An Inside Look at Tipping Habits (Infographic)

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Tipping is the act of giving an amount of money to service workers for a service they’ve performed. While tipping for service isn’t mandatory, it certainly is customary for those of us in the United States to exchange cash for a service or a job well done. In fact, in a significant number of service jobs, tipping can make up a huge chunk of a person’s entire salary, which makes tipping essential in most service industries.

So as a paying customer who inevitably mingles with the service industry from time to time, it’s only natural to ask: what makes a good tip, and conversely, what makes a bad one? It’s a fine line, after all. And also: are all tips the same across the globe? How did tips even come to life? More on these below!

The History of Tipping

The earliest recorded practice of tipping dates back to 17th century Europe when guests who would opt to stay in private homes overnight would provide sums of money (known as vails) as a sign of gratitude to the homeowner’s servants. This practice then found itself adapted into London’s coffee houses, pubs, and other commercial establishments, and thus, the ancestor of the modern tip was born.

There aren’t many records on how this practice made its way from old Europe to America-- some say it’s due to some European visitors spreading the practice, while others say it roots from wealthy Americans who were able to go to Europe and experience their culture-- but historians are sure that there has been no mention of it before the 1840s. Fresh out of the Civil War, American employers heavily embraced tipping, especially since it allowed them to keep their employees at low wages, and additionally, it was believed that this system motivated their employees to perform better. However, a lot were against tipping due to the justification of low wages, apart from the practice being notably “unamerican”. Nevertheless, tipping became a popular and widespread practice, making its way to the 21st century with more humane implementations.

Contrarily, the negative sentiments on tipping made their way to Europe back in the early days and ironically caused the practice to be eradicated from its homeland, which is why nowadays, it’s very rare to see any waiters soliciting tips in European restaurants.

Of course, the general perspective regarding tipping varies depending on the country. Some countries don’t practice tipping but instead have a general service charge, and a fraction of such countries even find it rude to tip! Some countries, like the US, practice tipping heavily-- even finding it rude to NOT leave a tip! Some countries are more lenient and practice both, pushing the decision of “do or don’t” to restaurant and service industry owners instead. The difference is staggering, which is why it’s important to brush up on a country’s tipping culture before getting on that plane!

Tipping Statistics

Since it’s become infused in our own culture, it’s not a surprise that a lot of interesting tipping statistics appear here and there. For example: did you know that men, albeit slightly, tip more than women? However, when it comes down to the amount, women are the more generous ones, with 66.29% claiming they tip 18% or more on average, compared to 61.87% of men who say the same.

On average, around 43% of the adult population tip their wait staff an average of 18%-21.9%. And interestingly, about 7% of Americans aged 18 and above claimed that they do not tip at all!

Celebrity tippers are another interesting case-- it is a fun fact that former US President Barack Obama has tipped around 900% for a single beer! And actress Drew Barrymore is also known to give 100% tips!

According to 2020 data, restaurants are known to receive the highest amount of tips, with a tipping rate of 79%, followed by hair salons and barbershops down at 62%. Coffee shops and hotels are down low with a 25% tipping rate. This must be due to the fact that 85-100% of a waiter’s salary is made up of tips, compared to coffee baristas’ 20-40%. It’s also heartwarming to know that 99.5% of people tip waiters! On the other hand, 60% tip baristas, and 95% percent tip delivery staff (whose salary is made up of 30-70% tips).

As of 2019, New Hampshire’s standard tipping percentage is the greatest among all states, up at 20.47%, with the worst being Idaho at 16.71%. Fortunately, every state does above the standard tipping percentage of 15%.

An Inside Look at Tipping Habits Infographic

Best Practices and Common Courtesy

So how exactly do we know how much to give? What amount is courteous, and what amount is considered rude and offensive?

Since 15% is considered a standard across the US for restaurant crew, a good range is 15%-20%. You may choose not to tip if you don’t like the service, however, it’s definitely considered bad practice no matter how bad the quality of service is. Also, this is likely to be frowned upon by your peers, which is good to keep in mind if you want to impress them.

As for the valet or for the restroom attendant, a $1 tip is standard.

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  1. comment authorRater not say Apr 6, 2023

    I worked in the restaurant business for 25 years of my life and 10 of those years I worked as a server. By the way 8 years I worked alone only me Tues thru sat greve yard shift in the same busy restaurant and there were times a customer would not tip. SOME PEOPLE DO NOT TIP !! It happens. Just continue giving good service and when one table doesn't tip don't let it bother you other customers will tip you well enough to make up for it.

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