New Survey: Vows To Tip Better Fall Flat

Restaurant goers, hotel guests and taxi riders have failed to become better tippers despite their vows to increase support for service industry employees who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the conclusion of an online survey of 2,610 adults released Monday by CreditCards.com. The results of the survey, which was conducted May 11-13 by YouGov Plc, are representative of all U.S. adults at least 18 years old and have a margin of error of plus or minus 2%, CreditCards.com says.

“While more than a third of Americans pledged to become better tippers in 2020 and 2021, it seems that sentiment has worn off,” says Ted Rossman, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst. “Inflation is cutting into consumers’ purchasing power, and a tight labor market has left many service industry businesses understaffed and struggling to provide top-notch customer experiences.”

The CreditCards.com survey finds a decrease in the number of U.S. adults who always tip sit-down restaurant servers, taxi/rideshare drivers, hotel housekeepers and coffee shop baristas. The sole exception: About 66% of Americans always tip their hairstylist/barber, compared with 63% during the past two years.

Tipping a server at a sit-down restaurant is the most common service for which Americans say they always tip. Of all adults surveyed, 73% say they always tip such servers. However, just 52% of Gen Zers (ages 18-25) and 60% of millennials (ages 26-41) do so.

Nearly 9 of every 10 baby boomers (ages 58-76) always tip restaurant servers — a higher percentage than other age groups, the survey reveals. A larger percentage of women (78%) than men (68%) always tip.

Less than half — 43% — of adults surveyed say they always tip taxi and rideshare drivers. That’s a decrease from 2019, when 49% said they did.

Might increases or decreases in tipping habits be soley related to the economy and the financial state of American adults?

“While tipping is certainly influenced by income and economic conditions, other factors are also in play,” Rossman says. “For example, there have been many reports that the quality of service at restaurants has declined, in large part due to staffing shortages. That could be leading to lower tips.”

Many young adults, Rossman says, “have a social justice take on tipping, believing that it’s not fair businesses get away with paying their staff less and relying on customers to make up the difference.”

Young adults — particularly men — “are boom or bust tippers,” he says. “They’re the most likely to fail to leave a tip, but when they do tip, they actually leave a higher percentage on average. That’s an interesting contradiction.”

Gen Zers and millennials are the most likely to tip more when they’re presented with pre-selected tip recommendations, Rossman says.

“There has long been an element of younger people tipping less, because they have less money and are less indoctrinated into social norms,” he adds. “As they age, people historically have become better tippers.”

Another factor is a decline in cash usage.

“A lot of tips still take place with cash, especially things like slipping a few bucks to people who parked your car or carried your bags,” Rossman says. “The fact that people carry less cash is probably hurting these folks. Other service industry workers are more easily tipped via credit or debit card.”

Tipping “is a very complex issue,” Rossman concludes. “Most people are confused about who and how much to tip.”

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