Are We Getting Bullied Into Tipping? When to, How Much and When Not to Tip

It is happening more and more. You are standing in line at a fast food restaurant or coffee shop, the counter person guides you to the point-of-sale machine and there it is, staring at you. Even at self-checkout machines, a screen comes up suggesting that you tip, complete with an array of amounts, sometimes a dollar amount, other times a percentage.

Digital & Human Pressure

Tip screen.
Image credit Sadi-Santos via Shutterstock.

But the issue is, you weren’t thinking tipping at all…the person behind you is looking over your shoulder. The machine screen is suggesting that a tip is suggested. You feel caught. What do you do? This trend has been dubbed “tipflation” and “tip fatigue” and can leave many feeling pressured and inconvenienced.

Knowing when it is appropriate to tip, and how much to tip, is a part of everyday life. The one that always trips us up is the salon owner who cuts your hair. Do you tip them?

Requesting Tips Is Becoming More Common

receipt showing tips.
Image credit Irsan Ianushis via Shutterstock.

It is not your imagination. Americans encounter more and more situations where a tip is suggested. An article from Money Digest calls this “tip creep”.

2023 Pew Research says around 72% of American adults say tipping is expected in more places today than it was five years ago

Let’s Talk About Tipping In General

Tip Jar.
Image credit New Africa via Shutterstock.

Keep in mind that tipping can vary greatly cultured to culture and country to country. This article is geared towards common approaches in the United States.

Then you have situations where there might be someone from another culture in the United States who is not familiar with our customs. Think about it. You are an American and baffled, so you can only imagine how confusing it might be to a foreigner.

If you are in a job position that is typically tipped, and someone does not leave you a tip, bear in mind that it could just be a misunderstanding about what is expected.

Just Ask

Woman thinking. Questioning. Pondering.
Image credit Cast Of Thousands via Shutterstock.

When in doubt, just ask. At first you might think, “Why would anybody turn down a tip?”, But etiquette experts tell us that most people will be quite forthcoming about the legal and/or typical approach taken, and then you can make your decision.

Your Age Affects Your Opinion

Trendy young woman looking at smartphone.
Image credit Roman Samborskyi via Shutterstock.

The younger you are, the more you feel obligated, according to studies. Thirty-eight percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 feel that is more of an obligation than a choice. Conversely, just 24% of Americans 65 or older said the same, according to Pew Research.

Tip Amount Is Dictated By Service

Image credit luckyraccoon via Shutterstock.

For Americans, how much to tip is intricately connected to the service received. Great service means a better tip. Poor service will result in a low tip, or perhaps no tip at all.

What Jobs Get The Most Tips?

Pew graph.
Courtesy Pew Research.

Pew Research has provided a graph showing what Americans are most likely to tip for. Unsurprisingly, sit-down restaurants head the list. 

Have You Worked For Tips?

Woman making money sign, rubbing fingers together.
Image credit Khosro via Shutterstock.

Studies have consistently shown that if a person has worked for tips before, they are more likely to tip.

Professionals – No Tip Needed

Female doctor in head scarf.
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Generally, individuals who receive a salary or perform a specialized trade, such as doctors, lawyers, plumbers, or appliance repair person, don’t expect tips. In fact, tipping them could be seen as inappropriate or even as an attempt to gain favor.

And never tip a police officer or federal worker. Tipping at the DMV will not get your license to you any faster. Nurses are prohibited from taking tips, according to Nurse Money Talk.

How Much To Tip Your Restaurant Server

Waitress carrying plates.
= Image credit MNStudio via Shutterstock.

When it comes to tipping, here’s a simple guide: for average service, aim for a 15% tip; if your server goes above and beyond, consider 20% or more. 

Is It Ever OK Not To Tip?

waitress upset with tip.
Image credit Rommel Canlas via Shutterstock.

When it comes to a sit-down restaurant situation, it’s best to speak to the manager about any problems instead of skipping the tip altogether. Remember, not leaving a tip doesn’t solve the issue of bad service, and let’s say there was an issue with the food. That was not your server’s fault.

That said, you’re not ever obligated to leave a tip. Use your judgment and good conscience. 

Counter Service

female barista.
Image credit Jacob Lund via Shutterstock.

Workers behind a counter, like baristas or cashiers, are typically paid wages and aren’t reliant on tips for their income. While it’s not required to tip them, acknowledging exceptional service with a gratuity is appreciated – and ubiquitous. 

If you frequent the same coffee shop all the time you could tip your favorite barista from time to time directly if that is an option. Or drop something into the tip jar.

By the way, according to Business Insider, only 27% of Americans “sometimes” tip at coffee shops, and 25% “never” tip.

Open-Bar Events

women with cocktails.
Image credit niksdope via Shutterstock.

If you attend an event with an open bar, the host likely covers any necessary tipping. While additional tips are appreciated and may improve service, they are not obligatory.


woman upset with check.
Image credit frantic00 via Shutterstock.

You’re not expected to tip twice for the same service. Some establishments may attempt to solicit additional tips, but it’s not necessary to comply, especially if the service charge already includes gratuity. Read the bill. The language can get tricky.

It is not unusual for see a “gratuity” line on a restaurant bill already included. In this case you do not have to tip above and beyond that.

It is legal for restaurants to present bills in this way if the gratuity is itemized and clearly stated as such.

Tipping pizza delivery.
Image credit New Africa via Shutterstock.

The COVID pandemic influenced tip culture. The average tip increased in some arenas, like pizza delivery. 

According to a 2021 study “The recent and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with its accompanying economic shutdowns, stay-in-place orders, and social distancing, raises interesting questions about consumer willingness to give tips during such times of crisis and hardship.”

On the other hand, some studies showed a downturn. Many people were out of work during the pandemic, and therefore money was tight.

So, Do You Tip The Salon Owner?

Hair stylist doing hair.
Image credit Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock.

Speaking of changing tip trends, there was a time when etiquette experts suggested that you do not tip a salon owner if they cut your hair, but this is no longer the recommendation.

According to Ask Amy, an etiquette expert who writes for the Chicago Tribune, “it is now considered standard to tip the person who cuts your hair, even if that person owns the business.”

Our Favorite Rant About Tipping

TIkTok No More Pity Tipping
Image Credit The Queen Zone
@subwaytakes Episode 98: If I’m going up to order, I’m not tipping! feat Robby Hoffman (@robbyhoffman on IG) 🎤 @KAREEM RAHMA 🎥 @Anthony DiMieri @Willem Holzer #nyc #newyorkcity #podcast #subway #hottakes #interview #conversations #subwaytakes ♬ original sound – Subway Takes

TikTok is rife with opinions on tipping. The account SubwayTakes sums it up beautifully in this rant.

The Takeaway

Tipping waitress.
Image credit lunopark via Shutterstock.

Understanding when it’s appropriate to tip – and how much – can help you navigate these encounters with ease and confidence. And for the record, don’t let that person looking over your shoulder affect your decision!


  • Dede Wilson

    Dédé Wilson is a journalist with over 17 cookbooks to her name and is the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners LLC, currently publishing through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone.

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