A broad majority of Americans say they’re being asked to tip service workers more frequently than in the past. Around 7 in 10 U.S. adults (72%) say tipping is expected in more places today than it was five years ago, a finding that tracks with anecdotal reporting and has even been dubbed “tipflation.” But even as Americans say they’re being asked to tip more often, relatively few have a great deal of confidence about when and how to do so. Only about a third say it’s extremely or very easy to know whether (34%) or how much (33%) to tip for different types of services.
Nor is there consensus on whether tipping—which is built into the pay structures and business models of many service industries—is more of a choice or an obligation for consumers. Around 2 in 10 Americans (21%) say it’s more of a choice, while 29% say it’s more of an obligation. The largest share (49%) says it depends on the situation, underscoring the lack of a single set of rules or expectations.
Pew Research Center surveyed nearly 12,000 U.S. adults to find out how they feel about the common, yet sometimes confusing, custom of tipping, including whether they themselves would or wouldn’t tip in specific situations.
The survey found that the public is more likely to oppose (40%) than favor (24%) suggested tip amounts, and Americans broadly oppose (72%) automatic service charges. Americans’ tipping behaviors also vary widely by situation. For example, among those who use each type of service, 92% say they always or often leave a tip when eating at sit-down restaurants, while just 25% say the same when ordering a coffee. For most people (77%), the quality of the service they receive is a major factor in deciding whether and how much to tip.
The survey comes at a time when tipping—a practice that Americans broadly embrace yet have long felt conflicted about—is undergoing significant structural and technological changes. These changes include the expansion of digital payment platforms and devices that encourage tipping as well as the spread of mandatory service charges.