places tell me that they don’t get them if I add a tip on the screen! In those cases I will tip in cash.

    This is wage theft, pure and simple, and it has to be stopped!

  12. Randy Fine|

    How about in a case where you order a pizza in a restaurant to eat there? Usually extra toppings on a pizza might be +/- $2 each. If you order 3-5 toppings, that could be an extra $6-$10 extra. A server provides the same service for bringing you a pizza with no items or 10 items. Since the price of the extra items may increase your bill, should your tip be higher based on your extra toppings?

  13. Bruce Windoffer|

    The tip amounts are actually correct and this article needs to be corrected or deleted. See the restaurant’s comment on the original Instagram post, but here’s the gist…

    This was mentioned above by Gold River Pete but is critical to repeat: According to the restaurant, there was a large discount (maybe a 2 for 1 deal or similar) which isn’t shown in this video. So the actual bill, before discount, was much higher. The full amount before the discount was $41.46 not $27.00. So, 15% of $41.46 is exactly what is shown on the screen: $6.22.

    Now – don’t get me wrong – I agree that tipping has gotten way out of hand, and don’t get me started about calculating the tip after tax – that’s def wrong!

  14. Jack|

    With rampant inflation, workers in family restaurants (not the high-end ones) are really struggling to make ends meet nowadays. I view tipping as my opportunity to help them out, and to help raise their family. I believe the Lord blesses those who bless others, and I have experienced that in my own life. Don’t pass up the opportunity to bless someone who is less fortunate than you are.

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