To tip or not to tip? 'Tipflation' changing culture of gratuities

When it comes to dining out, getting a haircut, or grabbing a cup of coffee, the big question is: to tip or not to tip, and how much?

Following the pandemic came a new phenomenon known as "tipflation." It is where consumers are being asked more often to tip on less traditional services, and in some instances even before a service has even been provided. 

As businesses transitioned to touchless payment methods, more places began prompting customers to add a little more to their bills. Professor Kevin Murphy at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management explained, "There’s a critical labor shortage in the restaurant industry and the hotel industry and people feel somewhat a sense of gratitude for those workers that come out and will serve them."

Data provided by digital payment company, Square, shows at the end of Q4 2022, total tips received by full-service restaurants were up 16.5% and quick-service restaurants were up 15.86% year-over-year as compared to Q4 in the two previous years.

"No hesitation whatsoever," Kevin Cashen of Orlando’s Octopus Car Wash says tips have been better since the pandemic. Cashen continued, "It’s almost like natural for them because of the type of work we do. These guys are out there hustling, trying to get the cars done for the customer."

But this is not the case for everyone. In fact, some people have admitted to feeling anxious when those tablets flip around asking how much of a tip they want to leave. So, do you have to tip every time the option is presented to you? "That’s still totally up to the individual," Professor Murphy said.

Restaurant owner Shantell Williams said don't feel pressured, especially if you cannot afford it. "You shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t tip, or you don’t have it, especially with inflation," Williams explained. 

But keep in mind, many servers rely heavily on those tips. "Oh my gosh. Tips are everything," Liz Coughlin explained. Coughlin is a barista at French Café 1515 in Lake Mary. "Tips can add up to almost half of what my hourly wages add up to in a day, so it’s definitely a big chunk of my paycheck," she added. French Café 1515 owner, Edwin Moore said, "Those tips, it’s a major difference for her check and her cost of living because if she didn’t have those tips she couldn’t work on just the salary that we could provide, being that we’re a small business."