Americans are tipping more than ever, but feel confused about it

The country is divided over when — and how much — to tip.

If you’ve ever traveled abroad, then you know that figuring out the local tipping etiquette can be tricky.

A white male hand adding a signature on a portable checkout screen with a credit card inserted.

But what happens when that uncertainty follows you home?

Americans are dealing with exactly that, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

The rise of “tipflation” has meant iPads popping up seemingly everywhere asking us if we want to add a tip. And with new tipping expectations comes a lot of confusion for consumers.

In its survey of 12k US adults, Pew found that:

  • 72% say tipping is expected in more places today than it was five years ago.
  • 40% oppose businesses suggesting tip amounts to their customers.
  • 72% oppose businesses including automatic service charges or tips on bills.

And Americans are split on whether or not they even need to tip: 21% say tipping is a choice, 29% say it’s an obligation, and 49% say it depends on the situation.

That’s leading to a lot of confusion

Only 34% of Americans think it’s extremely or very easy to know whether they need to tip at all, and only 33% say the same about knowing how much to tip.

What most — 77% — seem to agree on is that the quality of service they receive is a major factor in deciding how they’ll tip.

Respondents say they tip when:

  • Eating at a sit-down restaurant (92%)
  • Getting a haircut (78%)
  • Ordering food through a delivery app (76%)
  • Buying a drink at a bar (70%)
  • Using a taxi or ride-share service (61%)

But there are plenty of gray areas: Only 25% tip when grabbing coffee, and just 12% report tipping at fast-casual restaurants.

And while most agreed that tipping at a sit-down meal is the right thing to do, customers are divided on the amount.

The majority (57%) tip 15% or less at a restaurant, while only a quarter say they’d tip 20% or more.

One last thing: For the 2% who said they never leave any tip at sit-down restaurants — we’re in a fight.

Topics: Tipping

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