Ted Eytan/flickr

Ted Eytan/flickr

People first started tipping to reward excellent service, but it’s since become a standard practice in restaurants, bars, and coffee shops everywhere. Customers feel pressured to tip well, and that pressure is being increased by the iPad point-of-sale stations cropping up in businesses around the world.

It’s something we’ve all become familiar with: you buy a small late at the coffee shop in a rush to get to work. Employees input your purchase information into an iPad and then spin it around for you to see.

When they do this, you notice that the touch screen is practically filled up by the 20%, 25%, or 30% tip options, while the “no tip,” or “customize tip” options sit almost invisibly below.

Businesses are now using iPads or Smartphone apps to streamline the payment process as they push for higher gratuities. Software like Square, Breadcrumb, Clover, and ElaCarte allow businesses to mobilize their point-of-saleability — the standard cash register with a separate credit card machine is becoming a convention of the past.

Customers, either in a rush or embarrassed of being considered cheap, choose one of the predetermined options, which leads to them leaving a higher tip than they would have otherwise — even when the transaction involves little or no actual service.

Streamlining Service with Technology

As battles over the minimum wage rage on, tips become increasingly important to service workers. In most states, servers are paid under the minimum wage and expect tips to bring them above the minimum hourly rate.

According to Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post, some servers earn as little as $2.13 an hour, entirely reliant upon tips to make an honest living. This is where both the beauty and the drawbacks of mobile pay stations come into play.

The new pay structure has been shown to increase tips for service workers who need it most, but it can also alienate customers who feel pressured to give more than they can afford.

As digital technology seeps into every facet of our daily lives, it’s only natural that it should work itself into the service industry. Already, digital menu boards, mobile ordering apps, table e-waiters, branded apps, and digital coupons have been implemented.

The mobile pay station covers the final step in service technology, completing the streamlined service from the reservation to the box of leftovers. Technology allows business to keep up with the pace of their customer’s lives, keeping them not only afloat, but thriving on new opportunities.

Are Tip Jars Not Enough?

Dave Dugdale/flickr

Dave Dugdale/flickr

Hilary Stout of the New York Times recently wrote an article about how consumers are getting fed up with the “tip creep,” the steady increase in how much tip is expected after service. It can also refer to the way employees hover over the customer as they’re trying to pay.

This pressure is designed right into the technology we use for tipping. It counts on the probability that the user will mindlessly click buttons, since most people look for the quick option and will therefore choose a given tip value that’s right in front of them rather than a custom amount that they’ll have to enter themselves.

When Etiquette, Service, and Convenience Converge

Revel Systems/flickr

Revel Systems/flickr

iPad pay stations and other POS software are not likely to go away anytime soon, even if they can make customers uncomfortable. Luckily, it’s possible to develop options that keep both businesses and consumers relatively happy.

Mobile apps like Reserve and Cover allow for an almost entirely wireless dining experience without the awkward hovering of an employee. By contacting participating restaurants, the user is able to choose their meal online and pay remotely. The restaurant staff is merely a concierge service that ensures an enjoyable visit.

Other options to ensure customer satisfaction include developing more exclusive mobile payment software and apps. Integrating personalized incentives like coupons or menu specials could outweigh any potential payment pressure.

iPad apps could also have options that hide the tip amount with asterisks or symbols to ensure customer comfort.

And with the right resources, fixing the glitches in the digital diner’s experience doesn’t have to be difficult. Infinite Monkeys’ simple drag-and-drop method gives you the opportunity to be the creator of the next big service industry app — one created to be both business and consumer friendly.