People pledged to tip better. They’re not

People pledged to tip better, but that’s not the case.

When the pandemic began, there was an increase in consumers who vowed to become better tippers because of the financial impact of COVID-19 on service industry employees. But people may actually be tipping less now.

CreditCards.com, which was among firms with surveys in 2020 and 2021 that showed an increase in intention to leave a more generous gratuity, said its most recent survey indicates 73% of Americans always tip at sit-down restaurants, down from 77% who said so in 2019.

“I feel like that should be more like 100%. That’s a lot of people who leave nothing at least some of the time,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com.

Just 57% of those surveyed always tip food delivery people, down from 63% in 2019, and 43% always tip a taxi driver or ride hailing driver, down from 49%. And only 13% tip when picking up takeout food.

How much should a tip be?

“I think 20% is the new norm at restaurants. The average answer was 21%,” Rossman said. “Men, and young adults are the most likely to leave nothing, but they are also more likely to be generous when they do tip.”

Out of a half dozen service industry categories, hairstylists and barbers are the only exception to being tipped less than before the pandemic. Sixty-six percent of Americans say they always tip.

It is not uncommon for the bill or the transaction screen to now suggest several tip amount options. That can eliminate the need for the customer to do math, and consumers also may be more generous when presented options.

“Twenty-six percent tip more when they see a pre-recommended amount. That was surprising. I have heard more anecdotally that a lot of people don’t like that. The cashier flips that tablet around, and you’ve got a few pre-entered options. You’re thinking, ‘Well, I don’t know if I wanted to tip, and they’re looking right at me, and this is kind of awkward,’” Rossman said.

A movement by some in the restaurant industry to eliminate tips altogether and just pay employees more by raising menu prices has largely not gained traction, with diners and even wait staff rejecting it as a better way.

CreditCards.com surveyed more than 2,600 adults about tipping habits between May 11 and May 13.

Below area survey responses for services that survey respondents said they always tip:

Here’s how well people 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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