Has tipping gone too far?
By Mackenzie Creasman
At Amelie’s amazing pastries, it’s hard for people to resist the urge to pull out their credit cards. When it’s time to pay, the cashier reads out the total, and the customer taps, swipes, or inserts the card, but then the cashier flips the white screen and asks the all-too-familiar question, “Would you like to add a tip?”
Now the pressure is on 15%, 20%, and 25% or do you hit the no tip button? Does not tipping make you a bad person? When are you supposed to tip? Is tipping getting excessive?
Excessive tipping seems to have become customary all over the U.S. Americans tip more service providers and tip higher amounts than any other country in the world.
For example, in Italy, a 10% tip for exceptional service is the maximum. In the U.S. many people consider tipping the customary tip to be 15-25% (if not more).
“We don’t tip in Germany because they pay their workers enough,” German senior, Sophie Stachl says.
Surprisingly, tipping didn’t even originate in the US. “The origins of tipping are a bit mixed,” history teacher Tyler Griffin says. “Some accounts say that wealthy Americans noticed the practice from Europe in the 1800s and brought it to the States. Over time, the practice spread throughout the country. Restaurant owners soon found that they could pay their workers less by subsidizing their pay through customer tips. With lower labor costs, restaurants can make more profit and also lower the price of their food, which increases customer demand.”
From the 1800’s to years ago, and again to now, tipping has changed immensely over time. For instance, math inclusion teacher Kristin Tumblin says the practice has changed in her lifetime.
“Tipping has changed greatly since I had my first job,” she says. “It used to be 10% was okay, 18% was great. It also was optional and greatly appreciated, but tipping was not expected. Then the standard became 15-20% (20% was given for exceptional service). Tips were only given for service jobs and those who make less than minimum wage.
“It is very frustrating that the tip range has moved from 15-20% up to 20-30%,” she says.
Why has tipping changed over time? And why are we experiencing “tipflation” (the rise in the expected amount of tip)? One of those reasons is the introduction of the tipping credit in 1960 by the US Congress. The tipping credit states that employers can pay employees below minimum wage if they receive tips.
Griffin had a job at Steak and Shake that followed this credit. “My hourly rate was $2.13, however, I received tips. Based on the business of the day, I could make the equivalent of minimum wage on slow days, or at times, $20 an hour. There were really busy weekends where it was me and one other server handling the rush. I believe my max coming home once was $200 after working from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is about $22 an hour.
“The downside was the money was inconsistent,” he said. “How much I made also depended on how busy it was and also the feeling of people. On my really good days, I’d leave work pretty exhausted, but with lots of cash. I also got to leave work with money every day, rather than waiting for a paycheck.”
Another pressure that also affected tipflation includes the use of technology. New technology, like tip screens, adds a new tension to checking out. Capterra 2023 Tip Fatigue Survey reports, 50% of consumers they surveyed say they have felt manipulated into tipping, or tipping a higher amount than intended when confronted with a checkout tablet.
“Every time I tap my card, I am asked if you want to tip,” Tumblin said. “Having it on machines makes people feel pressure to give a tip even if it is not a situation where a tip is expected.”
People feel differently about the tipping culture of today, whether they are uncomfortable, tired, or think it is normal and helpful.
Those who have service jobs often have different perspectives from the customers, and people who work jobs without tips may have another perspective.
Senior Kailin Bart, a worker at Springs Farm, appreciates tips. “I enjoy tips because they help me make extra money for things I need or want,” he says. “I always tip since I’ve gotten a job because I understand what employees go through and I enjoy helping people in any way that I can.”
Another senior, Ashlyn Kahre, who works at Pet Palace, is frustrated by the practice, however. “People expect tips everywhere now,” she says. “Friends have judged me for not tipping at Starbucks when I just went through the drive-through for a drink, and they get paid to do that service.
“I get when servers who make minimum wage ask for tips, but most food services want tips now, and they make people feel like they need to tip when they don’t need to,” she says.
Junior Will Souza is currently unemployed. What’s his take on tipping? “I tip–but I don’t like tipping because I’m too broke,” he says.
So, who are we supposed to tip? “Tipping has become very excessive, not only in who we are expected to tip but in how much,” Tumblin says. “Now everyone expects a tip.
“I generally do not tip if I do all the work myself, such as at a fast-food restaurant or if it is just at a store (such as a clothing store). If you are an exceptional server, you still may only get 20% from me,” she says.
Etiquette expert Thomas Farley says we should tip when getting a haircut, manicure, massage, or other services. He suggests tipping 20% at restaurants but advises that you don’t tip professionals, counter service, open-bar events, and poor service. He also mentions not double-tipping, or tipping twice for the same service.
If you are somewhere where you are unfamiliar with the tipping customs, a simple web search should be done. Tipping is an integrated part of modern American culture, and has expanded to many different industries, creating an uncomfortable environment for many consumers, but giving a gratuity is also a form of showing gratitude that many workers deeply appreciate.