'Tip invasion?' Some consumers feeling confused when it comes to tipping etiquette

With options to tip at coffee shops, fast-food restaurants, are consumers feeling pressured into tipping?
Posted at 7:37 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 22:01:57-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In the age of high inflation, many consumers are starting to vocalize their frustrations about the pressure to tip in many coffee shops and fast-food restaurants where they normally wouldn't tip.

On Tuesday, WPTV stopped by Hot Pie Pizza in downtown West Palm Beach.

John Ries, the owner, told WPTV inflation has been burdening him with higher price tags for his inventory and it's also been burdening his employees as less customers are leaving tips.

"What we're seeing here now is a contraction of all the tips," Ries said. "We're finding that people are being more frugal and a little bit more concerned about their dollars being spent."

Ries feels a recent shift in tipping could be holding consumers back when they dine out.

John Ries, Hot Pie owner, talks about tipping
John Ries, the owner of Hot Pie Pizza in downtown West Palm Beach, believes consumers are a bit more hesitant about tipping.

According to The Associated Press, as more businesses like coffee shops and fast-food restaurants adopt digital payment methods, customers are often automatically prompted to leave a tip, sometimes as high as 30%, at places they normally wouldn't.

"I just think for a takeout item, you should not be paying anywhere near — or tipping anywhere near — 20%," a West Palm Beach resident told WPTV. "I mean, that's for service. That's for an extra service, such as waiting or taking care of you."

However, others feel differently.

"I honestly think we need to make it a lifestyle to tip our employees at the restaurants and even, like, Door Dash, anything that's service industry," another consumer said.

Experts said for many people with a limited budget though, they can't afford to leave a tip every time they order a coffee or a snack.

"The way I see it, it's truly a tip invasion," Thomas Farley, an etiquette expert, said. "Consumers, especially during this period of inflation, are feeling confused. They're feeling, in some cases, taken advantage of and they, frankly, don't know what to do."

Farley said the etiquette of tipping is simple.

"When it comes to doing walk-in and walk-out food service, so somebody is handing you a can of soda from across the counter, someone is handing you a cookie that you ordered at a bakery, there is absolutely, positively no requirement — no etiquette requirement — that you provide a gratuity," Farley said. "The idea of gratuity as it really evolved in the United States is for people who are making sub-minimum wage. So, someone who's a server in a sit-down restaurant, they are not making even close to minimum wage."

Thomas Farley, etiquette expert, talks to Jessica Bruno about tipping
Thomas Farley, an etiquette expert, tells WPTV's Jessica Bruno that there is no etiquette requirement to tip at any walk-in and walk-out food service.

Farley said many consumers forget that someone working behind a cash register is making minimum wage.

"It may not be a lot, but you, as the consumer, are not obligated to top up those wages above and beyond, unless you are feeling particularly generous," Farley said.

Ries told WPTV he agrees.

"TIPS is actually an acronym and what it means is 'to insure prompt service,'" Ries said. "That's where the word tips comes from, and a tip is not something that should be on the automatic level. A tip is earned."