More Americans are opposed to suggestions on how much to tip. Americans tend to be confused about when they should tip, and whether tipping is an obligation or choice.
Those last two points become more crucial since workers expect a tip just about everywhere you go. Cashiers. Coffee Shops. Festival workers. Take out joints. Drive-throughs. There are even stories about mortgage companies and contractors seeking tips.
Making matters worse, tipping isn’t subtle, especially if you pay by card, which is what nearly 9 out of 10 consumers do. The person behind the counter hands you your purchase, turns the credit card machine around, and waits while you awkwardly decide how much to tip. Five percent? Ten percent …
… or, the dreaded “no tip,” which labels you an unfeeling elitist cheapskate who just spent $6 on a mocha Frappuccino with almond milk and extra caramel (is that a thing?) but won’t leave a $1 tip. You might also get “the look,” generally reserved for someone who took away a little girl’s doll but now directed at you, you stingy lout.
Having said all this, I’m okay with the tip jar. It’s there, it says TIPS, and on the rare occasions I pay cash, I can plop in change or the occasional dollar. It doesn’t feel as intrusive as someone pushing that credit machine before you.
From a business perspective, the push to tip is simply another way to shift costs. Remember when every grocery store would have ample cashiers and baggers? Now, nearly half of customers regularly use the self-checkout line. That saves significant labor costs because one person can monitor six to 10 of those lanes.
Why raise pay when you can guilt customers into tipping? According to CNBC, nearly 70% of people say they sometimes or always feel pressured to tip. Of course customers feel pressured! The employee is right there looking at you.
At least at a restaurant, the server leaves the check, you fill it out and place it in the holder, and you’re done. The server doesn’t stand over you and glare while you determine how much to leave.
For the record, when I go to a sit-down restaurant, I generously tip, always more than 20%, more likely 25%, and often 33%, especially on small checks. I’m not heartless to the plight of servers, who have a demanding and often thankless job, especially when something that isn’t their fault happens. One of my twin daughters, now an adult, still serves at a very fine local establishment. The stories I’ve heard!
But all of this extra tipping has resulted in me and others reaching their tipping point. I don’t buy the $8.50 latte with smoky chocolate drizzle topped with crystalized brown sugar (is that a thing?), but if I did, I wouldn’t tip.
It’s just too much.
It would be far easier for certain businesses to raise the cost of food and beverage by 10% or more and give it to their staff. I, for one, would rather pay a little more to avoid being subtly pushed to tip for that scone and coffee I picked up at the counter or that ice cream I craved on a summer day.
This may seem Grinch-like during the holiday season, but I’m saying out loud what lots of people think.
The tipping culture is out of control. This may seem like a small thing but just think about the last time you got tied up in knots about a tip or felt bad about not leaving one.
See? It’s a big deal, at least to some people.
Ray Marcano’s column appears each Sunday on these pages. He can be reached at email@example.com.