A new study by The Pew Research Center shows more places are requesting that people tip these days.
SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — You can’t escape it, especially during the holiday season. Requests for gratuities are everywhere and some people are at their tipping point.
Rickey Oliver, who lives in Sacramento, says he’s noticed a change in tipping culture since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He explains that more places are requesting tips, including for non-traditional services.
“I’ll tip, but for me, I do not think there are certain jobs you need to tip on,” Oliver said. “I would not say that I’m tired of it, but I think it has gotten a little out of hand.”
Tipping culture in America is growing due, in part, to significant structural and technological changes. That includes the expansion of digital payment platforms and devices that encourage tipping and the spread of mandatory service charges.
Elise Brockett, who lives in Sacramento too, says she’s always followed the basic rules of tipping. She explains that tipping, for her, is a way of showing appreciation to others for good service. At times, she even tips service workers extra during the holidays.
“Tipping has always been something that I participated in,” Brockett said. “But, to a certain extent, it is a little anxiety-inducing. I have been on the opposite side before, in the service industry, so I know it is awkward for the person that’s turning the screen around for tip suggestions and requests.”
A new study by The Pew Research Center shows more places are requesting people to tip these days. Researchers surveyed 11,945 people from Aug. 7 to Aug. 27. About seven in ten people said tipping is expected in more places today than it was five years ago.
The term “tipflation” is now being used to describe the increase in tipping rates and requests at businesses, including tipping for non-traditional services. Even though requests for tipping are on the rise, many people are still confused about when and how to do so. Only about a third of survey respondents said it’s easy to know whether to tip or how much for different types of services.
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There’s also a divide over whether tipping is a choice or an obligation. Around two in ten people surveyed said tipping is a choice, while 29% said it’s an obligation. The largest share, 49% of survey respondents, said it all depends on the situation, underscoring the lack of a single set of rules or expectations.
Portia Mansanet, who lives in Sacramento, believes tipping is more of an obligation in the U.S. because of the tipping culture. She says it’s also tough for some people to make ends meet, especially in California, with the lack of affordable housing and other rising costs.
“I feel like, in the U.S., tipping is expected because the living wage is not as liveable,” Mansanet said. “I do feel like there’s a difference in culture because I used to live in the UK and tipping is not a thing at all.”
Pam Rodriguez is the CEO and founder of Golden Wealth Capital in Sacramento. The financial firm works to “guide the modern-day woman through financial change during life’s most uncertain times.” That includes offering clients financial services, like cash management, investment management, family planning, and much more.
As a financial advisor, Rodriguez says tipping is indeed a choice in the U.S.
“Tipping etiquette is truly based on service,” Rodriguez explained. “If you feel like you’ve had good service, it’s common courtesy, not a requirement, to tip. At a sit-down restaurant, most people are going to do a 20% tip. That’s very standard.”
Rodriguez says guilt tipping is real, too. That’s when someone feels shamed into tipping or pressured to tip when the option is presented. And, according to the report from The Pew Research Center, most people are against businesses suggesting tip amounts to customers, like on the bill or checkout screen.
Rodriguez reminds people that tipping, and how much, is still a choice. She goes on to explain that people are experiencing tipping fatigue too.
“Tipping fatigue started during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rodriguez said. “At first, everyone was being very gracious. But, as we’re seeing people go back to work and wages go up, based on inflation, we’re also seeing a drop in some of the work ethic. You should not feel ashamed to hit the other button to do a 20% tip. If you’re buying a $5 coffee, like at Starbucks, and now they’ve added a $5 tip, why should I tip 100%. It does not make a lot of sense.”
Keiona Williamson owns Drip Espresso in Sacramento. The coffee shop uses a traditional tip jar and digital tipping screen to encourage tips from customers for good service. Williamson says tipping is important, especially for small Black-women-owned businesses. She also explains that 100% of tips go directly to the employees for financial support.
“We pay our staff a little bit above minimum wage,” Williamson explained. “However, we only offer part-time hours. For the students and working moms that we have here, those tips are the difference between a couple of 100 dollars extra a month that they earn on their paychecks.”
Rodriguez agrees, saying supporting small and local businesses is key. But she also explains the importance of people tipping responsibly. That means, making the right financial decisions for themselves and their families as well as managing money and budgeting, especially during the holidays.
“It’s important to support our local business owners, but above and beyond that, you are not required to tip, especially if you’re struggling yourself.”
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