Have Cashless Transactions Screwed Aussie Restaurant Workers Out of Hard-Earned Tips?

How has paywave technology affected the wallets of Australia’s bar, cafe, and restaurant staff? Or have we all just been really piss-poor at tipping to begin with? To find out, we asked the people on the front line.

Sep 3 2015, 10:15pm

Photo via Flickr user feuilllu

Tipping in Australia has always been a bit weird. Unlike Americans, we don't expect people to survive off them, thanks to our relatively high minimum wage. But that's not to say it doesn't happen here entirely. Depending on what venue you're in, tipping is usually done on a discretionary basis.

Until recently, you did this by leaving some cash on the table or by writing an amount down on an EFTPOS docket. But thanks to paywave technology, these two things are slowly on the wane—with the latter already phased out in a lot of venues. Because of this, our hospitality landscape has reached near-British levels of awkward, with the onus now on the worker to mention that you can—if you feel like it—leave a tip by following these not-so-intuitive card machine prompts.

But has this affected the wallets of Australia's bar, cafe, and restaurant staff? Or have we all just been really piss-poor at tipping to begin with? To find out, we asked the people on the front line.

Photo: Alan Weedon (alnwdn.com)

Annabel Scott, 23 & Sonam Sherpa, 29; baristas Well, they've banned signing, that's made a big difference. Now you give over the EFTPOS terminal and it's like, "Hey, would you like to tip us?" Most of the time people put in their PIN codes and it's super-awkward. The best way to avoid that is make a joke out of it—but you don't want to go full frontal with that. This interaction is still in its early days, so it needs to evolve. Somebody definitely needs to put [out] a video about navigating that.

Photo: Alan Weedon (alnwdn.com)

Nick Kenyon, 22, waiter There are a lot of people that don't ask questions because it's awkward, or you get people typing their PIN into the card machine. I kind of prompt customers on a discretionary basis. But I also think it's a generational thing, about whether or not people will tip at all. Younger people will understand how the tip works on the machine and how to type in the decimal places, but they generally just tip less often. People will always have to adapt, so people will learn. I'm actually more interested in how the homeless will get an income if people are ditching cash.


Radar Hang, 28, restaurant manager Basically, once you punch the amount into the card machine, the option of a tip comes up, so you can either bypass it or put it in the front of the customer. And it's a funny thing, because you don't want to be too obvious, but you also want to leave that option open for customers in a discreet way. But I'm not really too fussed on how much you get a night. I think it's a gesture that people appreciate more than the amount. Compared to other countries, I think we as hospo people do well enough to get by, so I think it's more a gesture or an appreciation thing, rather than something that we have to rely on.

Photo: Alan Weedon (alnwdn.com)

Zoe Tweddle, 20 I think you get lot more from people who haven't encountered the screen before, because they don't understand that it's perfectly acceptable to not put a tip in. The screen's effectively a tool for you to ask for a tip, and that's never happened before. You can't close a table and ask, "Would you mind if I kept the change?" So for people who don't dine regularly, of course they're going to leave a tip because they're going to think that's just what people do now. I think it's going to increase tips because that interaction never existed before.

Photo: Alan Weedon (alnwdn.com)

Bec Hill, 22, waitress I would never tip on a paywave, and it's a good little reason to get out of it. When it first came out, I used to say, "Just press the green button to continue," and the majority of people would never tip. But now I say, "The machine comes up with a tip amount, if you want you can put in a tip. Otherwise just press the green button." Most people will go for the tip, because then you've verbalised the tip. People can hear that it's clearly something you're supposed to say, so it doesn't offend them or seem like you're pulling a sneaky one.

But generally doing this is really awkward in Australia, because people tip of their own accord. If they feel they have to, they're going to get really shitty with you. You need to slip it in there so it goes semi-unnoticed, so that they know it's there and they're not being swindled. The most frustrating thing is when a table spends $600 and they leave you 50 cents because they forgot to put the decimal points in, and it's not like you're going to ask for more. So there's a lot of small talk when it happens, and you've really got to make sure it doesn't feel like you're watching them too hard.

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