Tipping plummets as credit cards convert to PINs

Scott Bolles
Tipping culture: New technology is creating uncertainty for waiters and customers.
Tipping culture: New technology is creating uncertainty for waiters and customers. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Never get in the way of a waiter and a tip. The introduction of PIN-only credit card transactions earlier this month has seen tips at some establishments plummet, uncertainty for both waiters and customers, and a growing move towards set service charges at restaurants.

Amir Alpert, owner of the Owl House in Darlinghurst, has noticed a significant decrease in tips since the phasing out of signatures.

"There's that awkwardness being with a customer as they put in a tip and their PIN number. Now [that] they have the option to easily skip over it [the tip], about 25 to 30 per cent do. Soon we're going to lose good people in this industry," he says.

Word on Sydney's eat streets is a number of upmarket Sydney restaurants are looking at introducing set service charges in coming months.

Nick Hildebrandt, co-owner of Sydney restaurants Bentley and Yellow, claims customers are as confused as restaurants with the new system (which is still also accepting signatures).

"They are putting their pin numbers in where the tip amount is meant to go," he says.

Which is a potentially costly mistake with a four digit PIN.

Hildebrant is now moving to a system where customers still sign off on a tip, and the waiter returns to them with the final amount input and requiring the customer to then just enter a PIN.

Restaurant & Catering chief John Hart says many restaurants linked to banks with advanced tipping prompts are reporting increased tips.

"But those with old technology (and non-chip cards) are getting very few tips because it's only cash," he says.