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Here's Why Consumers Are Pushing Back on Guilt-Inducing Tipping Practices

Americans are disapproving of pre-determined tipping options at point-of-sale terminals.
Cover Image Source: Tipping | Unsplash | Photo by Dan Smedley
Cover Image Source: Tipping | Unsplash | Photo by Dan Smedley

In contemporary society, tipping has morphed from a simple gesture of appreciation to a pervasive cultural practice that many consumers now view with skepticism and frustration. The rapid proliferation of tipping opportunities, exacerbated by the post-pandemic rise of various service platforms, has led to "tip creep," a phenomenon where tipping expectations extend to different types of transactions. 

Tipping Jar | Pexels | Miguel Á. Padriñán
Image Source: Tipping Jar | Pexels | Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Yet, as tipping becomes more ubiquitous, consumers are experiencing a phenomenon known as "tip fatigue," where the constant pressure to tip induces feelings of resentment and guilt. This shift reflects a broader dissatisfaction with the perceived inflation of tipping norms and the coercive nature of guilt-inducing tipping practices.

According to a WalletHub survey, nearly three-quarters of Americans feel that tipping has spiraled out of control, particularly disapproving of pre-determined tipping options at point-of-sale terminals. 

"Customers are being asked to tip at the more traditional service encounters [and] app-based services, ride-share and delivery apps. This gives the perception that tipping is everywhere, which does seem the case," said Tim Self, an assistant professor of hospitality at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Image Source: Squirrel_photos/ Pixabay
Image Source: Photo by Squirrel Photos | Pixabay

The omnipresence of tipping prompts contributes to what is known as "guilt tipping," where consumers feel compelled to tip irrespective of the quality of service received. This phenomenon is further exacerbated by the predetermined tipping options presented during transactions, ranging from 15% to 35%.

"Ultimately, it comes down to the consumer making that choice and I think more people will get comfortable saying 'no.' That’s where I think a tip jar makes more sense," Self explained. However, as consumers grapple with inflation and escalating costs, many are reevaluating their tipping habits.

Alex Skijus, CEO and founder of True Life Wealth Management, notes that tipping has become a burden for many consumers, driven by a sense of obligation rather than genuine appreciation. He advises consumers to resist societal pressure to tip excessively, advocating for tipping only when genuine gratitude is felt.

Image Source: Pexels|Photo by Ron Lach
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Ron Lach

"It is becoming an issue and should this feeling of tip burnout reach a crescendo, there could be negative outcomes for individuals who rely on tips as their primary source of income," said Cortney Norris, Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Oklahoma State University. "People just get fed up and stop tipping altogether."

The reluctance to tip indiscriminately is reflected in recent trends, with tipping rates at full-service and quick-service establishments showing a decline. Toast's restaurant trends report indicates a decrease in tipping percentages at both types of establishments over the past five years.

Despite this, tipping behaviors exhibit fluctuations based on the day of the week, with Sundays witnessing the lowest tipping rates and Thursdays recording the highest.

Image Source|Pexels|Photo by Rdne Stock Project
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Rdne Stock Project

Tipped workers in states that eliminated the subminimum wage enjoy higher earnings, face less harassment on the job, and are less likely to live in poverty, according to Human Rights Watch.

Ultimately, the pushback against guilt-inducing tipping practices signals a broader reassessment of societal norms surrounding gratuities. As consumers become more discerning and assertive in their tipping habits, businesses may be compelled to recalibrate their tipping policies to align with consumer preferences.