Dec 13, 2023 - Business

Americans say they'll tip generously this holiday season

Illustration of a gift wrapped in hundred dollar bills

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Despite "tipflation" and "tipping fatigue," most Americans are planning to be as generous in holiday tipping this season as they were last year — if not more.

Why it matters: Tipping has become a fraught issue as the pandemic — and point-of-sale tip screens — pushed up the amounts we pay service workers and the number of times we're asked to tip.

Driving the news: 15% of U.S. adults will increase how much they tip this holiday season compared with last year, per Bankrate, the personal finance site.

  • 44% plan to tip the same amount, while 13% say they're decreasing holiday tips this year.
  • 23% didn't tip last holiday season and don't plan to this year either.
  • Bankrate surveyed 2,413 people online through YouGov on November 3-7.

🔎 Zoom in: Bankrate's poll asked about six types of service providers — housekeepers, teachers, child care providers, landscapers, mail carriers, and trash/recycling collectors — with whom people often have a personal relationship.

  • "I think it's easier to complain about tip creep when you're being prompted by an app or a checkout kiosk during a quick counter service transaction," Ted Rossman, Bankrate's senior industry analyst, said in a press release.
  • "Most people seem more likely to tip generously when they have a relationship with a service provider who they encounter regularly."

Where it stands: A separate survey by UrbanSitter, which connects people to household help, found that people intend to tip their child care providers about the same this year as last year.

  • 68% of respondents said they tip their nannies — 46% give them one week's pay, and 28% give more.
  • 65% tip their babysitters, most commonly $15-$25.
  • 500 parents of children under 12 were polled online in November.

Younger people are planning to tip more lavishly this year than last, according to a Harris Poll survey commissioned by DailyPay.

  • It found that 49% of Gen Zers plan to tip more this year than in 2022, compared with 36% of millennials, 19% of Gen Xers and 21% of boomers.
  • Overall, 59% of Americans say they give bigger tips during the holiday season.
  • 2,050 adults were surveyed online November 2-6.

The other side: The Bankrate survey also found that younger consumers plan to tip more this year, but the percentage of people who will be opening their wallets more widely was smaller.

  • In that poll, 21% of Gen Zers said they'll be tipping more, along with 23% of millennials, 12% of Gen Xers and 9% of boomers.
  • Bankrate also found that the younger cohorts are "more often confused about tipping etiquette."

By the numbers: Consumers are asked to tip five times a week on average for different services, per Popmenu, a restaurant tech company.

  • 53% of consumers say they're fed up with so many tip requests, according to Popmenu's poll of 1,000 consumers, conducted November 6-7.

Between the lines: December has always been the most anxiety-producing time of year for tipping, as everyone fears giving too much or too little, and neighbors whisper furtively to one another about how much they're doling out. (But who knows if they're telling the truth...)

  • People who live in large apartment buildings larded with doormen, handymen, porters and garage workers tend to feel particularly beleaguered about what to give.
  • The pandemic changed the way we view and practice tipping, with many workers being rewarded with what was essentially considered "combat pay," and restaurants and others adding on "kitchen appreciation fees" and other charges.

Yes, but: While Emily Post's tipping etiquette guide advises that tipping is "truly about saying thank you," many people do it out of guilt, to keep up with the Joneses, or because they don't want their superintendent to kick their requests to the bottom of the pile.

  • "What every frustrated consumer seems to forget is that you can just say no — plenty of people do," Emily Stewart writes in Vox.

Be smart: Many websites offer guidance on holiday tipping, with a general caveat being to stay within your means and budget.

  • Care.com has a guide for tipping child care workers, and Bentobox for restaurant staff.
  • In New York City, where holiday tipping is a seasonal preoccupation, playbooks are available from the realtor Corcoran and real estate news sites StreetEasy and Brick Underground (among many others).
  • While tipping the mail carrier is a nice custom, technically it's illegal for government workers to accept gratuities.

The bottom line: Despite widespread recession fears, tipping culture is still as big a thing as ever this year — and just as emotionally draining.

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