A roll out of new, upgraded Eftpos machines have been posing the awkward “tipping” question to customers on a brightly lit screen, hard to ignore.  

The machines ask the customer if they want to tip a 5, 10 or 15 percent portion of their bill.

Some restaurant owners and staff believe it is time Kiwis were a bit more generous, while others say it puts pressure on customers.

Tipping has never been part of Kiwi culture, in fact, tourism websites clearly state tipping is not customary and not required in New Zealand. The general view has been because employers are required to pay a minimum wage to staff.

However, with the current cost of living crisis, some hospitality workers said they relied on tips to make ends meet.

“For me to be able to save any money, tips are really important. It’s only the way that I am able to save money at the moment. Otherwise I would be left with nothing to go towards any like future costs for my car or if I wanna travel or anything.”

Alex is a student at AUT and said in her three shifts a week, she could earn as much as $150 in tips. She believed tipping should become the norm.

“The restaurant that I work in tips go to not only waitresses, but it also goes to kitchen staff and bar staff and everyone who is putting in work to make your experience at the restaurant a great one.”

Michael Dearth, restaurant owner of Baduzzi and the Grove in Auckland said tips supported his staff, some of whom were still at school.

“I think if someone’s going to go above and beyond and give a bit of that extra love, it’s great to have tipping. The staff that are students, it’s a nice little motivation for them to learn the menu, learn the wine list, learn the cocktail list, learn more and excel more, even though they’re maybe going to school to be something else.”

Dearth was quick to say customers were not judged if they chose not to tip.

“We shouldn’t make it awkward. It’s like asking someone if they want a bottle of mineral water or tap water. We’re not judging you. If you want tap water, you have filtered tap water. If you want to have sparkling water, you have sparkling water.”

However, some restaurant owners and staff believe the newer Eftpos machines almost turned people off tipping.  

Henry Fisher is a 17-year-old waiter at Hallertau Brewery in Clevedon.

“I’ve just been in the UK last month, they had already been rolled out. As a waiter I almost find it a bit rude, I feel like pressuring customers into tipping makes them want to do it less.”

His boss Stephen Plowman agreed, even though they had upgraded to the newer machines.

“Well, I think it’s an option that we didn’t activate. I think you can actually turn it off as far as I understand, cause we’ve just upgraded all our machines and we haven’t activated that function.”

He said tipping through a machine took away the personal element.

“It lacks accountability because the money goes to the owner of the restaurant and you’re relying on their goodwill to give it back to the staff.”

Plowman said while asking customers at top end restaurants to tip might be okay, asking for a gratuity at cheaper, family restaurant might be a bit much.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the customer was still able to discreetly decline to tip, without the situation being awkward.

“The terminals are set up so that a customer can still just discreetly decline to tip. There’s still a way that you can manage that as a customer without having to necessarily tell someone, look them in the eye and say no.”

As far as sharing tips among staff, she said a survey of restaurants showed 98 percent did.

Alex reckoned if you were happy with your service, you should show it.

“A lot of tourists tip, because our restaurant usually gets a lot of people from overseas, but anyone can tip really, and I find that I tip whenever I go to a restaurant.”