Tipping is a bizarre practice but Americans seem to like it and it’s spread to much of the world where it didn’t used to be customary. But tipping practices vary even in the United States. Better for workers to be paid their full wage by their employer, and price listings to reflect the full cost of goods, services and experiences.
If you’re going to tip, tip for actual services provided. Tipping when picking up fast casual food ‘to go’ or when you’re in line buying food at a place where you’ll bus your own table just doesn’t make sense, the pre-populated tip percentages on the tablet you’re asked to pay with notwithstanding.
Nationally consumers are tipping:
- 16.9% on bills at quick-service restaurants
- 19.6% on bills at full-service restaurants
- 14.5% on takeout and delivery
Percentage of tips is misleading, though, because the base on which that percentage is calculated varies a lot. An expensive restaurant with a pricey wine list is different than sub-$20 meals. You’d expect higher percentage tips on lower bills, for instance $4 on $20 is 20%, but $100 on $800 is ‘only’ 12.5%.
According to data from restaurant management system Toast, the ‘top tipping states’ are:
1 Indiana: Avg. tip of 21%
#2 West Virginia: Avg. tip of 20.8%
#3 Ohio: Avg. tip of 20.7%
#4 Delaware: Avg. tip of 20.7%
#5 Kentucky: Avg. tip of 20.7%
#6 Wyoming: Avg. tip of 20.5%
#7 New Hampshire: Avg. tip of 20.4%
#8 Wisconsin: Avg. tip of 20.3%
#9 South Carolina: Avg. tip of 20.3%
#10 Pennsylvania: Avg. tip of 20.2%
And the bottom tipping states are:
#1 California: Avg. tip of 17.5%
#2 Washington: Avg. tip of 18.3%
#3 Florida: Avg. tip of 18.5%
#4 New York: Avg. tip of 18.5%
#5 Hawaii: Avg. tip of 18.8%
#6 Texas: Avg. tip of 18.8%
#7 Nevada: Avg. tip of 18.8%
#8 Louisiana: Avg. tip of 18.9%
#9 New Jersey: Avg. tip of 18.9%
#10 Arkansas: Avg. tip of 18.9%
I have to think that some of the bottom-tipping states have some of the highest dining bills (California, New York and New Jersey, Hawaii, Las Vegas) and so it may be that people in these states are actually tipping the most, not the least, even if the percentages are lower.
And it may be the case that dining in West Virginia and Kentucky skew fast casual, so higher percentage tips on a lower base bill. Are Ohioans especially generous tippers, or do they eat less expensive meals? We’d need more data from Toast about the restaurants on their platform in each state to say.
What they don’t tell you about is all of the other situations where people might tip. Marriott was first out of the gate trying to get you to pay the wages of housekeepers directly, to save hotels money, by leaving little envelopes in rooms.
But did you know that American Airlines customer service employees are allowed to accept perishable gifts worth less than $100? So pack those chocolates for your next trip. But don’t tip in Flagship First Dining and you’re not expected to tip in an American Express Centurion lounge but tipping at the bar and in the spa where offered is permitted.
The truth is that you can get away with rounding up, and doing whatever feels comfortable. The important thing is not to feel pressured about tipping, or be made to feel uncomfortable by the experience.