You’re Not Alone – Americans Don’t Know How To Tip Anymore

Americans have no idea how to tip in a post-pandemic world.

To buy something at Starbucks, you order a coffee and then use your credit card or phone to pay. To complete your transaction, an employee spins around the payment terminal. You’re greeted with a screen asking how much you’d like to tip.

Right across from you stands the worker. Customers stand behind you, presumably fuming at your tipping indecision. A decision must be made in seconds.

Customers today are confronted with an unrecognizable tipping culture. “Tipping” has grown from a term once reserved for waiters, bartenders, and other service workers to now including cashiers, shoppers, and others.

Even Michael Lynn, a professor of marketing and consumer behavior at Cornell University, remarked, “I don’t know how much you’re supposed to tip and I study this.”

A growing number of establishments now offer tipping options, and customers are anxious about whether and how much to tip. Experts who study tipping culture have begun noticing some consumers actively walking away from payment screens to avoid the decision and potential embarrassment.

Generally speaking, Lynn explained, “there’s no central authority that establishes tipping norms. They come from the bottom up. Ultimately, it’s what people do that helps establish what other people should do.”