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Aussies outraged at rise of US tipping culture: 'What am I paying for?'

Diners have called out QR code ordering apps for requesting tips.

A diner using a QR code ordering app
QR code ordering apps rose to prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic. Source: Getty (MesquitaFMS via Getty Images)

US tipping culture has been slowly sneaking into Australian eateries via QR code ordering apps and Aussie diners are not happy. A Sydney man took to Reddit on Sunday, sharing a screenshot of an ordering app presumptively requesting a tip at point of sale. "I'm ordering off a QR code; what exactly am I tipping for?" he asked.

The screenshot, posted to the r/Sydney subreddit, shows an order for an iced latte ($7.50), eggs Benedict ($27) and sweet potato chips ($14) - already a rather pricey breakfast for one at nearly $48.50 - followed by a prompt to tip 5, 7.5 or 10 per cent of the order value. There is an option to either decline tipping ("Maybe next time") or confirming a tip amount and completing payment.

Tipping screen on QR code activated payment app
A Sydney man was perplexed as to why he was being asked to tip when being "served" by a QR code ordering app. Source: Reddit

"Do not tip," replied one user. "Do not help start a compulsory tipping culture in Australia. We do NOT need it. You tip for excellent service not because you have to, and let's keep it that way." Some Reddit users went even further, calling tipping an "economic disease" and saying "that s**t can stay in America".

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Meanwhile, others agreed it was absurd to be requesting tips for limited service. "The only service I'm tipping for is the computer admins then," commented one user. "They ask for a tip when I've had zero interaction with the staff, just scanned a QR code and ordered the food on my phone by myself and am doing the payment."

QR code ordering apps rose to prominence during the Covid-19 pandemic as a comfortable way of ordering food while adhering to social distancing guidelines, but the apps often ask for tips, levy an unavoidable "service fee" or charge hefty credit card fees.

Unlike in the US, where service staff work for notoriously low wages and rely on tips, hospitality staff in Australia tend to be paid above minimum wage and this is reflected in higher menu prices. Although tipping is not completely alien to Australian dining culture, tips are typically paid at the end of a meal and in the case of exceptionally good food and/or service - subtleties that ordering app developers seem to have missed.

"It's Australia. We pay wages," commented another Redditor. "They ask for a tip before any interaction with a human. Why the f**k would I tip at that stage?"

QR code menus here to stay

Suresh Manickam, CEO of the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, says QR code ordering systems aren't going anywhere. "During Covid-19, we saw the prolific rise in ordering apps and QR code menus in restaurants and hospitality venues throughout Australia. Whether it be food delivery such as UberEats or venue management software such as Doshii, these apps are fundamentally here to stay in a post Covid-19 economy," he said.

Mr Manickam also noted that QR menus provide customers with a practical way of showing appreciation for hospitality workers, and stressed that tipping remains voluntary. "Increasingly, these apps provide the opportunity for novel payment methods and the ability to opt-in for a tip for hard working staff. Whether a consumer is a repeat customer with a positive dining experience, or they are ordering takeaway on a rainy night, the ability for customers to voluntarily tip is a tangible method to demonstrate appreciation for excellent service by hospitality staff."

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