Despite the fact that service workers have endured some of the worst consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tips they have received haven't swelled with the increased risks attached to their jobs. But before millennials blame greedy baby boomers or some other generational villain, a recent study from CreditCards.com found that millennials and members of Gen Z are the least likely to top baristas, uber drivers, servers and bartenders.
According to the survey, the number of food service customers who say they always tip fell slightly in the new 2021 tipping survey compared with a pre-pandemic survey on tipping behaviors. Meanwhile, the percentage of sit-down restaurant diners who say they always tip is down two percentage points, from 77% in 2019. And the percentage of food delivery customers who always tip fell four percentage points to 59%, despite skyrocketing demand for food delivery services during the pandemic.
Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com, said he expected the pandemic to have a bigger impact on Americans' tipping habits.
"Delivery people and food industry workers literally risked their lives to do their jobs over the past 16 months," Rossman said. "It has been an incredibly difficult time to work in the service industry."
And despite shifting social mores surrounding tipping, the survey found that older generations were more likely to tip.
The survey found that the likelihood a customer would leave a tip decreased in all tipping scenarios presented if the tipper was younger rather than older. Here's a rundown of service users who say they tip without fail.
- Servers or waitstaff at a sit-down restaurant – 88% of boomers, 80% of Gen Xers, 58% of millennials and 56% of Gen Zers say they always tip.
- Food delivery drivers – 75% of boomers, 65% of Gen Xers, 44% of millennials and 40% of Gen Zers say they always tip.
- Hair stylists and barbers – 76% of boomers, 69% of Gen Xers, 49% of millennials and 35% of Gen Zers say they always tip.
- Taxi and rideshare drivers – 66% of boomers, 48% of Gen Xers, 34% of millennials and 32% of Gen Zers say they always tip.
- Hotel housekeepers – 37% of boomers, 28% of Gen Xers, 20% of millennials and 18% of Gen Zers say they always tip.
However, there's a caveat for restaurants that serve a mostly younger clientele: when millennial do tip, they tend to be slightly more generous than other generations. For example, at sit-down restaurants, millennials leave on average a 21% tip vs. the 20% left by the boomers.
For those who are curious about modern tipping etiquette, here's a rundown of tips from experts.
- Do: Learn tipping norms. It can be tough to remember when and how much you’re supposed to tip. Look up guidelines for common scenarios (see our tipping chart below for a start) and start tipping accordingly, Lynn recommended.
- Do: Carry cash. If you carry only your debit or credit cards, you’re likely to find yourself in an awkward tipping situation, Gottsman said. “If you’re not carrying cash, you’re not prepared,” she said.
- Do: When in doubt, ask. Not sure if you should tip or if the service provider is allowed to accept a gratuity? It’s an awkward situation that can be alleviated by being open and honest, financial psychologist Brad Klontz said. “You can say, ‘Hey, is it OK if I give you a tip?'” he added.
- Don’t: Stiff for bad service. Keep in mind that tipping is built into the compensation structure for some service workers, Klontz pointed out. “For some people, it’s not bonus money,” he said. “This is part of what they’re relying on to feed their family."
- Don’t: Buy into a “guilt tip.” Did an electronic message pop up asking if you want to leave a tip while you’re buying a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine at a store? No tip is necessary for a cashier ringing up a purchase, Gottsman said. “We have to get comfortable hitting the ‘no tip’ button at a cash register," she said.