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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

‘Would you like to add a tip?’

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Shavonne Chin

Everyone knows the uncomfortable exchange when the barista flips the screen, prompting you to choose how much to tip the minimum wage worker for handing over a muffin. This forces you to decide how much to tip on a $5 baked good.

Tipping culture has gotten out of control. There has been a recent increase in the margins of American gratuity habits. Almost  three-fourths of American adults said tipping is now expected in more places than five years ago, according to Pew Research Center.

It is one of the overlapping effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are venturing out to bars, restaurants and coffee shops, and consumers are ready to return to stores, confronted with forgotten pleasures and new etiquette expectations. This makes people feel like they need to tip more often.

“Tipflation,” the growth of digital payments with automatic tipping prompts, has drawn backlash from many Americans, according to CBS. Implementing digital checkout systems that pressure customers to leave a tip — sometimes exceeding 30% — creates an awkward encounter.

In many places in the U.S., the minimum wage for tipped workers is lower than the standard minimum wage. 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 living.

Working throughout high school as a hostess, I learned more about customer service than I ever thought I would. I earned a stable hourly rate, but now, as a waitress, my main income comes from tips.

Working for tips is much different than working at a guaranteed rate. It affects the days you want to work, the amount of work you take on and the customer service.

As a waitress, I noticed a trend with the age of customers and how much they tipped. In my experience, it was more common for older customers to tip than younger generations.

Older Americans are more likely than younger adults to tip even below the average percentage, according to Pew Research Center. Of those 65 and older, 61% would tip 15% or less compared to 54% of those under 30.

Inflation without proper raises has led to the out-of-hand phenomenon where customers are responsible for funding workers and adding to their bank accounts. Tipping is standard for several services in the restaurant industry. The issue is the overwhelming expectation of tipping those whose salaries don’t rely on outside gratuity. Why should customers bear the burden of tipping when corporations should be paying their employees fairly?

Americans can’t agree on whether adding a tip is more of a choice or an obligation when consumers are left to their own devices. When presented with a digital screen showing different numbers of tips, they take widely different approaches.

Over three-fourths of respondents always or often tip for haircuts, and just 61% said the same about tipping their taxi or ride-hailing drivers, according to NBC News.

Americans have a reputation for being generous tippers. The percentage of the tip is likely associated with income level. The average tip percentage in the U.S. is nearly 18%, according to USA Today.

Customer gratuity varies in different countries. Over winter break, my family and I traveled to Costa Rica and experienced a much different tipping policy. Tipping is completely optional but greatly appreciated, with 10% being the standard percentage. We were unsure of how much to tip but learned how cultural norms and standards affect it, and most restaurants expected American tourists to tip.

So, what is the solution to this exceedingly high tipping culture?

First, addressing the surge in tipping opens up broader discussions on labor laws, minimum wage and fair compensation for all workers. Companies should pay their employees a livable wage without relying on tips, creating a more stable and equitable income for workers.

Fundamentally, the cultural norm of tipping will never go away. The goal is to create a balance that ensures employees are fairly compensated. At the same time, customers receive good value and the business profits.

The next time you feel pressured to tip at a coffee shop, remember the corporation behind it is responsible for taking care of its employees.

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