Consumers have long been accustomed to supplementing the income of service-industry employees — from restaurant servers and bartenders to hairstylists and landscapers — with a tip added to the cost of the purchase.
But in the post-pandemic era, the opportunity (or some would say obligation) to provide a gratuity has become far more common.
What caused the change
For starters, it’s easier than ever for businesses of all types to simply add an option to their point-of-sale computers that prompt customers to leave a percentage of the cost of any purchase as a tip. Some people are inclined to do so even if it’s not completely clear what the tip is for or who would actually receive it.
Additionally, we all came to respect and appreciate (for good reason) the cashiers, baristas, and others who literally risked their lives to go to work during the pandemic — and many consumers wanted to express that by adding a tip.
It’s become a hot-button issue
People used to see tip jars with some change and a few bucks in the bottom and not think twice to leave without adding anything to it. When declining a tip requires a tap on a screen at the cash register, however, it’s harder to ignore.
That’s where people have to make a choice. Some give in out of a sense of guilt and fork over a tip while others take a stance on the principle that certain jobs don’t require a gratuity.
Then there’s the matter of inflation, which has taken a bit out of tips across the board. Even though the percentage of quick-service restaurants like McDonald’s and Starbucks that include a tipping option has increased from 38% in 2020 to nearly 50% today, the average tip has dropped from 16.4% to 15.9% since last year.