JIM SHARPE

Can Gen Z’s bad tipping habits be the tipping point on too many tip asks?

Jul 26, 2023, 12:20 PM | Updated: 1:49 pm

I was just reading in Fortune magazine that newly minted adults — the “Gen Z” generation — are stingy tippers. 

While not a good look, I can still see the overall, positive possibilities this could bring about — especially if their aversion to tipping becomes the tipping point on abolishing over-tipping by tamping down the over-the-top tip asking that’s plaguing our society.

Maybe they just might… but I’m afraid that people who should get a tip might get caught up in Gen Z’s tip-hating ways. I’m talking about the people who deserve a tip because they actually came to my table, took my order, delivered my food and made sure I got my requisite 37 Coke Zero refills.

But hey — if that’s the price that needs to be paid to rid us of the couldn’t-care-less, counter-bound, caffeine-schleppers who euphemistically put out their hand by turning an iPad screen toward us with the hope that it’ll guilt us into adding two bucks onto an already double-digit-dollar Cup o’ Joe … Then. So. Be. It.

As many Gen-Zers entered the workforce, they faced forty-year high inflation, which led them to generally curb spending — making their gratuities not only non-gratuitous, but often non-existent: A Bankrate survey shows that only 35% of Gen Z diners always tip servers at sit-down restaurants. 

Meanwhile, 83% of Baby Boomers always do. And my generation — that of “The X” — is second only to Boomers when it comes to offering tips to all people who have traditionally received one: like my barber.

That guy is so much more than a barber, though. He has his fingers in several pies. He actually offered to help me find a car a couple years ago — and I should’ve taken him up on his offer because I would’ve paid about $2,000 less for the same model I got.

But, I have to ask: Is all his side-hustling a sign that he’s not making enough in tips?!

The pandemic wiped out a lot of businesses (bars and restaurants) where people worked for tips.

Now, three years later, we’re mostly back to normal, except that traditional tipping has yet to regain its former glory and non-traditional tipping (including being asked to tip at self-serve kiosks?) is out of control. So, I’m hoping that Gen Z can lead us back to some balance.

I just wonder if the people who often don’t even leave change on the table can be the ones to bring about the kind of change that’s needed.

And before I put much faith into Gen Z stopping the tipping madness, I have to remember that it’s mostly Gen Zers who are twisting that iPad my direction — expending more calories doing that than anything they did to actually serve me. 

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Can Gen Z’s bad tipping habits be the tipping point on too many tip asks?