Whether you’ve worked in the food industry or not, friendly service is always appreciated. There’s even an unwritten rule about tipping: the better the service, the more generous your tip.
The income of many who work as servers or bartenders relies heavily on how much customers tip. While tipping isn’t mandatory, the question of how much can’t be answered with a simple Google search. America’s tipping practice has been a fierce debate with varying opinions for centuries. Tipping etiquette has never been simple, but what is the right thing to do?
The U.S. States That Tip the Most and the Least
The standard tipper leaves between 15% to 20%, but servers everywhere will be happy to know that some states are going above and beyond.
Diners in New Hampshire and Ohio are the most generous with over 19% of tippers in each state tipping 25% or higher after eating a well-cooked meal. The South, most famous for its hospitality and manners, shows it in tips. North Carolina and Alabama proved to be big tippers, with 16% and 15.7% of residents respectively tipping 25% or higher. But hospitality isn’t something exclusive to people from this region. Iowa, the Hawkeye State, tied Alabama with 15.7% of residents tipping 25% or higher.
On the other end of the spectrum, California has the stingiest tippers, with 74.5% of residents tipping their servers 15% or below, followed by Oregon where 52% tip 15% or less. Idaho, Maryland, and Wisconsin may be puzzled about the “right” amount to leave, given that 50% of diners leave little to no tip.
You may find the gap between the minimum wage and what people tip in their respective states surprising. Making a decent wage in the service industry can be a struggle. The tipped minimum wage can be lower than the general state minimum wage depending on what state you live in. Federal Labor Law allows workers to be paid a lower wage as long as their total earnings, including tips, add up to at least the minimum wage. If the direct wages of $2.13 per hour plus the employer’s tips don’t add up to the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, California and Oregon must pay tipped employees full state minimum wage before tips, which is $14 per hour and $12.75 per hour respectively, and these are the top 2 states that happen to tip the least. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the top 5 states that tip the most, New Hampshire, Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama, and Iowa, all pay tipped employees at or slightly above what the minimum Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires, which is $2.13 per hour. Therefore, it could be the case that patrons tip less in states like California and Oregon where tips may be seen as added income rather than supplemental income to meet minimum wage requirements.
Other industries, like hotel cleaners or coffee shop baristas, usually make minimum wage. Typically, their tips are based on rewarding their customer service and supporting the business.
Tipping by Circumstance
A general rule of thumb is if you sit down to enjoy a meal, you should always tip your server — 87.8% agree. However, does the obligation shift when ordering carry-out? Most people would say yes. 71.1% aren’t tipping carry-out employees, whereas only 28.9% do.
Admit it: Sometimes we’re too lazy to pick up our food, and that’s okay. There are dozens of great dining options at your fingertips in this fast-paced world and the pandemic only doubled the amount of food delivery orders. With the growing popularity and demand of food delivery apps, convenience comes at a price, but you will be happy to know that 91.4% of Americans are still tipping their delivery drivers despite the various fees.
Although it’s common to tip many other service professionals, like bartenders and servers, what about drivers? When it comes to travel, tipping etiquette leaves a lot of people stumped. Do you tip the concierge at your hotel or the rideshare driver who drove you there from the airport? Turns out 72.7% of Americans do tip their rideshare drivers in addition to the cost of the ride. What about the maid who cleans your hotel room? Unlike the rest of the industries, hotel services, such as housekeeping, do not directly interact with people. Due to less face-to-face time, hotel workers are tipped the least, with only 41.4% of guests tipping.
The Best and Worst Tippers in America
The younger generations tend to use delivery and rideshare applications more frequently, but have they reached their tipping point? 15% of Generation Z don’t feel inclined to tip for delivery jobs, while 35% don’t tip their rideshare drivers.
Tipping is a common practice and often expected, but 30% of people think it’s okay to enjoy a meal out at a restaurant even if you can’t afford to tip. Over half (56%) believe businesses should raise employee wages to replace tipping. 67% of Millennials agree, even though almost half (47%) tip in cash. At the same time, 48% of respondents follow the unwritten tipping rules and would take a tip away for lousy service.
Customers were encouraged to be more generous with their tips during the pandemic. When the country was in lockdown, essential workers were applauded for their efforts to care for others and keep the economy going. Over 65% of people feel the need to tip more since the onset of COVID-19.
The most generous tippers tend to have worked in the service industry before. Over a third of women tip more because they understand what it’s like being a server. Others need a glass of liquid courage or 2 to start feeling generous — 25% of respondents say they tip more when they’re tipsy.
We surveyed 3,500 people across the U.S. for a week for our study. We asked participants questions about their tipping habits and emotions towards it to determine which states tip the most and the least. However, due to a lack of responses, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming weren’t included.
Tipping is a staple in the service industry, but how much you should tip remains one of the most fiercely debated topics. The general rule is to leave between 15% and 20%. Even if the service is poor, it’s recommended to leave something. But for most, how well you’re serviced determines the tip.
Our study showed most people always tip when dining out or ordering delivery, but the act becomes questionable to other service providers. The bigger tippers reside in New Hampshire, Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama, and Iowa, while residents of California, Oregon, Idaho, Maryland, and Wisconsin tip the least.