Title: “The Rise of ‘Tipflation’: Tipping Culture Evolving Amid Changing Customer Experiences”
Subtitle: Pandemic-induced confusion intensifies tipping expectations.
In an era where customer experiences and social customs continue to evolve, the tipping culture, commonly referred to as ‘tipflation,’ is on the rise. Customers face increasing pressure to tip even in situations where it may not be expected or required. As a result, both businesses and consumers are grappling with the shifting dynamics of gratuity.
Traditionally, etiquette experts emphasized that tipping is not necessary unless additional personalized service was provided. However, the pandemic-induced changes have blurred these lines. Recent trends have seen customers generously tipping for carry-out and delivery orders, instigated by a desire to support struggling businesses and frontline workers.
Remarkably, the ubiquitous presence of point-of-sale touchpads has extended the reach of tipping screens, even in fast-casual or counter-service restaurants. Such establishments traditionally did not incorporate tips into employee wages. This expansion has left customers wondering whether tipping is now expected across the board.
Unveiling the impact of the pandemic on tipping habits, data from Toast, a renowned restaurant management platform, reveals a dip in tips at full-service restaurants. The second quarter of 2023 witnessed tips averaging at around 19.4%, reflecting the economic hardships faced during this period.
Interestingly, the pandemic’s influence has transcended the service industry, with numerous businesses unfamiliar with tipping now soliciting gratuities. However, this trend has led to “tipping fatigue” among customers who feel compelled to tip in less conventional environments.
To further complicate matters, some restaurants have introduced a “service charge” in addition to expected gratuity. This strategy aims to address wage disparities and ensure a more consistent dining experience. However, it also raises questions about the potential overlap between the two charges.
One such establishment that has taken a unique approach is Bulrush, where the owner has incorporated gratuity into the cost of the meal. This strategy addresses wage disparities and provides a more equitable experience for both customers and staff. Surprisingly, customers at Bulrush have not voiced complaints about the lack of traditional tipping, though a segment still prefers to tip out of habit.
Even the chef-owner of Bulrush himself has observed changing tip expectations. He found himself being prompted to tip when purchasing a bag of coffee beans at a local shop, a situation where tipping was previously uncommon.
To provide a personal perspective, the author shares an anecdote about paying a tip upfront at a festival. Unfortunately, this decision resulted in a delay and mix-up with their order. This highlights the pitfalls that can arise when traditional tipping processes are bypassed or altered.
As the tipping landscape continues to evolve, both businesses and consumers find themselves navigating uncharted territory. While some embrace changes in gratuity practices, others grapple with the unpredictability and confusion stemming from societal shifts. Ultimately, the decision to tip or not lies with each individual, and striking a balance between tradition and innovation remains an ongoing challenge.