Tipping, a customary practice in many service industries, is a vital lifeline for workers striving to make ends meet. This practice plays a pivotal role in recognizing and valuing the efforts of individuals who provide essential services, such as waitstaff, bartenders, and delivery personnel. Beyond the simple act of leaving spare change or a gratuity, tipping symbolizes a gesture of appreciation and empathy, bridging the gap between the cost of services and the often modest wages these workers earn. In recent years, however, “tipping fatigue” has altered how people feel about leaving tips.
How Has Tipping Culture Changed in 2023?
A new Bankrate survey reveals that tipping practices in America vary widely, with 66% of adults holding a negative view of tipping. People express preferences for improved employee pay (41%), annoyance at pre-entered tip screens (32%), and belief that tipping culture is excessive (30%). Additionally, 15% are confused about whom and how much to tip, while 16% would accept higher prices to eliminate tipping.
Although tipping is disliked, it remains prevalent. Roughly 44% of sit-down restaurant patrons tip at least 20%. Tipping patterns differ among services, such as hair stylists, food delivery, and taxis, with generational and regional variations. Gen Z and men tip less frequently, and overall tipping frequency has declined since 2019.
Gen Z is Tipping Less
Gen Zers, aged 18-26, are less likely to tip the standard 20% when dining out compared to older generations. The same Bankrate survey revealed that only a quarter of Gen Zers tip 20% or more, in contrast to over half of Baby Boomers who do. The inclination to tip increases with age, with older generations being more generous in various scenarios like dining out, food delivery, and hairdressing services. Gen Z’s different approach might be due to their limited exposure to traditional tipping culture and a more accustomed interaction with pre-entered tip screens at places like coffee shops. While some older adults find tipping excessive, Gen Zers are less bothered by it. About 22% of Gen Zers believe tipping culture has become excessive, while 33% of Gen X and Baby Boomers share this sentiment. The lower tipping tendency among Gen Z could be attributed to lower incomes and a lack of familiarity with tipping norms. Some young adults may also view tipping through a social justice lens, deeming it unfair, but experts emphasize that not tipping where expected hurts individual workers, not just the business.
Americans remain among the world’s top tippers, with customary rates ranging from 15% to 20% of the bill. The prevalence of lower-paying service jobs and reliance on tips for income has led to discussions on “tipflation,” as digital payment systems prompt customers to tip, sometimes exceeding 30%. This trend extends to online orders and remote transactions, with nearly 75% of such interactions requesting gratuity.
The pandemic exacerbated this trend, as patrons tipped more generously to support struggling service workers, reinforcing the societal norm. However, this dependence on tips perpetuates income disparities, creates unpredictability for workers, and contributes to financial insecurity. While tipping offers advantages such as incentivizing excellent service and enabling higher earnings for some, its downsides include burdening customers with expectations, unequal compensation among workers, and the potential for income inequality.
As the conversation around tipping culture continues, finding a balance between fairness for workers and respecting established norms remains a crucial aspect of this evolving landscape.