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Etiquette In A Cashless World

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Well, as we just heard, an app that both allows you to collect your boyfriend's share of the rent and allows your mom to find out about it gives rise to all kinds of etiquette questions. Turns out colleagues here at NPR are wrestling with those questions, and who better to answer them than Amy Dickinson? She writes the syndicated newspaper advice column "Ask Amy." Hi, Amy.

AMY DICKINSON: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So we have millennial producers - you'll be shocked to hear - lining up to ask questions. Our first one is here in the studio with me. So let me welcome producer Lauren Hodges. And Lauren, your question.

LAUREN HODGES, BYLINE: Amy, what is the etiquette when it comes to heads-up before you Venmo charge somebody? Do you have to talk about it first, or can you just hit them up for cash?

DICKINSON: Well, I would say anything where you describe the action as hitting someone up, that's your answer, right? So you don't want to be hitting people up, but you do want to communicate beforehand that you are going to ask to be compensated. This comes up a lot in dating, where there are misunderstandings about like, are we on a date where you pick up the check - the whole check? There's nothing worse than, like, being on your way home after a first date and having somebody Venmo you for your half.

KELLY: Not if you want a second date.

DICKINSON: That's right. That's right. Venmo has really enhanced the need for people to communicate and be a little more open about their spending. You know, people in my generation - we think that money transactions are like, private. I notice that young people are much more transparent about their expectations, and I think that's a good thing.

KELLY: All right, Lauren, an answer to your one-on-one question. Thank you.

HODGES: Thanks, Amy. Good to know.

DICKINSON: OK.

KELLY: Next we turn to Cristina Cala of our staff. She is wondering about something that might bring on jealousy.

CHRISTINA CALA, BYLINE: What if you're going out with someone, and you see that they Venmo'd their ex?

KELLY: Amy Dickinson, this gets into the whole combining a mobile payment system and a social media platform question.

DICKINSON: Yeah, my favorite description of Venmo is it's like your phone and your wallet had a shiny, little baby. But the fact is, anytime anybody posts anything on a social media feed, that means it's up for discussion, if you're game, or some sort of communication about it. Now, I know a lot of millennials might deal with that by posting - sort of sub-tweeting - you know, making a subtle, little jab maybe on the same platform. Like, you might maybe Venmo your ex. You know, it's...

KELLY: (Laughter) Oh, my God.

DICKINSON: It's funny. There's a lot of passive aggression going on in Venmo. Let me tell you.

KELLY: OK, next question from one of our producers, Connor Donovan. This one is about tipping via Venmo.

CONNOR DONOVAN, BYLINE: If you're in a situation where you would typically give someone a cash tip like a hotel maid or a bellhop but you don't have cash, is there any way out of that situation? I feel like it happens more and more.

KELLY: Amy.

DICKINSON: OK, here's my little rule. I believe that you should repay people in the currency that they use, not the currency that you use. And so yeah, all my kids and every other younger person out there, you're going have to, when you travel, do what grown-ups do and get some fives and tens to tip people.

KELLY: To sum up, is there a golden rule of Venmo etiquette that we should all have in mind?

DICKINSON: You know, I think the golden rule that we have in mind for every transaction - non-Venmo and Venmo - do unto others. And so what you want to do is be as kind, as generous to people as you would expect them to be toward you. And I think in some ways, Venmo is actually making that easier.

KELLY: Amy Dickinson - she writes the syndicated newspaper advice column "Ask Amy." Thanks so much.

DICKINSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUNGLE FIRE'S "FIREWALKER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.