Tipping is experienced very differently around the world. In Japan, it can be insulting, as it is considered that good service is a duty that goes into the salary. In Europe, tips are often associated with gratitude for good treatment and, in any case, they are relatively low. In the United States, however, they are practically an obligation, as they make up a substantial part of the compensation of employees in hospitality and other sectors. The general impression among Americans is that this obligation is gaining more and more ground, and consumers are increasingly clueless about how much to tip and when.
The phenomenon of tipping has roots in 16th-century England and until the 19th century was more common in Europe than in the United States. But the tables were turned to such an extent that in the early 20th century, waiters at trendy restaurants in the United States had to pay the owner to work there (and thus collect tips). Retaliation against customers who didn't let their pockets loose was varied, and in Chicago the police broke up a ring that poisoned those who didn't tip.
Unwritten rules create legal uncertainty. In the absence of law, custom prevails, but when customs change, trouble is guaranteed. A report released last month by the Pew Research Center shows that only a third say it's very easy to tell whether or how much to tip (34%) for different types of services, according to the results of a macro-survey of 33,11 people.
What the majority (72%) do agree on is that they are increasingly being asked to tip in a greater number of places, in a phenomenon called propinflation (tipflation) and spurred in part by the pandemic. While in countries with less established tradition in this regard, such as Spain, the decline in cash payments has affected tips, in the United States it has found a nursery in which to reproduce. Screens with suggested tips are multiplying and popping up everywhere: fast-food chains, drive-thrus, car washes, and even in some merchandise stores. Even robots, like one who makes milkshakes in San Francisco, want your tip.
Full-service restaurants are still the kings of tipping. About nine in ten adults who eat at them (92%) say they always or often tip. A compensation of 15% is considered the minimum acceptable and 18% or 20% is more common, although the conclusions depend very much on the guide consulted.
Beyond restaurants, tips are also very common when getting a haircut (78%), food delivery (76%), ordering a drink at a bar (70%) or using a taxi or rideshare service (61%). By contrast, few Americans always or often tip when they buy a coffee (25%) or eat at a fast-food restaurant (12%), but checkout screens suggest doing so more and more often.
To complicate matters even more, in more and more restaurants in big cities such as New York or Washington, the bill is accompanied by a surcharge or a service charge (which the owners keep) to which you then have to add taxes and also the tip (this goes by law to waiters). Restaurants justify it by inflation and by laws that have been demanding better pay for waiters. Some, curling the curl, argue that they charge a surcharge so they don't have to raise prices. How considerate! They deserve a tip.
Follow all the information from Economía y Negocios on Facebook and X, or in our weekly newsletter
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber