Pressured Into Tipping! I Hate Credit Card Processing Tablets


In the US, it is normal for the check to come and the waiter to take your credit card and leave you in peace as you contemplate how much to leave for a tip. In Cape Town, the waiter brings the credit card machine to you and then asks if you want to leave a tip (see Forget Tokyo, The Best Sushi Is in Cape Town). Despite the fact that VAT is 14% and despite the fact that I hate tipping (see I’m Not Tipping Uber Either!, among other posts), I felt obligated to overtip because it would have been awkward otherwise.

The same horrific experience has come to Puerto Rico. I went out for Korean BBQ, ordered a bottle of wine ($30), and bulgogi for two. Before tax, the price was $64 which is crazy expensive compared to my Korean BBQ days in Mongolia, the best place on earth for Korean food. Add on the 11.5% sales tax, and suddenly what was supposed to be a casual dinner turned into a financial liability. When I asked for the bill, the waiter came back with the Square credit card processing machine and asked me the terrible words, “Do you want to leave a tip?”

“No!” is what I wanted to say. Instead, I stayed quiet and, gun to head, was forced to pick from the choices: 15%, 20%, 25%, or “other”. Since he was holding the machine when he presented it to me, I was put on the spot. Going out to eat at Korean BBQ, a self-service meal, is not the same as going out to eat at a steakhouse. Tipping 15% or 20% on the entire bill, which includes wine that is taxed 11.5%, seems steep. Too embarrassed to hit “other” and leave a lower amount, I settled for 15% and a resulting $83 bill.

My first mistake was giving in to my craving for Korean food at a price I knew was considerably higher than what it should be. It’s as unforgivable as paying $15 in NYC for pad thai, a dish invented for tourists and served for pennies on the baht in Khaosan Road. My second mistake was not planning for the taxes on the wine and the tariff by way of tip on the bottle. My third mistake was not sticking to my anti-tipping ways and tipping what I want to tip, regardless of this high pressure sales situation.

If I’m in San Juan or South Africa, I do not appreciate when waiters ask the question, “Do you want to leave a tip?” It is impolite. My anti-tipping stance aside, don’t you agree?

There goes my money.




  1. I am with you on that… But think, we only see that waiter or waitress once and may not come back again or will be a very long time before we come back. Just say NO and maybe leave a few dollars on the table when you leave.

  2. While I also have an anti-tipping stance, I do not think it is impolite for someone to ask for a tip in your presence. It would be impolite to *demand* that tip. I have seen this in-person tip request practice in some places in Manhattan as well. In addition, I am half-Thai, and I think that there are completely justified reasons why Pad Thai prices are different in Bangkok and New York City. One reason: rent for one day in a Manhattan restaurant would likely exceed one year of a Bangkok street stall).

    In both cases, I do not understand why you think someone who is offering you a choice that you don’t want to take ($15 pad thai in NYC, or an opportunity to tip) is impolite or unforgivable merely because you don’t want to take that choice. Waiters must act in a way that serve a range of customers, and there are plenty of tippers and NYC Pad Thai buyers.

  3. You’re pretty vehement about this tipping stuff. It’s like Gary about unions or the TSA, or something. If servers are paid below minimum wage in Puerto Rico, then it’s the same as the (mainland) US. No better, but no worse. Just concentrate on the huge wealth you’re accruing through avoiding taxes.

  4. Well Puerto Rico and South Africa aren’t Mongolia or Bangkok. Expenses and costs are different. People need to make a living. If you can’t AFFORD IT then don’t eat there.

    • Agree: the point is how much tip you comfortable to leave on a typical meal for your waiter/server. Paying for food is also directly supporting wages of same waiter and support local economy. Paying extra – is a comfort zone – for some 5% is enough, for others 20% is a minimum.
      But for a bottle of wine – I recommend to have a set “pouring fee” no matter the bottle price – this way if cost is $30 or $350 a bottle that takes same effort to pour it – hence set “fee” of 1-2 bucks (for 1-2 minute work!).

  5. It’s always up to you how much to tip or not to tip at all.
    For me, if it’s a self-serving place like a buffet – there is nothing to tip for or minimal 5% for cleaners; if it’s a full-service restaurant – then 10-15% is my norm, unless employees really go out of typical way and give you extra service and attention; in the opposite case of server’s ignorance I’m not compelled to leave any tip for bad service as it was not deserved.
    Many times a kind word and a friendly smile and a personal “thank you” give more than money! Take example from Japan where people are happy to serve customers without any tips!

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