Americans think of themselves as ‘great tippers,’ but a distressing number fail to actually do it

Americans think of themselves as ‘great tippers,’ but a distressing number fail to actually do it

4 Feb    Finance News

Most Americans consider themselves “great tippers,” but many fail to put their money where their mouth is, a new survey suggests.

Despite their self-proclaimed generosity, many fail to leave tips for bartenders, food delivery drivers, taxi drivers, hotel workers — or indeed anyone but waiters and waitresses in restaurants.

The scale of this “tipping gap” was revealed in the latest “Financial Etiquette” survey by the investment bank TD Ameritrade, and it’s bigger than you might imagine — unless you actually work in the service industry.

Four people in five, or 81%, of those surveyed gave themselves top ratings for tipping widely and generously.

But just 54% said they tipped food delivery drivers, like pizza guys.

Barely one in three leave a tip for parking attendants, or for the staff who clean their hotel rooms.

Fewer than 50% tip taxi drivers.

Only wait staff in restaurants get tipped widely, with 82% of those surveyed saying they leave a tip.

That may be because waiters and waitresses typically rely on tips much more than many other workers for a large part of their income. Federal law sets a $7.25 minimum wage for most workers, but just $2.13 an hour for those, such as waiters and waitresses, who typically get more than $30 a month in tips.

See also: The U.S. is the No. 1 most generous country in the world for the last decade

Around 12.3 million Americans work in restaurants, bars and other food service establishments. That’s up sharply from 9.3 million a decade ago.

Around three quarters of tippers leave more than 15%, which used to be the benchmark. Today the most common tip in restaurants is between 19% and 25%, the survey found.

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When it comes to tipping, the generations, unsurprisingly, differ. Baby boomers are more likely to tip in almost every situation than members of Generation X, who are more likely to tip than millennials. Some 91% of Boomers say they tip wait staff in restaurants, for example, compared to 72% of millennials. And 55% of Boomers tip taxi drivers, compared to just 36% of millennials.

More than half of millennials, 52%, said they consider tipping optional, compared with 33% of boomers.

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So far, that gels with other reports that millennials tip less, on average. But it masks two important facts.

Millennials are very polarized. While they’re less likely to tip overall, those who do are much more likely to tip generously. Around 18% say they typically tip more than 25%.

It also reflects economic circumstance. The question might be why boomers don’t tip even more, as they have nearly all the money. The Federal Reserve estimates boomers are sitting on $61 trillion in wealth. Generation X has barely a quarter of that. Millennials: Just $3 trillion. And boomers were able to start accumulating wealth much earlier than Gen Xers or millennials, thanks to the economic conditions when they were growing up.

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