Despite intent, Americans are not better tippers now

When the pandemic hit, a lot of Americans pledged to be better tippers, supporting restaurant workers and others in service industries with more generous gratuities. The increase in generosity has not been as great as expected.

“Forty-two percent of people last year told us that they would become better tippers during the pandemic, but when we went back and looked at the data, we did not see an increase in peoples’ tipping habits,” said Ted Rossman at CreditCards.com, which surveyed almost 2,600 consumers in June for its gratuity follow-up report.

The survey indicates that how much and how often people tip varies by generation. Overall, 88% of Boomers say they always tip at a sit-down restaurant. Just over half of Gen Zers and millennials say they always tip their server. And they tend to carry that habit to other workers who typically are tipped.

“They are significantly less likely to be tipping for all of these services. Sit down restaurants, getting their hair done, taxis and ride shares, food delivery,” Rossman said.

Only 40% of Gen Zers surveyed said they tip their hairstylist or barber, or the food delivery person. Rossman said many consumers wrongfully assume the delivery charge on their food order goes to the driver, when most often it goes to the restaurant. Even fewer millennials and Gen Zers tip when picking up takeout food, at 14% and 15% respectively.

“I expected COVID to have a more pronounced effect on Americans tipping habits. Delivery people and food industry workers literally risked their lives to do their jobs over the past 16 months,” Rossman said.

Across all age groups, there is one gratuity that most of us overlook: hotel housekeeping.

“They only get tipped about a quarter of the time. I think they suffer from this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ element. We don’t see them. The room is just magically cleaned. I really think we should leave maybe three to five dollars a day,” Rossman said.

CreditCards.com does note that among people who do tip at a sit-down restaurant, the average tip amount is 20% of the tab, up from 19% a year earlier. And while millennials tip less frequently than older adults, when they do tip, they tend to leave slightly more than older generations.

Below is a breakdown of services and age groups, and how many say they always tip, courtesy CreditCards.com:

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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