Guilt tipping: Do you feel pressured when leaving a tip?

ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s common, if not expected, to leave a tip when you go out to eat a restaurant; but when takeout took over at the start of the pandemic, the rules for tipping seemed to shift.


Now, it seems like we’re being asked to add a percentage on checkout tablets just about everywhere.

There is a psychology to “guilt-tipping” and some consumer experts say it’s subsidizing the payroll amid inflation.

When the bill arrives at a restaurant, most people tip around 20%, and if the service is great, perhaps even more. But what about the barista serving your morning coffee, or the deli worker making your sandwich for lunch?

Read: 9 things to know about tipping

Now, the prompts for tips are increasingly coming from places with almost no service element at all. With the surge of no-contact checkout options, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the guilt trip to tip is starting to become part of everyday life.

Data from two of the leading digital payment companies shows most people feel compelled to add gratuity, even if there’s no individual or specific service. Toast’s system showed an average of around 17% tipped at quick-service restaurants, think casual shops or even fast food, during the second quarter of 2022, and a takeout tip average of around 14.5% for the same time period.

Watch: Inflation & the housing crisis: Families forced into desperation

Square found tips at quick or counter service restaurants jumped by 16.7% from 2021 to 2022.

Consumer Advisor Clark Howard says the push to pad your bill with a tip could be by design, and it could mean the difference between paying higher prices across the board.

“Every restaurant, service business, you name it, is having trouble attracting and holding on to employees. So they all want to have a method of trying to get tips from customers that will keep the employees,” Howard said. “So this is a back door way of keeping the published menu prices down, but subsidizing that pay rate for the employees. That’s what this game is about.”

Read: What is inflation, how is it calculated and what does it mean for your wallet?

So how do you know when you should tip? Keep in mind employees who are paid below minimum wage rely on tips to make up the difference, but that typically doesn’t include people working at quick-service or fast-food spots.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.

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