Tipping in America is down; it may be because many don’t know who to tip or how much

Although tipping is an essential source of income for most U.S. residents who work in the service industry and a cultural zeitgeist for a working capitalist mentality, many Americans refuse to partake in the tradition.

In a recent poll released June 5 by CreditCards.com, 73% of Americans said they would be willing to tip at a sit-down restaurant. But that number is down 77% from the number of tips in 2019.

Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents said they would always tip delivery drivers, a decrease of 63% from how Americans tipped in 2019.

“While more than a third of Americans have pledged to become better tipsters in 2020 and 2021, it looks like the sentiment has dissipated,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “Inflation is reducing consumers’ purchasing power and a tight labor market has left many service industry companies understaffed and struggling to deliver top-notch customer experiences.”

A separate Wall Street Journal report found that, overall, the number of tips workers are dropping.

One of the reasons tips may be declining is because more businesses are using online apps to book appointments and accept payments. When customers pay cash, they tend to tip more. Many online payment services calculate tips based on percentages, which may be lower than the amount most people would typically think they would give for a service.

A barber who spoke to The Wall Street Journal explained that a customer who typically tipped a lot for haircuts recently made his first payment through the company’s new app. The tip was only a third of what they would normally give.

Another cause of lower tips could be rising prices. Even a 50 cent increase can cause customers to leave smaller tips.

Full-service restaurants, however, still experience strong tipping habits. Customers who pay for in-person catering services have started tipping more than 20% on average. Meanwhile, remote transactions at restaurants receive 16%, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

Despite these data, there is still a nuance to the art of tipping.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made tipping even more crucial as many have been reeling from a global pandemic and a tumultuous job market. It’s a way to say thank you to people who make your life easier. But why is it so difficult to know who to tip and how much?

Demand for delivery services has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, but a survey released in July 2021 of American adults found that didn’t necessarily translate to more or better advice for service workers.

A survey of more than 2,500 US adults last year on behalf of CreditCards.com found sit-down meals are the most likely to collect a tip – but the figure has fallen slightly from pre-pandemic times .

About 75% of diners said they “always” tip when eating out, while just 5% said they “never” tip in the 2021 survey. That number dropped by two percentage points from 77% who said they always tip in a 2019 survey.
So will that be a factor for tip-dependent workers this holiday season?

Here’s all the etiquette you need to know.

Cash is often preferred, but not absolutely necessary

If you can only afford to give a few dollars, a small gift or homemade item may be a better way to express your appreciation.

Match the tip to the relationship

The amount you donate can reflect the quality and frequency of your interactions. You might tip a casual babysitter the equivalent of an evening’s salary, for example, while a live-in nanny might receive a bonus equal to a week’s salary or more. A small gift in addition to a tip is a nice touch when the relationship is more personal.

A tip roughly equal to the cost of a single visit may be appropriate for:

  • Babysitters
  • Housekeepers
  • Dog walkers and groomers
  • personal trainers
  • Pool cleaners
  • snow shovels
  • Hairdressers or barbers
  • Massage therapists, facialists and manicurists

Tipping workers for vacations can sometimes feel like a lot of pressure for such an important job, but a separate task.
The CreditCards.com survey revealed how much most people give during holiday periods.

The survey found that housekeepers and childcare providers receive the most tips, averaging $50. Forty-seven percent of adults plan to tip their housekeepers and 41% plan to tip their childcare providers, according to a recent FOX Business report.

Landscapers get an average tip of $30, while teachers get a tip of $25. Garbage collectors and letter carriers receive an average tip of $20, but only 19% of adults plan to tip their waste handlers.

  • Yard and garden workers ($20 to $50 each)
  • Trash and recycling collectors ($10 to $30)
  • Handyman ($15 to $40)
  • Parcel delivery driver ($20, if authorized; check with company)
  • US Postal Service factors (small gift only; no cash, per USPS rules)
  • Daycare workers ($25 to $75 each for those who work with your child; check with the facility)
  • Newspaper boy ($10 to $30)
  • Building superintendents ($20 to $80)
  • Doormen ($15 to $80)
  • Parking attendants ($10 to $30)

Not all assistants should be tipped

If you tip someone regularly throughout the year, a holiday tip may not be necessary. Cash tips are also not suitable for certain people, such as professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants) and anyone working for an entity that prohibits them. For civil servants, for example, a tip can look like a bribe. Check with nursing homes, home care providers, package delivery companies, and child care centers, in particular, before tipping individual workers.

make it pretty

Fresh, clean bills slipped into a card with a handwritten note? Chic. Padded invoices sent to the service provider on the way out? Not really. Same with leaving an extra-large tip on a credit card receipt. Something is certainly better than nothing, but putting a little care into your presentation can show that you really appreciate what they are doing for you.

Tip early

Holidays are stressful. Especially this year when a global pandemic is still raging. Sending holiday tips as soon as possible could be ideal for people who depend on these tips to cross off their holiday shopping lists as soon as possible. Tipping at the start of the holiday season means people have extra money to spend, which can even include tipping their own holiday tips.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. Kelly Hayes, The Associated Press and FOX Business contributed.

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