Austin Airport Shop Demands Tip When Buying A Bottle Of Water ‘To Go’

I ran into a retail shop at the Austin airport that requires a tip when paying by credit card. This isn’t a sit down restaurant with table service. You pay at the counter, and I was buying a bottle of water.

My upgrade wasn’t going to clear so I decided to stop at the store closest to my gate to buy a bottle of water. The payment terminal at the concession requires you to select a tip amount prior to processing your card.

  • They suggest amounts like 20% and 25%, but you can go to the extra effort for a custom tip aount

  • The terminal would not accept $0.00. You must tip at least $0.01.

You can call me cheap if you want but when did we start tipping for bottles of water to go?

To be clear the terminal would not allow payment to proceed until a tip amount other than $0 was chosen. $0.00 would not submit. Staff confirmed this. As soon as the amount was changed to $0.01 payment was permitted. I’m also not the only one to report this:

I was at this exact location earlier today and the system forced me to give a tip so I gave 1 cent because it was the only way to proceed with the transaction. Very uncool

— Kris Reyes (@SantaCruzWoo) January 19, 2023

Maybe I should have boycotted that shop, but if I’d gone elsewhere I’d still be paying the same company, Delaware North! You aren’t usually doing business with a local brand when you walk into a store at the airport, regardless of the store name. You’re usually dealing with a company like OTG (iPads!), Delaware North, or HMSHost. The airport, for its part, promised to “check[..] on this.”

You might think ‘the employees just make a couple of bucks an hour and rely on tips’ and I’m being unfair to those workers thinking that the store should take some of the margin on their $4 water bottle to pay them But, in fact, starting salary is $20 an hour.

Tipping is out of control in the United States. Being presented a terminal requesting a tip, where you have to go through hoops to avoid tipping, while standing in front of the employee – when it’s not an activity that traditionally involved tipping at all – is a huge turn off as a customer. And I’m going to go out of my way to avoid dealing with these merchants in the future.

Unfortunately at the airport concessions companies are given a monopoly, which isn’t good for passengers but makes lives easier for management at the airport and often fills political coffers like in St. Louis, Baltimore, and Atlanta.

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