Etiquette experts tell us how to deal with ‘guilt tipping’

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 10:13 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Has this ever happened to you? You finish ordering at a coffee shop and they spin the iPad around asking for a tip? It seems to happen more and more these days. Do you tip or say no thanks? We spoke with an etiquette expert on how to handle something known as “guilt tipping”.

When it comes to tipping on purchases made outside of a full-service restaurant, like at coffee shops for example, some people are on the fence about it.

“Sometimes I tip just because they’re nice to me, but seriously, I don’t feel pressure,” Susan Paquettte, a tipper said.

“You didn’t do anything, I just walked up to the window and bought it, but you turn it around for me to leave you a tip. OK,” Leslie Gray said.

“I always feel like I’m suckered in. I got to give something. I’m under pressure a little bit,” Vershion Butler said.

It’s called “guilt tipping.” Tip jars are disappearing and being replaced with touchscreen tablets recommending tips after you make a purchase. The worker behind the counter usually waits on you to make a move.

“Really what happens is it causes for so many people so much confusion and among that feeling is a feeling of guilt if they don’t tip,” Diane Gottsman, a nationally renowned etiquette expert in Texas said.

So how do you handle that?

“Don’t worry about anyone else around you. Think about the service that you received. Much like a tip jar,” Gottsman said.

A recent survey finds 17% of Americans say they were tipping less due to rising costs. On average, Americans are tipping nearly 20% for sit down meals. Gratuities drop to around 14% on other goods and services. Gottsman says if an employee just hands you a packaged good or something else then you don’t have to tip.

“I don’t want to discourage tipping. I think tipping is a generous gesture, but you tip because you want to, you don’t tip because you feel pressured,” Gottsman said.

Crystal Peterson, co-owner of Yo’ Mama’s in downtown Birmingham, gets it. She says she doesn’t pressure people into tipping.

“I’ve had plenty of people that hit the zero button. But I never even mention it. I always say you have one more question and if you want to tip you do,” Peterson said.

When you have a relationship with the person behind the counter at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant, that changes the game. Gottsman feels you should probably tip them.

Yo’ Mama’s is popular because Peterson does have that relationship with almost every customer.

“I’m going to give you good customer service whether you give me a dollar or not because I just want you as a customer. We just try and make them feel like they’re at home, like when they walk in the door, they feel like they walked in at home, took their shoes off and they are getting a meal,” Peterson said.

Gottsman tells us bottom line - if you are seated for a sit-down meal, a tip is part of the service. But a quick back and forth at the counter requires less of a tip. She also says kindness and courtesy to employees and vice versa goes a long way.

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