When Should You Tip? – The New York Times

How often do you tip? Do you see tip jars or touch-screen systems for tipping in your neighborhood businesses? What about ice-cream parlors, bakeries or movie theaters?

Do you tip whenever you are asked or prompted to? How much do social pressures influence your tipping practices?

In “To Tip, or Not to Tip?” Christina Morales writes about how the pandemic, and new technology, have made tipping more ubiquitous and easier than ever before.

Last year, Anna Johnson found herself using an electronic screen to pay for a pickup order at a bakery in Phoenix, a normal enough experience at many food businesses she frequents. But this time, she was bewildered when the machine recommended that she tip as much as 35 percent — on cookies.

“It just surprised me that they’re asking everyone for that,” said Ms. Johnson, 66. “People can’t afford to keep on paying more, more and more.”

Tipping fatigue like Ms. Johnson’s is real, and it is widespread.

In the thick of the pandemic, Americans like her dug deeper into their pockets to recognize the hard labor and health risks taken on by workers in every corner of the food business — servers, cooks, cashiers, delivery workers. For many customers, adding 15 percent or more for a takeout meal or grocery delivery felt like the least they could do to help essential workers.

Covid cases are on the rise again, and the risk to restaurant workers is still elevated. But as business has returned to something more like normal, many customers and experts in the hospitality industry say that deciding how much money to leave, or whether to leave a tip at all, has become a tougher decision — complicated by new technology, and requests for tips at food business of all types, from bakeries and yogurt shops to food trucks and juice bars.

In interviews, customers, including some who have worked in the food-service business, said they felt uncomfortable with the many requests to tip, and pressured into giving more. Higher menu prices, a result of inflation, have raised the amount of a traditional 15 or 20 percent tip. In some cases, restaurants are adding service charges and gratuities to the bill that some diners may not notice right away.

  • What is your reaction to the article? Do you feel that “tipping culture has gotten out of control”? Why or why not?

  • How do you decide when to tip and how much? Did your tipping practices change during the pandemic? Explain.

  • Do you think there are situations when tipping should not be expected or allowed? Why?

  • Do you, or does anyone you’re close to, rely on tips for income? How do you feel about changing expectations around tipping?

  • As a teenager, without the income of a full-time job, how do you navigate tipping? The article mentions a college student, Janhavi Bodkhe, who described feeling social pressure to tip. Have you ever felt this way? How do deal with tipping as a young person?

  • In a New York Times guest essay, Michelle Alexander writes about the racist roots of tipping in the United States:, “After the Civil War, white business owners, still eager to find ways to steal Black labor, created the idea that tips would replace wages.” Ms. Alexander advocates raising wages instead of making workers rely on tips. What do you think of this perspective? Do you agree with the argument to get rid of tips and replace them with higher wages? Why or why not?