I am (apparently) a lousy tipper.
That is the conclusion I would draw if I trusted the data in a new study just out.
- Female? (check)
- Southerner? (check)
- Democrat? (check)
Those knock out three of the four most common characteristics of a lousy tipper. (The fourth is paying in cash which I rarely do… thank you points and miles!)
Who is a Lousy Tipper?
The full report from CreditCards.com shares the characteristics of the best tippers:
- Baby Boomer
- Credit or Debit Card Users
The best tippers, on average, leave 20% of the total bill. The median tip is reported to be 18%.
Women tip less, according to the study, with a median tip of 16%. Southerners and Democrats are the poorest tippers with a median tip of only 15%.
The survey was based on a telephone poll of over 1,000 adults. 4 out of 5 report always leaving a tip.
Who Are the Best Tippers (and Who Leaves the Worst Median Tip)?
The study dives further into to demographics of tipping.
One commonly held belief when I waited tables was that some ethnic groups had the lousy tipper reputation. The study suggested that whites tip their restaurant servers 94% of the time. Conversely, only 82% of Hispanics and 78% of blacks report tipping their server all or most of the time.
Tipping rates vary by geography too. The median tip varies by the area of the country one lives in:
- Northeast – 20%
- Midwest – 20%
- West – 18%
- South – 15%
Survey data also suggests that older patrons are more likely to leave a larger median tip. Millennials only leave a median tip of 16% versus 20% for Baby Boomers. The study speculates that income may play a role in tipping data.
Cash payers are only likely to tip 76% of the time versus almost 90% for credit/debit card chargers.
Servers Weigh In – Who is a Lousy Tipper?
CreditCards.com asked servers to validate the data based on their own personal experiences. Interviewed servers agreed that white men tend to be the best tippers.
Servers agreed that younger people, particularly in large groups, tended to leave a smaller median tip.
What We Think About Tipping
I waited tables in our younger years. I definitely agree that generalizations about who is a lousy tipper can often be true. The best tippers often surprised me though. Sometimes I would assume I had a lousy tipper. I would instead get a great tip.
My experience with cash versus credit cards is not consistent with the study. I was often paid in cash by other service industry workers who tended to be the best tippers. I also wonder how much tax reporting bias may creep into server reports. Servers end up declaring all of their credit card tips. But cash tips tend to be underreported in my experience since they can be pocketed easily.
Credit card payers are also more likely to be turning expenses in for reimbursement or third-party billing. Individuals who will pass on a dining charge tend to tip more, in my experience.
I would have loved to have seen the study ask respondents whether they have worked in a service industry position. My anecdotal experience is that those who have worked for tips tend to be the best tippers. That data point alone could override all of the other demographic characteristics of respondents.
I think this study is interesting, but I don’t totally trust the validity of the study.
Do you think this median tip data is accurate based on your experiences? Are you a lousy tipper? Or one of the best tippers out there?