Tip Inflation

April 7, 2022


There has been much talk and trepidation lately about inflation. We are seeing prices rise in just about every sector of the economy. Housing prices, lumber, travel, food, gas, everywhere you look, prices are higher. There is one area of inflation that rarely gets noticed, and it might be affecting your budget more than others. That’s the policy of tipping.

I know there are people out there that are able to ignore when a worker has a hand out, but it’s getting harder and harder for many of us. Not so many years ago, tipping was limited to a doorman, waiter, waitress and the occasional babysitter. Debate raged some years ago about whether you should be tipping maids in hotels, now it’s, should we select 18%, 20% or 25% at the fast food counter. 

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Yes, technology has moved us to the point of being shamed into tipping. It was easy to pass up the tip jar at the deli counter, or just throw your extra change in it when you bought a coffee.  We are now expected to give a full size tip to the person handing you fries and a coke. Employees now can swing that register screen around and staring you in the face are multiple icons with suggested tips. Touch one and the high school senior, or possibly an actual senior, knows instantly if you are a hero or a zero. You almost expect the screen to light up green with a smiley face if you tip 25% or frown with flashing red lights throughout the restaurant if you push no.

Technology has passively empowered most everyone to ask for a tip. Even grocery stores are asking for extra money when you check out.  Soliciting donations while paying for your groceries has become common place. What’s next, tipping at the gas pump? Gas pumps ask all types of questions before you can remove the nozzle: Do you want a car wash? Would you like to apply for credit card or add a snack? What’s next? Would you like to tip the attendant that cleans the bathroom?  

Coins-GraphAnd tips aren’t static. As prices rise, so do tips. That restaurant bill you paid last year for $50 that is now $70, is an additional $14 out of your pocket for the tip. Then there are bigger items. Get a massage at a spa and fork out $150; that’s a $30 tip. As spa services rise to $200 and its now a $40 tip for the same service. Private ski lessons are now topping $1,000. Yes, instructors expect a $200 tip. Where does it stop? Don’t carry cash? No problem. It seems like everyone in the service industry has a Venmo account to accept tips. They know you are likely to tip more electronically. 

You can’t get away from tipping these days. Sitting at a bar having a drink as a guitar gently weeps? Forget the tip jar, they accept tips by PayPal. Having a sandwich delivered to the office by Door Dash? The app will suggest the tip before you take a bite. 

We are a far cry from the days when your father left a quarter on the counter for that cup of coffee. You think gas prices are high? Start adding up your annual tips. 

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