Tipflation is real: Average American feels pressured into tipping extra $500 each year

NEW YORK — Feeling the pinch of “tipflation”? A new poll finds that Americans are shelling out an extra $500 annually just by caving to the awkward pressure of being asked to tip for every little service they pay for.

A survey of 2,000 Americans examining just how much tip increases may be impacting our wallets finds the average respondent reluctantly tips $37.80 a month — mostly due to the pressure coming from digital payment systems that ask shoppers to leave a tip for the server. That figure equates to $453.60 a year in guilt-induced gratuities, with over a quarter (26%) feeling they are always or often forced to tip more than they would like.

The survey, conducted by Talker Research, finds the average respondent tipped more than they’d like to on six occasions in the last 30 days alone. Whether it’s the watchful eyes of a barrister, the hastily swiveled tablet, or the waiter handing you the card machine, more than half (56%) of respondents note that pressure to tip higher is a regular occurrence.

Black Payment Terminal with credit card
More than a quarter of Americans (26%) feel like they are forced to tip for services, the new survey reveals. (Photo by energepic.com on Unsplash)

Just 24 percent say it’s a rare experience for them to feel put on the spot when tipping. That might be why nearly half of those polled (49%) felt they’d noticed their options for tipping on tablets and digital devices increased in value in the last month alone.

Nearly a third (31%) say they’ve been asked to tip for a service they wouldn’t normally have considered tipping for in recent weeks. However, the concept of “guilt tipping” doesn’t necessarily hit equally. When examining the data generationally, Gen Z (16%) and millennials (16%) were almost twice as likely to say they “always” feel pressure to tip than older generations. 

Just nine percent of Gen X and only five percent of boomers felt the same constant tipping obligation. When purchasing specifically in-store, the pressure to tip eases the older a person is. A third of both Gen Z (33%) and millennials (33%) always or often feel pressured or end up feeling guilty about tipping compared to 23 percent of Gen X and just 13 percent of boomers.

Tipping pressure doesn’t always need a human presence — 23 percent of all those surveyed say they would likely leave a tip for service that required no human interaction, such as using a vending machine or a self-checkout kiosk at the grocery store.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans was carried out between April 3 – April 8, 2024. It was conducted by the market research company Talker Research, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).