American Tipping Culture Is Changing and People Aren’t Happy About It, Study Shows

Not very long ago, tipping meant rounding up a check at a restaurant if the service was good. Now, it often involves being presented with an iPad displaying exorbitant tip suggestions for even the simplest of purchases.

Pew Research Center dove into what’s changed about tipping culture in America and what U.S. citizens have to say about it.

Check Please 

Tipping with a bill.
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To get a feel for how modern-day Americans feel about tipping, tipping culture, and tipping practices in various settings, Pew Research Center surveyed 11,945 Americans in 2023. The results showed that gratuity times have changed, and not necessarily for the better. 

Tip or Else 

Tip jar.
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Gone are the days when tipping was purely voluntary. At least, that’s how it feels. According to Pew Research Center’s study, more Americans than ever are being asked to tip. Around 72% say tipping is more expected now than five years ago. 

To Tip or Not To Tip 

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With the rapidly changing technology and culture surrounding tipping, many people are left befuddled on when and when not to leave a little extra. Only about 34% of Americans report it being easy to know when or how much to tip for different services. 

No Choice 

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While tipping is considered unnecessary (and even disrespectful) in certain other countries, it’s a different story in the US. Around 21% of Americans feel that tipping is more of a choice, while 29% believe it’s an obligation. Most (49%) believe it depends on the situation, but services without gratuity are becoming increasingly scarce. 

Just a Suggestion 

iPad for tipping.
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A suggested tip amount based on one’s total purchase is often shown on iPad screens and receipts. According to Pew’s findings, Americans are much more likely to oppose those amounts than abide by them. Approximately forty percent of consumers oppose the practice, while only 24% like it when businesses suggest tip amounts to their customers. 

Blast from the Past 

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Older Americans report feeling more negatively about tip suggestions than younger generations. Of people 65 and older, 47% strongly or somewhat oppose tip suggestions. People under 30 are almost evenly split on whether they favor, oppose, or don’t care about them. 

Automatically Angry 

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In some places in the US, you don’t have the choice to leave a gratuity, as it’s automatically included in your bill. This can be due to large dining parties or company policies, ensuring workers receive higher wages. About 72% of Americans report being opposed to businesses that include auto-gratuity on their bill. Only 10% are in favor of them. 

Automation, Be Gone 

$5 tip.
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Following the trend of a large percentage of older people not being fans of modern tipping practices, 79% of those aged 65 and older oppose automatic service charges or tips. About six in ten people under 30 agree. 

Restaurants Only 

Woman at a restaurant.
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From the data, it seems Americans oppose leaving a tip, but it’s a different story at restaurants. Pew Research Center discovered that about 92% of customers who ate at sit-down restaurants always or often left a tip. That’s a greater percentage than any other tipping scenario in the study. Eighty-one percent of people indicated that they always leave a tip when a server takes their order at a table. 

Skip the Tip 

Woman with her hand up.
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Anyone who’s worked at a restaurant knows some people never leave a tip for their servers. While nearly 57% of Americans say they tip 15% or less for an average meal at a sit-down restaurant, 2% say they don’t leave a tip at all. Only 25% of the survey participants said they’d tip 20% or more for an average meal at a sit-down restaurant. 

Quality Matters 

Chef preparing food.
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Another point Pew Research Center found is that, by and large, Americans reported the amount they tip depends on the quality of service. Around 77% said they decide whether and how much to tip depending on the service they get. 

Party Lines 

Political divide in cement.
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According to Pew’s survey findings, Republicans and right-leaning Americans are more likely to see the quality of service as a significant factor in whether or not they tip. Democrats care about other factors; for example, 35% believe that a worker’s pre-tip wages determine how much to tip. For those who consider themselves liberal Democrats, the rate increases to 41%. 

A Cut Above 

Hair dresser cutting a man's hair.
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Restaurants aside, other places warrant a tip, according to the Americans that Pew Research Center surveyed. Roughly 78% of people who get haircuts said they always or often tip their stylist. Also, people who get food delivered to them reported a similar number, with 76% always or often leaving a tip. 

Pish Posh

Cashier at fast food restaurant.
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According to Pew’s data, upper-income Americans are more likely than those with middle or lower incomes to tip always or often in most scenarios. One exception is at fast-casual restaurants, where people with lower incomes are most likely to tip. for tipping in their eyes, but they have no issue with tipping at locally owned coffee shops.

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