Customers and Service Industry Workers Unite Against Tipping Culture | 'Gone Too Far'

 Customers and Service Industry Workers Unite Against Tipping Culture | 'Gone Too Far'
Cover Image Source: Tipping Culture | Unsplash | Photo by Helena Lopes

Tipping has long been a contentious issue in American culture, with debates ranging from its necessity to its ethical implications. A recent survey conducted by CouponBirds sheds light on the sentiments of both consumers and service industry workers regarding tipping practices, revealing a growing dissatisfaction and a desire for change.

Image Source: Unspalsh | Blake Wisz
Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Blake Wisz

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The survey, which consisted of 1,199 Americans of various demographics and 629 service industry workers, uncovered a striking consensus—tipping has "gone too far." While a staggering 76.1% of respondents shared this sentiment, reflecting a widespread frustration with the current tipping culture, more than half (51%) of service workers expressed a preference for being paid a living wage to rely on tips to make ends meet.

"Historically, tips were designed for services well performed. But it’s morphed into an expectation by servers not just to tip, but tip generously or they’ll call you out," states Rob Burnette, chief executive and investment adviser at financial planning firm Outlook Financial Center in Troy, Ohio.


Tipping has become deeply ingrained in the American service industry, often serving as a significant supplement to workers' incomes. However, as living costs continue to rise, many argue that the reliance on tips is no longer sustainable. This trend, dubbed "tipflation," underscores the need for systemic changes in how service industry workers are compensated.

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"We’re already living through inflationary times. Everything is crazy expensive. And on top of that, you’re being asked, every time you turn around, 'How much would you like to tip?' It feels pushy, it feels needy and almost every customer I speak with says, 'Why aren’t businesses just paying people more?'" says Etiquette expert Thomas Farley.

According to the survey findings, a substantial portion of service workers rely heavily on tips, with six out of ten depending on them for more than 30% of their income. Shockingly, some are paid as little as $2.13 per hour. The report further revealed that the average weekly tip earnings of service industry workers amounted to $290, constituting nearly half of their total income.

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Money in a tip jar | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander

Furthermore, there has been a noticeable decline in tipping rates, with 73.7% of service workers reporting that customers are tipping less frequently than before. This trend is particularly pronounced in industries such as transportation, where 87.8% of workers have observed a drop in tips.

The survey also revealed a strong desire among service industry workers for structural reforms. A majority (51%) expressed a preference for receiving a living wage of $25 per hour without tips, signaling a growing discontent with the status quo. Additionally, nearly all service workers (99.9%) supported increasing the minimum wage, with almost half (47.8%) advocating for mandatory service charges.

Moreover, half of the tipped employees admitted to significantly underreporting their tip earnings, citing reasons such as mistrust of employers and dissatisfaction with low salaries.

An empty restaurant in New York City | Getty Images | Photo by Jeenah Moon
Image Source: An empty restaurant in New York City | Getty Images | Photo by Jeenah Moon

Tipping culture has been implicated in perpetuating various forms of discrimination and exploitation. The survey found that more attractive servers were disproportionately rewarded with higher tips, while female servers were more likely to receive larger tips than male ones.

Besides traditional tipping scenarios, the survey also highlighted the emergence of "tip creep," exemplified by the inclusion of gratuity options in self-checkout machines. While intended to boost staff pay, this practice has drawn criticism for its potential to coerce customers into tipping unnecessarily.


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