Is Tipping Out of Control?

by Erika Torres

hand giving money to anotherIt used to be that the social norm for tipping was 15%. If you got excellent service, you would pay 20%. I don’t know what the judgement was if you got crappy service.

It seems nowadays that the social norm is quickly becoming 20% no matter what kind of service you got.

The justification being that prices have increased and so should tips. But if prices have increased, doesn’t that mean that their tips have increased too? For example, if a meal at a restaurant used to cost $20, and now costs $25 due to inflation, then 15% of $25 ($3.75) is greater than 15% of $20 ($3).

And while I know that times have changed, it seems that nowadays you are seriously being nickled and dimed at every place you go.

Starbucks? Tip jar. Yogurt place? Tip jar. Take-out? Tip line item on the check.

I can understand when you’re getting a special service done, like a hair cut or manicure, or when you’re being served at a restaurant–but now tips are expected just for performing the normal duties of your job.

The other day I picked up my pizza at Papa John’s and there was a line item for a tip. I don’t understand–I’m picking up my own pizza, all you had to do is hand it to me: am I still expected to tip?

When I went to a self-serve yogurt shop, there was a tip jar. Am I supposed to tip you for letting me serve my own ice cream?

I get that people working these jobs usually aren’t making a lot of money and the tips help increase their wages, but isn’t that the point of an entry-level minimum wage job? They’re not supposed to be great work and they’re not supposed to pay well.

In fact, they should really just be a starting place for you to learn what “paying your dues” means and to motivate you to get a better job that pays well and where you don’t have to rely on people’s generosity.

I used to work at a movie theater in high school, and it was seriously one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had–standing on your feet all day, and dealing with cranky customers who hate paying $4 for a small soda.

But that job really helped teach me the value of a dollar (oh my gosh, I sound so old right now!). $50 jeans were no longer “oh I’ll buy $50 jeans today”, but rather “that’s eight hours of work!”

What do you think? Is tipping out of control? Or am I being a grumpy old person?


Andrew February 2, 2014 - 5:39 pm

I find it funny that you are talk about tipping the person serving you, or tipping the person that is doing your hair. I have read all of these posts and I did not see one thing about tipping the people that service your car.
I have worked in the auto field for a long time and I have dealt with a lot of rude nasty people. You all say you tip people for the service that they do for you or your family while you are out. I just wonder if you ever thought to tip the person that is checking the air in your tires, or working on your vehicles. The whole time I have been in the field I may have got 20 dollars top. There are techs that will not take it but it still feels good to have someone offer because they felt you did a super job.
I have seen people go to the car wash and get their car detailed then tips the guy cleaning the vehicle. Then bring the car over to my shop with it nice and hot wanting to get oil changed. I hope you realize that motor oil is hot.
This also holds true if you go to a shop on a regular basic and pull to have something looked at just to sit there and think to yourself that these people are rude because they are not running out to your car. It’s like the servers at a restaurant. If they know you are a good tipper they will make sure you get good service.
There are people that are reading this thinking that I must be nuts for posting this. There are people that are thinking that people that work on vehicles make 30 or 40 dollars an hour. Well that is not true since there are a lot of places that may start at 10 an hour and like with most place you may not see a raise for a few years.
Even if after reading this you are saying that I am nut well that is fine and you don’t have to tip that is ok just go and find the person that did that work and at least thing them.

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City Girl March 9, 2013 - 7:02 am

Interesting post. I don’t have a problem with tipping 20% at restaurants. I’ll also tip 30% when things are comped. (It still comes out to less than the original bill, but I’d rather give it to the server or bartender than the house. And, since we go out so much and DC is so small, it happens a lot.)

I hadn’t thought about the tips jars everywhere and the idea that these are entry-level jobs for younger people for a reason. Is it a rite of passage to earn so little? As I get older, I feel like I want to help out, even if it’s just extra change or a dollar. But, that adds up, and it could start to be something that’s expected if it happens in a position that doesn’t require good service.

Teacher Girl March 7, 2013 - 4:47 pm

I definitely agree. I tip well at restaurants I eat out too often and at places like the hair salon, but that’s about it. I worked retail from the age of 15 to 21. I know the value of a dollar. Even now, I have a master’s degree and work myself until I’m sick sometimes just to make a difference and I am still not paid even close to what I should be. Call me whatever you want, but I just can’t afford to tip everyone, nor do I think that everyone deserves it.

Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals March 2, 2013 - 1:13 pm

I always tip higher when my husband and I eat out with our kids. They make a HUGE mess and my bigger tip is payment for the staff having to do a lot of cleaning after we leave. And when we go out without the kids, we tend to linger longer, which means we’re taking up the table longer, which means I tip higher there, too. I guess I’m part of the problem!

Jim March 2, 2013 - 12:49 pm

Great post Erika, I never thought about it, but you are correct it does seem like everyone has their hand out for a tip. I went to McAlister’s Deli the other day and felt compelled to tip the elderly man who cleared my tray. Next thing you know we will feel the need to tip the TSA when we fly. Ok maybe that is stretching it a bit!

Christne March 2, 2013 - 6:52 am

I’m a little late to the game but here’s my two cents. If I get good service (restaurant, mainicure, haircut, etc.) I tip 20%. If the service is really exceptional I will sometimes tip up to 25%. However, if no service was provided other than “normal job duties” (such as when I pick up a pizza or make my own yogurt) I do not tip.

Oh! And as for the commissaries (I’m a milspouse too)…our baggers are really awesome and I haven’t experienced what Kendra has in the two bases we’ve been at. I tip $2 when I take my groceries to my car but more if they bring it out for me. But I pretty much always bring my groceries to my car myself.

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[…] tipping getting out of control? Erika at Newlyweds on a Budget discusses how tips seem to be expected for just about everything these […]

Cassi February 28, 2013 - 7:24 pm

I don’t go to restaurants often, but when I do, I often leave really nice tips. iHop employees better love me because I leave a 50-100% tip when I am there.

I don’t know why, I just feel like if I don’t leave a great tip, I will just be another annoying teenager who talks too loud and takes up space, so anytime I’m at a restaurant, I’m often very quiet and overtip.

Frugal(er) February 28, 2013 - 3:58 pm

It’s so nice to read a discussion on this topic that hasn’t devolved into anyone who hates tipping excessively being called a hater of the working man! I think tipping is out of control and the thing that vexes me most is that it’s never the restaurant owners who pay their workers low wages who get blamed, but rather the people that tip 15% I don’t eat out much, but I do try to tip well for good service. For lousy service, I don’t think I should have to tip as much.

I always get differing perspectives from severs and former servers. On one hand, they say that the only reason they do the work is because the money is so good; then on the other they talk about having to tip out to bartenders, busboys and cooks and make it seem like they’re barely taking home a dime.

I realize that it is exhausting work, but I’ve had a lot of exhausting jobs that paid poorly–that’s just the nature of some types of work.

Also, to answer to some questions or wonderings that other people had:
The tip line on the pizza take-out slip is just because that’s the way their computer is set up and the computer doesn’t know if the order is take-out or delivery. You aren’t expected to tip.
Coffee shops, (I worked at several coffee shops over the course of six years), most people just throw their change in there, if they’re paying in cash, or if they’re a regular customer and the barista knows their order and gives exceptional service, you might throw in a dollar.

I used to live in a town where they had a tip jar at the liquor store. As a customer, you go in, pick out what you want, carry it to the counter where they scan it and take your money. What’s the tip for, exactly?

Sorry so long-winded, this topic gets me going 🙂

Kristin February 28, 2013 - 1:13 pm

I understand exactly what you mean here and, honestly, I rarely throw money into tip jars. However, my husband usually tips 40%. It used to be painful to watch him tip that much (only for super service), but now I’m used to it and usually tip about 30% myself. We both worked in restaurants and bars, so we understand how it feels. A big tip will make your entire shift SO much better.

Mo' Money Mo' Houses February 28, 2013 - 12:46 pm

I do think tipping is a bit silly sometimes. There’s always a tip option for this sushi place I go to, but hell no I’m not tipping if it’s for take out!

