Self-Checkout Machines Are Now Asking For Tips

Self-checkout machines are asking shoppers for tips.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

After years of looking at shows like Star Trek to see what our future looks like, that future is now our reality. For the most part, that means cool things like interactive AI and the chance to explore other planets like Mars. However, not all of our shiny new technology is a hit: Futurism reports that customers are increasingly annoyed and confused by the recent phenomenon of self-checkout machines asking for tips.

Honestly, it’s not hard to see why people are ridiculing self-checkout machines for asking for tips. When we’re dealing with human beings such as waiters and delivery drivers, giving tips is one of the ways we can make sure these hard workers are compensated properly for their labor. And unless those workers have a union like the striking Hollywood writers, they rely on these tips because their employers are mostly paying them as little as possible.

The problem with the self-checkout machines is that there is, by definition, no other human involved in the process. Offering a tip when you are checking out is not directly helping out a human being who may be financially struggling…it’s just making a donation to the company you are buying from. And the current trend of these machines asking for tips seems to be a much more nefarious version of the old model, in which you would be asked whether you wanted to donate to certain charities while you had your wallet out.

While that model is obviously manipulative, it was still roughly analogous to the waiter example: you are giving extra money to others who need it. Of course, critics pointed out for years that if mega-corporations like Wal-Mart really wanted to help charities, they could donate money themselves rather than hitting up shoppers who are largely living month-to-month while they try to use self-checkout machines. Now, without even the polite cover of raising money for charities, an increasing number of companies are simply asking if you want to give them a tip.

Jennifer Aniston as a TGIF server that is normal to tip

Some of the strongest critics of these self-checkout machines also point out that what these companies are doing boils down to emotional blackmail. They know that tipping has become more and more normalized since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and people largely understand that it is very rude to stiff waitstaff, delivery drivers, and others out of much-needed tips. Therefore, the companies want to exploit this generosity by trying to get you to tip as you always do, and they are hoping you won’t notice that you are quite literally tipping them for doing nothing at all, including scanning or bagging your items.

Ultimately, it’s fair to think of what’s happening with these self-checkout machines as a kind of technology-fueled race to the bottom for wealthy companies all around the world. With Amazon, Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world (for a little while, at least), and it’s an open secret that he did so by paying as many of his workers as little as he could get away with. Now, like AI, these machines have helped companies replace many of the humans who once worked there, but nothing in this world can keep greedy businesses from begging for your money with the same machines they are using to cut down on labor costs.