Is the Tipping Culture in America Out of Control?

August 21, 2023

Tip culture has become part of everyday life. Are there any places you SHOULDN’T tip at? Does it pay to always be a generous tipper?

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However, there is another little silent thing that’s going on right now. If you are someone who eats out or you go to coffee shops, or you really buy any goods out there in public, there is a new phenomenon worth noting. They have gotten very clever and subliminal in how they approach getting more dollars out of your wallet. We even have a clip, and then I’ll share my comments after this clip. Alright, check this out.

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This is the thing I find interesting, Bo. We haven’t reached the point where your accountant is asking for tips or your doctor is asking for tips. However, I will tell you, and I don’t mean to single out my West Coast people, but isn’t Shake Shack from the West Coast? We might have some here, but I think so, yeah. I know I’ve been there. I went to the Shake Shack and ordered at a kiosk. After I ordered my food and didn’t talk to a person—just ordered at this kiosk—it had the whole thing. The default, I think, was 20. That’s when they defaulted the tip. I was like, “What?” Because I was thinking, “Okay, well, maybe, you know, here’s the way my brain works,” and you all can blast me for being cheap on this, but if it’s a counter service meal but they bus the table, I think it’s worth ten percent. Because it’s a fast-casual restaurant, a lot of them are counter service. But if they bus your table for you—meaning after you finish your meal and get up and walk away—I’m gonna tip you ten percent. So, when they have a 20 percent default and you have to… It blows my mind. But it wasn’t even just that, by the way. Because I can’t even remember how much I tipped, but I fell prey to it. Then I sat down, and I thought they’d bring me the food, you know. Fast-casual, a lot of times they’ll bring you the food. Nope, they call your number out. You walk up to the counter, you pick up your food, then you sit down, you eat your food, all the condiments are over there. I ate my food, and after you eat your food, you have to get up and go take your trash over to the thing. I was like, “What the heck did I tip for?” This is the culture we’re in. The only thing I disagree with is whether we put this in the “Things You Control” versus “You Don’t Control.” The uncontrollable part is that everybody’s trying to get in your back pocket with this tip culture. I think that at some point you have to be prepared. I’ve kind of reached that point now, and that is I’m not going to just tip people 20 to 25 percent on the natural. Look, I am very generous. Anybody who’s ever waited on me, if you have, you can put it in the comments. I’m very generous. But I am, if it’s going to be counter service and other things like that, I’m going to make sure that I’m doing my part to not let this thing get out of hand. Because I do feel like it’s gotten out of hand. So, there’s a unique social contract that exists when someone says, “Hey, I just want to ask you a quick question,” they flip it over. Something in our brain makes us think, “Oh, well, I have to respond in kind. I have to select.” And a lot of times, they will default, like you said, to 20 or 25 percent. We’re not suggesting that tipping is bad. We are not suggesting that you should not tip. By all means, you should be generous with your dollars if that’s a goal you have. However, don’t fall prey to the mental tricks of, “Hey, I want to ask you a question,” to flip it over. There’s a tip button simply for the sake of more money flowing out of your back pocket. Be intentional with your dollars. Make sure if you’re leaving a tip, if you’re paying someone for a service they provide, you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Don’t just default. Because, interestingly enough, if you were to do a study and look at all the default tips that would have been left, if you don’t advocate for yourself, you’d be shocked at how much it will add up to. All we’re saying is be intentional, be purposeful, understand where your dollars are going. That’s something inside your control.

Yeah, I would just educate yourself. Once again, an ounce of preparation is going to pay tremendous dividends. Nothing’s wrong with tipping. I don’t want that to be the takeaway. I just want you to tip what is appropriate and what you’re supposed to, not because they’re playing crazy psychological tricks on you by flipping over the screen and putting 25 percent as the default on something that maybe should be ten percent, or in Shake Shack’s situation, zero percent because I did all the work. I mean, I was one step away from flipping the burger in the place. I haven’t gone back, by the way. I wouldn’t tip them if you—It was not the greatest experience, but maybe it’s all my West Coast… By the way, I looked around the restaurant. It was all because half of our neighborhood is California, Chicago, and I think they all just crave the homeland of California, and that’s how this place is staying in business. For more information, check out our free resources.



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