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Opinion: American tipping culture is out of control

For most people, tipping is an additional cost for hospitality within a service. In return for good-quality service, a percentage of the original cost is added to the basic price as a customary practice. For Americans, tipping seems to no longer be just customary. It’s now considered necessary. 

According to Pew Research Center, about two-in-ten Americans (21%) say tipping is more of a choice, while 29% say it feels more like an obligation. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

The societal standard of giving gratuity should be welcomed in areas of the service industry where workers make their money based purely on tips. As a full-time college student with two jobs, I can attest to the need for tips in the service industry. In restaurants or other places of work that don’t pay their employees minimum wage, tips are welcomed and they’re highly encouraged.

However, tipping culture in America has gotten out of control. In today’s culture, gratuity is expected in places you’d least expect. Simple services that once only required a basic form of payment now expect customers to leave a tip, or it’s otherwise considered rude and confrontational.  

According to Pew Research Center, about two-in-ten Americans (21%) say tipping is more of a choice, while 29% say it feels more like an obligation. Despite these forced feelings of needing to give gratuity often, Americans also seem to want to hold back when they do tip.  

Based on information from a survey conducted among nearly 12,000 U.S. adults, Americans revealed that tipping habits vary based on each situation. A typical percentage for gratuity ranges from 15% to 25%, depending on the type of service given.   

Personally, being a server at a local restaurant has changed the way I tip workers. At restaurants, I tend to leave larger tips than before, and my patience and compassion for those working in the restaurant industry have changed. Based on the type of tips and treatment I receive from guests, I can always tell which customers have never had to work in the service industry before. It’s easy to sense if a good tip is coming from the person almost from the beginning of the meal. Even though I try to give good service to everyone, the understanding and compassionate guests typically end up having a better overall experience. With my second job being a server, my view on tipping has become more lenient in the sense that I give better tips to those who serve me because I understand the struggle. Despite the open mind that I’ve gained while working in the service industry, I still feel that there are a lot of places of work that take advantage of tipping culture. 

Tip inflation is real, it’s steadily increasing, and it’s hurting our bank accounts.” 

Tip inflation is real, it’s steadily increasing, and it’s hurting our bank accounts.

When almost every form of service now asks for a tip, it seems that the concept of gratuity has gotten out of control. Those being paid the minimum wage and more may deserve a tip if granted, but it can be overwhelming for customers when there’s a subliminal feeling that we must tip in all instances.  

Maybe one day there will be a movement to eliminate the unnecessary attempts to gain tips for those who already make decent hourly pay, but until then people like me will have to focus on giving our extra expenses to those in the service industry who use tips as their only form of income.  

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to New Mexico State University, the NMSU Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Kokopelli, or any other organization, committee, group or individual.

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