Renee Shooting for frugal February 27, 2013 - 9:11 pm

I still do the 15% for ok service and 20% for great service. I rarely throw money in the tip jars unless the person helping me was great with customer service. My husband on the other hand has been known to tip up to 50% for amazing customer service, he says working in a restaurant really made him appreciate how hard the work is…

Poorfatchick February 27, 2013 - 3:27 pm

I lived in Australia most of my life and tipping was something you did when the service was exceptional and i mean outstanding exceptional awesome work. And even then i have had people in the past chase me down to give me my change that i left as a tip.
Then i moved to Canada where tipping is like the USA. People expect it now and in some cases i have found demanded it. I had no idea on tipping and still to this day (7 years later) i am still a little confused on who and how much i tip people. I often ask my boyfriend (who is Canadian) for advice on this from time to time.
The difference i find between Australia and Canada is the wages. Waiters and waitresses etc get paid better then their counterparts in Canada.. but still i worked in a supermarket when i was a teenager and like you, i learned the value of a dollar really fast, learned how to save and budget and to strive to work hard in school and get a better paying job.
These days it seems that people count on it as part of their salary and except it from their customers regardless of their customer service. I will continue to do what i was taught when i first arrived in Canada, i will tip for great service, which is usually reserved for things like beauty salons or restaurants.

Canadianbudgetbinder February 28, 2013 - 9:34 am

I agree as I lived in the UK up until a few years ago when I moved to Canada and tipping was for exceptional service if that in most places. I was shocked at all the tipping that goes on in Canada. Like Poorfatchick I’ll tip for exceptional service in Canada in places like restaurants although it’s probably just another reason why we don’t bother eating out any longer as it’s cheaper to cook at home.

Lizzy February 27, 2013 - 1:14 pm

I do feel like tipping is way out of control!!! Waiters and waitresses always expect a tip, and I honestly don’t feel bad for leaving them a 15% tip. I normally just double what the tax was and round up a little. Sure the extra money helps, but when you’re a single parent with little income, tipping a large amount to someone you won’t ever see again usually drives me bonkers.

Only the U.S. makes it a some what mandatory thing too. I’ve read places in Europe don’t do tips and no one seems to care. Here in America it’s all about the money! I’m not going to give someone money if they do a crappy job at something!

The Norwegian Girl February 27, 2013 - 10:07 am

Luckily, tipping isn`t really the norm in Norway. the pay for service industry workers is pretty decent so there hasn`t been a tradition of tipping. But I`ve noticed during the last couple of years that tipping jars are everywhere, and people are expecting you to tip for every little thing. Annoying.

Kasey February 27, 2013 - 10:05 am

I wonder what the average tip % comes out to. While the norm seems to be 20% I have a hard time believing the majority of people actually pay that. I wonder how many people pay 10% or no tip at all. I try to aim between 15-20% with it being closer to 20%. We also don’t go out to dinner often and rather pick up food and eat at home. For a $25 meal that’s a $5 savings.


Budget & the Beach February 27, 2013 - 9:39 am

Yeah I don’t tip and places like the yogurt shop or starbucks. And yeah it does seem like 20% is always expected, not the tip you get if you get really good service. I know I always feel guilted into doing that.

CeCe @Frugalista Married February 27, 2013 - 8:37 am

I totally agree that tipping is out of hand. I don’t tip at yogurt shops or when I pick up my chinese take out. They are there to provide me the item I bought and that’s all they did. No extra. At commissaries I do tip because they don’t get paid and I feel bad which is ridiculous. If they can’t pay them then they need to make it a place with no bag service. My sister says she tips at random places if there is a jar because if she was working there she would want it. To that I say so would I but I would realize that I’m not in a job that actually justifies tips and I’d deal with it. It’s not my responsibility to subsidize low paying jobs. What’s next? A tip jar at Ross or Target??

Sara February 27, 2013 - 7:28 am

The tipping wage (or whatever) has not gone up as fast as the cost of living. Nor for that matter has minimum wage. So, tipping at 20% is a way to help compensate for that. Unless I have a manager-worthy complaint, I tip 20% at restaurants.

I don’t see the point of tipping at coffee shops, yogurt stands, etc. Whenever I see those tip lines, like at pick-up pizza stores, I always just assume that their machines only spit out one type of receipt…

Tina @ My Shiny Pennies February 27, 2013 - 7:23 am

I very much disklike seeing tip jars at cafes, bakeries, etc. My understanding is that the folks who work there earn a higher wage than people who wait tables. I remember getting into an argument with a friend because she felt people in retail should be tipped because they’re in the service industry just like server. Again, I come back to the point that working in retail earns a higher hourly wage than the waitstaff at restaurants.

