Waiters carrying plates of food at a wedding. (iStock)
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Having worked — if only briefly — at a restaurant in college, I understand the role tips pay in boosting workers’ income.

Nonetheless, I still feel some kind of way about tipping. We are increasingly encouraged to tip folks — even when you’re getting your own food. And why don’t employers just pay people a fair wage and not leave it up to the financial whim of customers to supplement employee earnings?

Read more: Hating tipping is easy. Fixing it is almost impossible.

Nonetheless, I was very interested when I saw this NerdWallet headline: Don’t Let Technology Bully You Into Tipping

I hadn’t really thought about the subtle ways companies are trying to encourage consumers to give larger tips. I tip what is customary and fair  — often ignoring preselected percentages, which in some cases are too high.

“Tipping inflation is real, and it’s coming to a tablet near you,” Liz Weston writes. “Merchants using Square and other mobile payment services can set ‘recommended’ tip amounts or percentages for any transaction — including ones that traditionally haven’t included tips. People have reported being prompted for sizable tips at bakeries, food trucks and takeout counters. Get a haircut or a massage, and you may be presented with a screen that has the ‘25 percent tip’ box already checked.”

Does having a suggested gratuity guilt people into tipping more?

Sure it does. It’s all about psychology, as Square tells merchants in a pitch for its point-of-sale software.

“It’s harder to physically press a button saying you aren’t going to leave anything,” the company says, adding that Square’s software “also has a function that allows you to add suggested tip amounts to the checkout screen. If you decide to customize these amounts, make sure the percentages or dollar amounts aren’t too high. This can alienate customers.”

As Weston writes, “Many people feel added pressure because the would-be recipient is standing right there, watching the transaction.”

You certainly may intend to tip well but take the time to look at what you’re being charged when using mobile payments.

Watch out for the power of default.

“Digital interfaces make it just as easy to tip as to not tip — a marked change from the way we used to pay in the past, writes Nir Eyal in “How Technology is Tricking You into Tipping More” for TechCrunch.

Here’s how the psychology works against you, Eyal writes.

The recommended tip for a taxi ride is 10 percent to 18 percent. But the mobile payment device in the cab might bump the tip up to three choices: 15 percent, 20 percent or 25 percent.

“Users tend to take the easiest route; they do whatever requires the least amount of physical and cognitive effort,” Eyal says. “In this case, you’re less likely to customize the tip because doing so necessitates more thinking and more clicking. Picking a preloaded amount is simply easier than changing the tip amount even if you know you’re overtipping.”

And here’s another thing that can lead you to leave more money.

“Offering three choices utilizes the anchoring effect to nudge people into picking the middle tip option,” Eyal says. “The vendor knows you likely won’t pick the least expensive amount — only cheapskates would do that. So even though 15 percent is squarely within the normal tipping range, by making it the first option, you’re more likely to choose 20 percent. Picking the middle-of-the-road option is in line with your self-image of not being a tightwad.”

And of course, if you’re paying with plastic, it’s not real money so you’ll likely not feel the pinch right away of the higher tip amount.

Read more: How Technology Is Tricking You Into Tipping more

And: Mobile payments are making people tip more at meals

Just out of curiosity you may want to read: Here’s Where People Tip the Most and the Least

Turns out some of the states with the highest earners had the lowest tippers.

More on the practice of tipping: Tip distribution isn’t the problem. Tips are.

You might also be interested to know: Who Gets Paid Minimum Wage in a Restaurant?

It’s not true that wait staff can make less than the federal minimum wage.

Color of Money question of the week
Have you felt steered toward a certain tipping amount? How do you feel about the default settings? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Considering that I’m asking you to out yourself, this week you can respond by using just your first name and I still would like to know your city and state. In the subject line put “Tipping.”

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What’s on your mind about your money? Please join me today at noon (ET). I’ll be available to answer your personal finance questions.

Here’s the link to join the conversation.

Would you dump your honey for this much more money?

In a recent survey, millennials were asked what they were willing to give up for their career.

Comet, a website that provides student loan refinancing information, surveyed 364 single, employed millennials without children asking what they would sacrifice to get ahead financially.

The survey found that many young people would end the relationship if it meant getting a significant raise or a life-changing promotion.

Last week I asked: Would you dump someone if it meant a better promotion or more money?

Lois Ambash from Needham, Mass., wrote, “Two other factors, conscious or unconscious, that may affect millennials’ willingness to sacrifice relationships for their careers: the unpredictable eventuality of divorce and the possibility that your partner may choose career over relationship before you do.”

Here’s a great story of courtship to marriage tossing in finances.

“In my late 20s, I was engaged to a man who resented I made half as much as he did,” wrote Nikhila Pai of Berkeley, Calif. “We lived together in a fancy apartment and ate out all the time. He subsidized our lifestyle. Neither of us saved much and in the end he broke up with me six weeks before the wedding. He didn’t break up with me over money, but over love. When I fell in love again two years later it was to a very different person. My ex had been a software engineer making six figures. My now husband was an apprentice electrician making $25,000 a year in San Francisco. Instead of resenting his lower income, I adjusted our lifestyle to it. When we got engaged, I read as many financial advice books as I could (including many of yours) and we lived on a cash budget. After a year we saved $60,000 having grown accustomed to living frugally to his lower income. Ten years married, we now pay mortgages on a four unit rental property and a two-bedroom house. We have been saving for retirement for ourselves and college for our two girls while paying a boatload in childcare for the 13-month-old and six-year-old. We haven’t always been frugal or saved as much as we could over the years, but we have always worked together to spend less than we earn. I’ve always stretched to be the earner and take the jobs that pay well, even though I work in government. Now in our mid-40s, I feel hopeful about our financial future as we work toward it together.”

Gretchen M. Barker of Phoenix wrote, “There have been times where marrying young and making that commitment to a life partnership is as much a business decision as a romantic one, and during those times young marriage is common but. . . it’s not such a bad thing to wait till later to jump into the commitment part of the process. But there are many reasons for this trend, that have nothing to do with choosing a job over a relationship. Isn’t that what we want for our kids? To find themselves and develop their fiscal responsibility before they jump into the task of parenting? And waiting till we are adults, settled in careers, before making the commitment to a partnership or a co-parenting adventure, is a good thing.”

“Would I dump a partner for a promotion? No way! My husband and I have both worked as full-time volunteers, wrote Gretchen S., who lives in Tasmania, Australia. “He is a teacher and I am a doctor. Kids now grown and self-sufficient. But even before we had established careers, we wanted to live within a financial framework that let us do work we considered important. Our parents, likewise, had spent years as volunteers.”

Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.

Stay informed about your money.

In addition to this newsletter, please read and share my weekly personal finance columns.

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Should parents pay off $200,000 in law school loans for a son who ended up in rehab?

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