Americans Think Tipping Culture Is ‘Out Of Control’ And Workers Should Be Paid More

Americans Think Tipping Culture Is ‘Out Of Control’ And Workers Should Be Paid More

No matter what businesses you patronize in the United States, it’s likely that you’ll be prompted to offer a tip. However, the rapidly changing tipping culture raises questions about its fairness and effectiveness.

A recent survey by Bankrate found that roughly 66% of Americans have a negative view of tipping. Around 30% of respondents think that tipping culture is “out of control,” with more companies encouraging customers to tip at their counters than ever before. Patrons find the pre-entered tip screens aggravating (32%) and think businesses should pay their employees more rather than rely on gratuity (41%).

Tipping is a way to show your appreciation for a service performed and a job well done. If you tip at an establishment you regularly frequent or a handyman who does a lot of work for you, it can ensure perpetual positive experiences. From an altruistic perspective, gratuity provides much-needed financial resources to supplement meager hourly wages.

There is often confusion surrounding what service providers you should tip, and questions about why some employees get gratuity, while others don’t. Customers are left wondering why they bear the burden of tipping instead of businesses paying their staff more fairly.

What’s Going On With Tipping?

Despite their negative view of tipping culture, Americans are amongst the best tippers in the world. Customary standards are that you should tip around 15% to 20% of the bill. Most people in the service industry are paid less than the minimum wage—which is generally low to begin with—and workers rely upon tips to enhance their low pay.

One of the reasons why tipping has become a major topic of conversation is because of “tipflation”—the rapid increase in restaurants, stores, shops, supermarkets, cafes, airports and many other establishments implementing digital payment checkout systems that prompt customers to select the gratuity rate—sometimes exceeding 30%. This creates an uncomfortable interaction with a sense of pressure being exerted.

Customers are also nudged to tip on online orders and low-service kiosks. Nearly 75% of remote transactions in food and beverage now prompt you to leave gratuity, according to data analysis from Square.

The pandemic contributed to tipflation, as many people were tipping more generously to support service industry workers who were struggling financially. These were the frontline workers who shopped for our groceries and delivered meals to our homes through apps. This trend has continued through today.

Why There’s A Need To Tip

Tipping has become so ingrained in our culture that customers feel obligated to tip, even when the service is subpar, or zero labor took place. This creates an expectation for gratuity, regardless of the quality of service.

In many places in the U.S., the minimum wage for tipped workers is lower than the standard minimum wage. This means that companies can legally pay their employees less and rely on tips to make up the difference. This creates an environment where workers heavily depend on tips to earn a livable wage.

Tipping can lead to income disparities among workers, as those in certain service industries, such as restaurants, may receive more tips than others, like fast food workers. The wait staff may make more in tips than the workers who do the cooking and cleaning. This can contribute to an unequal distribution of income within the labor force.

Relying on tips to make ends meet can lead to emotional distress for workers, as their income is unpredictable. This can create financial anxiety and job insecurity.

The Positive Side Of Tipping

  • Some workers may benefit from the opportunity to earn more than a standard fixed wage, especially in industries where tips are generous.
  • Customers can reward excellent service or express gratitude through tipping.

The Drawbacks Of Tipping Culture

  • Tipped workers who don’t receive enough tips may struggle to make ends meet, leading to financial insecurity.
  • Customers might feel burdened by the social expectation to tip and calculate appropriate gratuities.
  • Non-tipped workers may earn less than their tipped counterparts, even if their job responsibilities are similar.
  • Tipping can perpetuate income inequality and create a reliance on the generosity of customers instead of fair employer compensation.

How Businesses Benefit

For companies, relying on tips can reduce labor costs, as gratuity offsets the low wages paid to workers. This can be particularly appealing for businesses with slim profit margins.

Addressing the issue of tipping culture involves broader discussions on labor laws, minimum wage and fair compensation for all workers. Some argue that companies should pay their employees a livable wage without relying on tips, creating a more stable and equitable income for workers.

In some places, there have been movements to raise the minimum wage. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been calls to eliminate the minimum wage for tipped workers altogether.