Finance Inspired February 27, 2013 - 7:11 am

I think i’m really lucky, here in the UK hardly anyone ever tips, we just don’t have it engrained in our culture. So where as working in a bar in the US can actually be quite profitable and you can make a career out of it, over here its minimum wage and thats your lot.

Emily February 27, 2013 - 6:46 am

I tip usually from 15 – 25% depending on the level of service when dining out or getting some sort of beauty treatment (hair cut, tattoo, pedicure, etc.). If the service wasn’t great, it’s usually the 15, if it’s good, I’ll do 20, and if they were a rockstar, I’ll tip over 20, but not over 25 generally. However, if they’re a local joint we frequent often, it’s a standard 20, even if the service wasn’t fantastic that night. I’ve heard too many horror stories to complain about service before receiving food, etc., so I usually take my “complaint” out on the back end of service by means of the tip.

When it comes to Starbucks and the Froyo type places, I generally don’t tip. Rather than making waiters salary (usually in the $3.25 range in most states), they are making at least minimum wage. And I know Starbucks usually pays over plus they have really great benefits even for part-time employment, so they don’t get a tip unless they do something extra special.

However, I’ve never had a job where tips were part of the gig, so maybe I’m not as sensitive to it.

Michelle February 27, 2013 - 6:43 am

I agree! I don’t understand why their are tip jars EVERYWHERE it seems like. There are not tips jars at clothing stores and I’m afraid that’ll be next.

SavvyFinancialLatina February 27, 2013 - 6:40 am

I feel the same way. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think part of the service of getting take out is for the employees to prepare the food. The labor costs + commodity costs are built into the price of the food items.

If an employee goes above and beyond their service, okay, but honestly, I have noticed that most places have mediocre service because people hate their jobs and don’t feel like being there.

Kim February 27, 2013 - 6:33 am

I’m with you. I waited tables and bartended for over 5 years, but a 20% tip was generous and a 15% tip expected. I was a pretty entertaining bartender with a lot of regulars (entertaining as in chatty, not lots of fancy flare when making drinks) so I made more than 20% more often than not, but it wasn’t expected. When trying to get our finances under control I tried to get my husband on board with not going so overboard with tipping. He usually figures 20% then adds a couple bucks. I’m more the route of aiming for about 18%, 20% for really good service.

As for the take out places or fro yo joints asking for tips, take out I’ll give a couple dollars, maybe around 10%. They still have to prepare your order and check it for accuracy. At subway or starbucks though, no extra money. You’re just doing your job.

I always thought I was just a scrooge, glad to know I’m not alone!

Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian February 27, 2013 - 5:12 am

I completely agree with you! In fact, just last night I was having this dilemma as well because we decided to pick up some takeout on the way home from an errand after work. It was the same scenario – we placed the order and picked it up ourselves, yet there was still a tip line item on the bill. I never understand that, and yet I always still feel weird about not putting something there.

Army Amy* February 27, 2013 - 4:58 am

I agree that tipping at a self-serve fro-yo place ain’t gonna happen. (At least, it ain’t coming out of my money!) But I don’t mind giving a little extra to someone who goes above and beyond.

Living in Germany for the last 6 months, my issue is one of not knowing the cultural norms. If I was picking up my pizza from Papa John’s back home, for instance, I’d ignore the space to tip and think nothing of it. (Surely they don’t get much money that way.) But in a different country, I don’t know. Am I big fat rude American if I don’t tip? So we end up tipping more and more often. (My husband even offended a bakery owner in Normandy by trying to give him a Euro. Sorry!) But to balance that out, we also eat out a lot less nowadays.

KendraD February 27, 2013 - 4:54 am

I think tipping is getting out of hand. The commissaries over here have baggers that work for tips only. There are signs all over that tell you that and they always try to get you to get cash back so you can tip. Which still doesn’t mean that I will tip when I have to bag half my items before they come over to help (when the store is empty besides me) or if I only have a few items to bag. I feel sort of bad about it, but I do tip when I have a bunch of groceries or if they help me to the car. I try to remind myself that there are other employment options and that they are choosing to work for tips only.


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