Tipping point: How a proliferation of prompts has created 'tipping fatigue,' changed consumer behavior

Experts explain how much to tip at restaurants during the holidays.

December 15, 2023, 9:05 AM

Between increased food costs and more places with options to add a gratuity on even the smallest purchases like coffee, tipping fatigue has hit American consumers hard.

Since no one wants to feel cheap – or seem like a scrooge, especially during the holidays – "Good Morning America" went to the experts to help shed a light on who and how much customers should be tipping.

PHOTO: A person pays for food and drinks at cafe in this undated stock photo.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

After being inundated by requests for too many tips, Garrett Bemiller said he's felt the so-called tipping fatigue."

"I think that it's evolved to the point where everything is asking for tips," the 26-year-old said. "I will tip when I go out to eat at restaurants. I will tip when I order food – but I won't tip, and tend to turn it down, when it's something that I already know that they're getting, like, a full wage for."

New data from payroll provider Gusto reports that, as of November, service-sector workers in non-restaurant jobs made 7% less in tips this year versus a year ago – going from making $1.38 an hour in tips in 2022 to $1.28 an hour today.

Although tipping is down in some places, the holidays bring cheer for others, including workers in restaurant jobs. Gusto reported tips are now up by 3% from last November.

How much and when to tip, according to experts

"I think inflation is leading people to be especially stingy about how much they're spending," Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst for bankrate.com, told "GMA." "And I think that this proliferation of tip prompts is making people question the very nature of tipping."

He added, "a lot of the time, if you're being asked for a tip at the point of sale, it's up to your discretion. I think it's nice to be generous if somebody went above and beyond, but I don't think it's always expected."

Over the summer, industry leader and Union Square Hospitality Group Chairman Danny Meyer touched on the topic with CNBC, saying at the time, "If you're just taking out food, and it was just a transaction – I give you money, you give me a cup of coffee –- I don't think there's any obligation to tip whatsoever."

Shake Shack founder Meyer, who in 2015 famously pioneered a no-tipping policy at his restaurants, including The Modern, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, reintroduced tipping and a push for equitable wages in 2020 against the unpredictable backdrop of COVID-19 and city-wide shutdowns.

Holiday tipping habits and best practices

Experts like Rossman suggest that, particularly around the holidays, you can ultimately feel comfortable tipping any person who offers you a service to you that you find helpful. It's also not uncommon for people to go a bit beyond what they would normally tip.

For things like deliveries or door attendants, depending upon the level of service you feel they provide in that specific instance, experts say a flat sum is appropriate and can range anywhere from $10 to $100.

For babysitters, pet-sitters, hairstylists or other go-to people for specific regular services, a holiday tip of one day or one week's pay is commonplace.

For waiters and waitresses, if you typically leave 15% to 20% of your bill, you might consider leaving 20% to 25% this month.

As a final word of caution, experts suggest always keeping your own financial picture in mind to make sure you're not spending your entire holiday budget on tips.