Steve DiGioia

Do We Really Have to Tip for This?

I don’t like seeing tip cups on store counters in coffee shops. Some think it’s tacky, but others think it’s perfectly justified. What about you? Do we really have to tip you for this?

Why should I tip someone for making me a cup of coffee? I don’t tip my dry cleaner who cleaned and pressed all my shirts perfectly, greeted me warmly as I entered his store, and always offers to carry our clothes to the car when my wife stops in.

Or, how about the supermarket cashier who rang up my 50+ items, made sure I got the coupon discount (even though I didn’t have the coupon), and carefully packed each item to ensure the bread didn’t get squished by the container of OJ?

Then there’s the young man at McDonald’s who is laboring over a hot cooktop all day and made my burger then goes home smelling like French fries. Or the poor 6ft tall drive-thru attendant who must bend down 100+ times a day to pass the food through that little window. Why don’t we tip them?

Do We Have To Tip People For Simply Doing Their Job?

Now I promise you, I’m not cheap (even though it sounds like I am). I’ve spent 20 years in the hotel industry supervising hard-working waiters and bartenders and even wrote a book detailing how they can earn more tips to help feed their family. So, I know how important a tip can be and keep this in mind when I go out.

But shouldn’t we “tip” based on superior performance, attention to detail, anticipating my needs, or creating a memory?

That’s how it used to be. But for some positions, tipping has become commonplace if not expected here in the US. Note: in most European countries, tipping is uncommon, if not frowned upon altogether, but that’s a topic for another day.

The word “tip”, or “tips” has been associated with the term “TInsure Prompt Service” and traced back to 17th century England. But, the use of the term then is speculative.

So, is prompt service the only reason to tip? Maybe, maybe not.

To Tip or Not To Tip

But, before I get into that, here are some tipping stats based on a 2017 study by and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. *

  • The survey shows that, in general, the older you are, the larger the tip you will leave in a restaurant. So young millennials (ages 18- 26) leave a median tip of 16 percent of the bill, Generation Xers report a median of 18 percent of the bill, and the number rises to 20 percent for baby boomers.
  • The older you are, the less likely you are to tip the person who does your hair. Those 50 and older say they never tip their barber or hairstylist twice as often as those ages 18-29 (15 to 7 percent).
  • 47 percent of women tip hotel housekeepers always or most of the time, compared to just 33 percent of men.
  • The survey also found that half of all Americans today are using a credit or debit card to tip their server in a restaurant, and they are leaving higher tips and tipping more often than those who pay in cash.
  • The survey results are in line with other research that has found that people spend more when they pay with plastic than with actual cash, no matter what they’re buying. “When you pay with a card, your brain doesn’t see it as real money, so it’s not as painful,” says Michael McCall, a professor at Michigan State University who specializes in consumer behavior.

Now, back to people that deserve a tip…

Do Employees Expect a Tip?

Take these two examples from hard-working employees. The woman who soothes the crying toddler who was separated from her parent in the cavernous department store or the supervisor who goes out of his way to call 2-3 neighboring stores to see if they have your requested item in stock and arranges to have it delivered to your home the next day?

We don’t tip these people. Why? They’re well worth a tip, no? They surely offered superior performance and created a memory. But they don’t get a tip. Why? We may thank them profusely and let their manager know of their special efforts but very few shoppers, if any, come across with a cash tip. But, we tip a counter person who made us a cappuccino. Just makes no sense to me.

RELATED POST: What’s The Proper Amount to Tip a Waiter?

Here’s one that has always frustrated my waiters. They will give great service to a table of 10 people during a 4-course banquet reception. The waiter will arrange for special meals to deal with food allergies and dietary needs, keep their beverage glass full, and take the requisite tableside photo or two. But no tip.

Then, one of his guests steps up to the bar to get a beer and tips the bartender two bucks! Four hours of work for the waiter versus 30 seconds of work for the bartender.

I guess, in today’s fast-paced society, we’ve been trained to only tip the fast coffee-makers or bartenders.

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