Apparently, Tipping Is for Olds

Photo: SDI Productions/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It seems we will never run out of metrics to compare how different generations spend money. Thanks to a new Bankrate poll, the youngs and olds no longer need to feud about mortgages and avocado toast — now they can move on to duking it out over tipping. While we are here, we might as well examine one of the actually intriguing results of the survey: that Gen Z is a generation of horrible tippers.

Only 35 percent of Gen-Z respondents, defined as people ages 18 to 26, told pollsters that they always tip their server at a sit-down restaurant (the survey didn’t break out that category for more generations other than baby-boomers, although it noted tipping tends to increase with age). Sitting down! At a restaurant! I understand we are living in the Wild West of tipping these days, but these kiddos sound like they’ve drifted past the frontier entirely, possibly into a country with a livable minimum wage.

This finding is not entirely surprising: One’s early 20s tend to be the poorest years of our lives. Even though most internships are paid by now, this generation knows better than anyone that their financial troubles won’t necessarily get easier with age. Plus, these young’uns are coming of age in a world where iPads are prompting them to add at least 15 percent on top of the price of their $7 oat-milk lattes, so perhaps being anti-tip is considered subversive in some way. Maybe coffee shops should go back to creating fun little polls with their tip jars? Imagine how much a Barbie-Oppenheimer face-off would bring in!

But the problem, it seems, is bigger than just Gen Z: Americans as a whole are getting worse and worse at tipping. According to the same Bankrate survey, while 77 percent of adults said they always tip at dine-in restaurants in 2019, that number dropped to 75 percent in 2021 and 73 percent last year. Comparing findings from 2021 through this year, Bankrate found that all categories of tipping are on a steady decline: restaurants, salons, food delivery, taxis, hotel housekeeping, baristas, and takeout food.

Who, you ask, is carrying the team when it comes to padding the wages of our severely underpaid service workers? Baby-boomers! Yes, 83 percent of those aging conservative freaks tip at sit-down restaurants, and they tip more than any generation across the board. Naturally, women also tip more frequently than men in all categories. It is both comforting and unsettling to know that the Golden Girls are essentially propping up the financial well-being of the service industry.

I, too, would love for companies to pay their employees enough that the burden of ensuring they can meet their basic needs doesn’t fall on customers. Maybe young adults are more capable of envisioning a future where this is the case, but may I remind them (and us all) that we are not quite there yet? For now, not tipping is even more cheugy than saying “cheugy.”

Apparently, Tipping Is for Olds