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To tip or not to tip: Does the public nature of iPad tipping affect your generosity?

A tip jar
A tip jar
Photo by Greg Wagoner via Flickr Creative Commons

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We all know you’re supposed to tip at a sit-down restaurant, but what’s the protocol for when you order a drip coffee and the barista swivels an iPad towards you with the tipping options: 15%, 20%, 25% or “No Tip”?  

For some of us, it’s a moment of intense awkwardness — the prying eyes of the customers behind us, peering over our shoulder, the judgment wafting from your server, even if they politely look up at the ceiling as you’re deciding on the appropriate tip amount.

In her recent piece for the Wall Street Journal, “You Want 20% for Handing Me a Muffin? The Awkward Etiquette of iPad Tipping,” Jennifer Levitz looks at how Square Inc., which makes this swivel payment system with its default tip options, has created a new conundrum in the world of tipping etiquette.

As a customer, how do you navigate the world of iPad tipping? Does the public nature of the interaction make you tip differently than you would otherwise? And if you’re a server or the owner of a business who uses the Square payment system, what are your tipping expectations?

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Liz Weston, personal finance columnist; she writes for NerdWallet and is a certified financial planner; she tweets @lizweston