Customer Notices That Olive Garden’s Tip Machine Is Trying To Charge Her Way More Than Her 20% Tip

It added more than $2 to the tip and no one seems to know why—and she's not the only one it's happened to.

woman shocked by inflated tip nicoletaionescu / Getty Images / Canva Pro

You've surely noticed that tipping is everywhere now, even in places you'd never expect, like car garages and retail stores. It's gotten to be a little much.

But one woman on TikTok may have just discovered another way that tipping may be spinning out of control after a strange and unexplained experience she had while picking up takeout.

The customer noticed an Olive Garden tip machine inflated her 20% tip — by a lot.

Tipping expectations in America have gone so overboard in recent years that the trend even has a name —tip inflation, or "tipflation," the slang term for the new status quo of being asked to tip absolutely everywhere nowadays, even at places where you essentially serve yourself.


RELATED: After A Waiter Served A Group Of 13-Year-Olds Who Only Tipped $3.28, They Returned Days Later With An Apology

But if TikToker, chef, and cookbook author Kristiahna Clark's experience is any indication, "inflation" has now escalated to actually literally inflating people's tips without their consent. 


After a recent takeout run at her local Olive Garden, Clark noticed something downright shocking. The checkout machine had inflated her tip by more than $2 for seemingly no reason.

Clark selected the 20% tip option on the credit card machine, but the machine added a 27% tip instead.

"So I'm over here at Olive Garden, and that's probably the first problem," Clark joked in her video. She then showed the credit card machine — one of those little electronic devices some restaurants have, known as tabletop tablets or pay-at-the-table tablets in the restaurant biz, that allow you to order and pay on your own without a server's assistance.

@kristiahnaclark Whats with these calculators? @Olive Garden you need to check on this. Lets not scam people #olivegarden #ziosk @Ziosk ♬ original sound - Kristiahna Clark

The tablets Olive Garden uses, made by restaurant tech company Ziosk, include a slider to select a tip percentage. The machine then calculates the tip for the customer so that you don't have to do the math in your head.


Clark showed in her video that the machine had defaulted to a 20% tip, which on her $33.30 check came out to $8.95. Eagle-eyed readers will note, as Clark did, that is not 20% of $33.30. In fact, it's nearly 27%.

As a chef and restaurant industry veteran, Clark noted that she has no problem with tipping more than 20%, but rather that it seemed like the Olive Garden was "trying to cheat people," presumably on the assumption that most people wouldn't notice the inaccuracy. "What is going on?" she said. "They're trying to scam us all now, I don't like it."

RELATED: Bartender & Mom-Of-One Posts Photo Of $9 Paycheck For 70 Hours Of Work To Explain The Importance Of Tipping


Clark is definitely not alone in seemingly being scammed by tip machines, and many wonder if companies are skimming tips from staff because of it.

Earlier in 2024, Instagram user Mark O'Brien had a similar experience to Clark's at another restaurant. The tipping software that restaurant used featured buttons with percentages rather than a slider like Clark encountered, but those percentages were wildly inaccurate — even more so than what Clark saw.

As he demonstrated in his video, the machine's 15% option tipped $6.22 on a $27 bill — a 23% tip. The discrepancy was even larger for the 18% and 20% options, which added an extra 10% to the tip.

Many accused Clark of misrepresenting what happened or suggested she might have had a discount or coupon, which in most restaurants will lower the price but still tip on what the total would have been.


But as a 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry and a former server herself, Clark assured viewers in a follow-up video that she's well aware of what happens when there's a discount involved, and that's not what happened during her Olive Garden visit. Just as O'Brien had experienced, the machine simply added extra tip money without her consent.

Many viewers assumed there must be something nefarious going on, with several suggesting the restaurants are giving employees the correct tip and "pocketing the difference."

Given that Olive Garden's parent company Darden Restaurants has been sued multiple times for its mishandling of employees' tips — as have tons of other restaurants, including ones owned by high-profile chefs like Mario Batali — that's certainly not far-fetched.


In her follow-up video, Clark called on Olive Garden, Ziosk and other restaurant-industry companies to come clean and address the issue. "If we're finding this at more than one restaurant there is a problem," she said. "It needs to stop… People work too hard for their money."

RELATED: Customer Removes The 18% Gratuity That Was Automatically Added To Their Restaurant Bill

John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.