From taxis to cafes and restaurants… ‘Tips culture’ premature in Korea?

Recently, restaurants and cafes that ask for tips ( tip · service charge) are appearing one after another. ‘Tip’ refers to money given in addition to a certain amount as a thank you to the person who provided the service. Unlike Western countries, where tipping culture is relatively active, it has been a somewhat unfamiliar culture in Korea.

Kakao Taxi (Kakao T), a domestic taxi calling platform, introduced a ‘tip payment service’ on a trial basis last month, sparking controversy surrounding tipping culture. Online, there are conflicting opinions: ‘If you are satisfied with the store’s service, you can give a tip without burden’ and ‘It is unfair to ask for an additional tip when the price already includes the service cost’.

Tip box, tip information board appeared… “I feel compelled to tip”

On the 18th, an article titled ‘There is a cafe in Yeonnam-dong that asks for tips’ was posted on an online community. The writer said, “The person taking the order at the checkout counter asked, ‘How about a tip for a hard-working employee?’ and showed me a tablet PC with 5%, 7%, and 10% items .”

There was also an eyewitness account of seeing a ‘tip box’ at the checkout counter of a famous bakery cafe that called ‘waiting for 5 hours’.

On the 19th, an article and a photo titled ‘Currently a cafe in a mess because of the tip box’ was posted on an online community. A tip box made of a glass bottle is placed in front of the cash register, and it is filled with 1,000 won bills and coins.

Netizens who saw the photo commented, “Isn’t it illegal to receive tips separately in our country?” “These days, instead of a collection box for the less fortunate, it’s a tip box.” ” and so on.

When Kukmin Ilbo asked about the tipping controversy, the store side explained on the 23rd, “The tip box is one of the store’s interior elements, and has been used for display purposes since September 2021 to increase the density of brand sensibility.”

He continued, “(The tip box) was not used for the purpose of receiving tips from actual customers, and the cash in the tip box was put on display as our test money.” He added, “In order to eliminate unnecessary misunderstandings from customers, we immediately retrieved all the tip boxes displayed in all stores.”

At another restaurant, the ‘tip payment information board’ caused controversy. On the 21st, a photo that appeared to be taken at a restaurant was posted on an online community along with an article titled “Trying to bring in the tipping culture?”

In the photo, you can see a signboard that says, “If the serving staff responded kindly, please tip about 5,000 won per table (per team).” At the bottom, in small letters, ‘To give (tip) or not is the choice of the guests and is not obligatory. We ask for your understanding with a kind heart.”

Netizens who saw this expressed their disapproval by commenting, “Who should tip someone in an era where every table orders from a kiosk and robots serve?” “It feels bad to be forced to tip.”

It may be against the law to ask consumers for tips in restaurants or cafes. According to the Enforcement Rule of the Food Sanitation Act, the price tag must indicate the final price, including service charges such as tips and value-added tax, and restaurants must be paid according to the price tag.

An official from the Korea Legal Aid Corporation said in a phone call with the Kukmin Ilbo on the 24th, “Although voluntary tipping is not prohibited, it is illegal for restaurants to ask for tips.”

The official said, “It is in the early stages of introducing ‘tip culture’ in Korea, so there are no proper standards or rules.” It can be seen that this is added,” he added.

Kakao T ‘thank you tip’ trial introduction… Consumer reaction ‘cold’

The domestic ‘tip controversy’ began on the 19th of last month when the taxi calling platform Kakao T introduced a ‘thank you tip’ service that gives tips to taxi drivers.

Applies to Black, Model, Venti, Blue, and Pet taxi스포츠토토 services, excluding general call services. Passengers can tip up to 2,000 won if they are satisfied with the taxi service.

All tips paid by passengers are paid to the driver as points, excluding the 3.5% payment and settlement fee. It is known that points can be settled later. Kakao Mobility said that the tip service is “a passenger’s voluntary choice” and “there is no fee taken by the company.”

Consumer reaction to this was cold. On the 20th, as a result of a consumer data platform open survey survey on ‘awareness of the taxi calling platform’s tip function’, the dissenting opinion was overwhelmingly high at 71.7%. Only 17.2% of the opinion was ‘closer to yes’, and 11.1% answered ‘I don’t know’.

There are also concerns that the ‘tip’ service will bring about an increase in taxi fares. Just as an additional delivery fee is added in addition to the food price when ordering food through a delivery app, it is predicted that the ‘tip’ applied to taxi fares will later become an obligation and add to the burden on consumers.

Regarding this, an official from Kakao Mobility said, “Customers can autonomously decide whether or not to tip while giving a star rating after getting off, so (tips) will not act as a burden.” We will take measures such as warnings and limiting dispatch.”

“Do you put a tip box to be hip… great pressure on consumers

Can Western tipping culture take root in Korea? Experts expressed the opinion that there are many points to look at in relation to the tipping culture introduced in Korea.

Lee Eun-hee, a professor of consumer science at Inha University, said in a phone call with the Kukmin Ilbo on the 25th, “Currently, Korea is required to display price information to consumers according to the price labeling system. If you have to pay an extra tip instead of a tip, it will only confuse consumers.”

The price display system is a system that requires business operators to display prices for products they produce and sell in order to provide accurate price information to consumers. By displaying the actual selling price, consumers can decide whether or not to purchase the product.

Professor Lee expressed concern, saying, “In order to gain consumer trust in the market, prices must be fixed, but if the tipping culture is introduced, all prices will become like ‘floating prices’.”

He pointed out that providing a ‘tip box’ in a cafe or restaurant may feel like pressure to consumers, although store owners may say ‘it looks hip and uses it for interior purposes’.

Professor Lee explained that, above all, the method of determining workers’ wages, such as the minimum wage, differs from country to country. “In the US, the service industry pays wages including tips, but in Korea, the minimum wage is set at 9,620 won,” he said. said. He added, “These days, as the introduction of kiosks is expanding, consumers rather than employees are in a situation where it is rather difficult.”

At this point, the introduction of the tipping culture was also discussed in negative views. “Consumers are not happy with any price increase even a little because they have suffered from high prices for the past two years,” he said . There will be many consumers who do,” he analyzed.

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