Shoppers Left Furious as Self-Checkout Machines Ask for Tip in California

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Jun 29, 2024

There have been a few issues with self-checkouts recently. One is that stores are getting rid of them due to a rise in thefts that are believed to have been made easier by using self-checkouts. The other is that shoppers are asked to tip when using the self-checkout.

This has caused a lot of confusion among shoppers, as they don’t understand why they should tip a machine for scanning their shopping. There is also confusion about who this money is going to.

California Wants to Ban Self-Checkouts

Due to a rise in thefts across stores in California, it is looking at putting forward new legislation that will ban the use of self-checkouts.

A person standing at a self-checkout with a green basket next to them.

Source: @YouFugazi/X

Self-checkouts are believed to be making it easier for theft to occur in stores, especially with the rising cost of products giving people more reason to steal items. California hopes that this ban will stop this. 


Walmart Is Charging Customers to Use Self-Checkouts

In another move that has left customers feeling furious, Walmart has decided to charge its customers $98 per year to use its self-checkouts.

A close-up image of the Walmart website.

Source: Marques Thomas/Unsplash

Only those who have paid this amount can use the self-checkout. Anyone who hasn’t will have to use the cashier checkout lanes. 

Target’s Limited Self-Checkout Items

Walmart isn’t the only store making changes to its self-checkout stations. Target has implemented a new rule that limits shoppers to checking out 10 items or less when using the self-checkout.

The outside of a Target store with cars parked next to it.

Source: Shabaz Usmani/Unsplash

This is causing issues for shoppers, especially as not many cashier checkout lanes tend to be open at once, which causes long lines and delays, with customers desperate to pay for their shopping and head back home.

Customer Asked to Tip After Buying One Item

The latest in a long line of issues with self-checkouts was when one customer went to pay for one item, which is a simple enough process, only to be asked to tip for using the self-checkout.

A close-up of the tip section of a self-checkout machine that asks for a 15%, 18% or 20% tip.

Source: @baesapr0cky/X

This caused a lot of confusion for the customer as they weren’t aware of who they would actually be tipping. They even made the joke that they would actually just be tipping themselves.

Reasons for Tipping at Self-Checkout

There was much confusion about the purpose of tipping at self-checkout, with some people making jokes about what the reason could possibly be.

The tip screen at a self-checkout with products and a card machine next to it.

Source: @quinncoherent/X

Some of the jokes included tips for installing the machine, for the shopper doing a good job of scanning the shopping or for getting a bit of money back from the overall shop. 


Shoppers Given Four Tipping Options

Tipping wasn’t mandatory, as one of the options when prompted was to pay nothing. However, there were three other options for tipping, with shoppers not allowed to tip a customized amount.

A close-up of a self-checkout machine with the tip options onscreen.

Source: @theisaacmed/X

The three other tip options were 15%, 18% and 20%, which would be added to the total cost of the items purchased.


Tips Are Shared Among Employees

The exact shop the customer was at isn’t situated in just one location, as many other stores have also installed the tipping option on their self-checkout machines.

A metal can on a counter that says “good karma tips” and “I shop small.”

Source: Dan Smedley/Unsplash

Customers in stadiums and at airport shops have been asked to tip when using the self-checkout, but spokespersons for these places have explained that any tips given here will be shared equally among employees.


Rules on Tipping in the U.S.

Even though tipping is currently only an option in stores across the U.S., it is unusual to tip someone who works there, with most places expecting tips working in the services and hospitality industries.

A glass bowl with money inside for tips.

Source: Aviv Rachmadian/Unsplash

This is because workers in these industries tend to be paid an hourly wage of $2.13, with employers having to prove that the worker can make up the amount missing from the state’s minimum wage by being paid in tips. 


Not Providing a Service

One of the many issues shoppers are having with tipping after using self-checkouts is that no service has actually been provided, which means that the person shouldn’t have to tip.

Baristas working behind a counter making coffee.

Source: Camille Chen/Unsplash

In most other tipping cases, it is done because the server did a good job. With no one actually serving customers in this instance, customers are seeing no reason for tipping self-checkouts to exist. 


It’s an Additional Tax

Whenever a customer buys a product from any store, they pay the cost of the item and the tax attributed to it.

Three piles of coins in a row with letters on top that spell out “tax.”

Source: Nataliya Vaitkevich/Pexels

With customers now being asked to provide a 15-20% tip on top of this, some have said it is basically the same as paying an additional tax on top of the tax they have already paid.


Stores Are Employing Less People

After introducing self-checkout machines over the last few decades and the recent rise in reliance on AI, stores aren’t employing as many people as they once would.

A self-checkout machine asking for a tip.

Source: @aSpicyCow/X

As machines are now doing the work of human employees, customers believe this gives them even less reason to tip. If they were to tip anyone working in a store, they would rather tip the people on the cashier checkout lanes than tip a machine.