Story at a glance
- Traditional tipping etiquette dictates that customers give their servers an extra 15 to 20 percent at the end of their meal, while there is generally no obligations to tip for takeout.
- Many people propped up their local early in the pandemic by upping their gratuities at local coffee shops, corner stores and favorite take-out spots.
- Yet a recent survey revealed that tipping in several categories has fallen below pre-pandemic levels.
Americans were happy to over-tip during the pandemic. But with inflation pinching their pockets, signs that Americans want to tip less are growing.
Many people propped up their local later early in the pandemic by upping their gratuities at local coffee shops, corner stores and favorite take-out spots — the being a once-novel idea.
But now, experts say there is a perfect storm of factors, including inflation and lack of COVID-19 incentives, leaving “cranky consumers” waiting for exemplary service before shelling out a little extra at the end.
Traditional tipping etiquette dictates that customers give their servers an extra 15 to 20 percent, before tax, in addition to the price of their meal, according to etiquette site Emily Post.
Yet a recent survey from CreditCards.com revealed that tipping in several categories has fallen below pre-pandemic levels. The number of customers surveyed who said they always tip fell by 4 percentage points from 77 percent in 2019 to 73 percent in 2022. Four percent said they never tip.
“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,” Ted analyst Rossman, senior industry at CreditCards.com, said at the time.
Soaring costs at the pump and price hikes at the grocery store also mean less disposable income across the board, which can translate into less cash for often underpaid service industry workers who rely on customer tips for their survival.
Yet restaurants too are feeling inflation and supply crunches and are responding by raising menu prices, creating less of an incentive for customers to tack on a tip to their bill. Customers are also seeing other service disruptions.
The great resignation played a significant role in ongoing service issues, Florida International University hospitality professors Andrew Moreo and Lisa Cain wrote in an analysis on hospitality industry burnout. They noted hospitality workers fueled the so-called great resignation, listing low pay, long hours and weekend shifts as major factors pushing workers out of the industry.
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Moreo told Changing America in an interview the decline in customer experience might offer another element in explaining the decline in customers’ tipping habits.
“Customers aren’t receiving the service that they’re used to. The menus have shrunk, and prices have increased. Often, they go in and what they want from the menu, even if the item is still on the menu, maybe they’re out of it because of supply chain issues,” Moreo said.
“People are waiting longer to be sat, or the whole service is taking longer because they’re being short staffed. Not enough servers, not enough cooks. So, I think their overall experiences have diminished as well,” Moreo added.
Moreo said he learned in conversations with colleagues and associates in the industry that tips popped up in uncommon areas like take out and at the coffee counter as frontline workers were offering what was seen in 2020 as essential services.
Typically, according to Emily Post, there are no obligations to tip for take-out services except in cases where there are large or special orders.
But even Moreo, who spent time in the hospitality industry, said his views on tipping are evolving, especially when it comes to takeout, as the US moves out of its pandemic economy.
“But, you know, even me, someone who’s in the industry, has certainly backed off. My perspective is that I see tipping as a reward for excellent service and an excellent experience,” Moreo said. “And if I’m just calling in an order and going and picking it up, what real service did you provide? Where was the extra touch? Where was the extra bit that should really earn that tip?
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Published on Jun. 21, 2022