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Americans tip more often, even if they don’t want to

Americans may be complaining about the new tipping rules — whatever they are exactly — but they don’t care anyway.

Figures payment processor Square provided to NBC News show tipping frequency at full-service restaurants rose 17% in the fourth quarter of last year compared to the same period in 2021, while the tipping frequency at quick service restaurants increased by 16%. Reputable fast-food restaurants, such as cafes and fast-food chains, typically don’t offer wait service, the company said.

Square found that these tip increases added to third-quarter earnings for both types of establishments.

TJ Horn, a 41-year-old Boston-based construction worker, said a 20% tip has been his standard minimum since the lockdown era, even on a $3 cup of coffee.

“It became a common thing in my brain,” said Horn, who added that having friends in the restaurant industry softened his view of tipping. “I see how much abuse they experience on a daily basis.”

The increase in tipping frequency comes despite a period of record inflation that has reduced discretionary income for many consumers. And that coincides with a shift toward spending on services and experiences, like travel and restaurants, during the recovery from the pandemic recession.

Economic changes in recent years may have helped shape attitudes like Horn’s, consumer experts say.

“Big disruptive moments reset habits,” said Americus Reed, Whitney M. Young Jr. Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

“The big part is just an awareness and appreciation of the human touch. If we get really good service and you have a really good connection with a service provider, that fills you with joy,” he said. said “It’s almost like a chemical reaction – you pay for that dopamine hit.”

But that doesn’t mean that all of the customers who tipped more often do so just out of the kindness of their hearts.

The point-of-service, or POS, systems that restaurants are increasingly using to process payments have made it easier than ever for customers to offer — and businesses to solicit — tips, experts said.

“People don’t like to spend cognitive resources,” said Deidre Popovich, associate professor of marketing at Texas Tech University. “These retail establishments have gotten better at providing us with these default choices to kind of incentivize this tipping behavior.”

In a recent survey of restaurant executives by industry group Hospitality Technology, 71% of respondents said using data to “understand customer preferences and behavior” was their top reason for making bets. at the point of sale. For 57%, enabling new payment options was key.

These devices and software also give businesses more ways to calibrate tip amounts. For example, managers can set tip percentages that customers can choose from, and even include a certain selection in the default subtotal.

Not everyone likes it, and some consumers have complained on social media about “tipflation”.

“It’s your job. It’s getting out of hand,” tweeted a Twitter user who said they recently refused to tip a Starbucks order.

“At the cafe, tap ‘no tip’ on the little iPad while I maintain eye contact with the barista,” another displayed, as if telling of their disdain for what is sometimes an uncomfortable social interaction.

So far, the increase in tipping frequency suggests the resisters remain a minority faction. While some find point-of-sale nudges irritating, many probably add a tip anyway.

I can help where I can, but you don’t tip the CVS employee for taking the bottle of aspirin and handing it to you.

Tyler Cooper

Tyler Cooper, 34, who lives in Oakland, Calif., and works as a technology marketer, said he’s noticed the default tip selection at quick service stores “keeps going up.” He said he was adding a gratuity for complicated orders, but was frustrated by what he saw as a growing expectation to subsidize workers’ wages.

“I make a good living, so I can help where I can,” he said, “but you don’t tip the CVS employee for taking the bottle of aspirin and you tip him. have strained.”

However, consumers do not necessarily tip more generously. Point-of-sale operator Toast has found that the average tip of around 19% on its systems has remained virtually flat for most of the past 12 months. Even quick service restaurant tips have held steady, hovering at just under 17% in the second and third quarters of last year as inflation rose.

“Tipping is still slightly up from just before the pandemic in 2019,” a Toast spokesperson added.

Hanna Mase. Shane DuBois

Hannah Mase, a 25-year-old barista at Lobos Coffee Roasters, an Orlando-based cafe, said a customer recently tipped 14 cents when prompted on the touchpad. Mase said that while she thinks America’s tipping culture is “a little ridiculous” in the absence of fairer wages, the gratuity often makes up a substantial portion of her salary.

Of the $765 she earned in the last two-week pay period, with her base wage of $10.50 an hour, $263 came from pooled tips.

“We’re not making you something from scratch, but from all the ingredients we have here,” said Mase, who is also pursuing a recording arts degree at nearby Full Sail University. “It’s not exactly advertised how much someone in a local cafe makes per hour, but this advice goes a long way.”

Many consumers have described encountering tip prompts without wait service as “inconvenient.” Even customers who are open to adding to their tabs said they don’t know when to tip and how much.

Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, recommends tipping in most situations, but said consumers looking to ease their anxiety at checkout may wonder: Did they tip me? reason to tip?

“Were they friendly? Do they know your name? she says. “It’s not mandatory, but I encourage you to be generous when possible.”

nbcnews Gt

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