‘Tip creep’: notice a rise in requests at the register? Experts weigh in why

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 12:01 AM PST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Even hospitality workers in the Entertainment Capital of the World are at times puzzled by a rise in requests for tip at the register, but restaurant and economic experts explain why the trend continues at small and large businesses alike.

The term has been called “tip creep”: from takeout counters, drive-thrus and service spots, more businesses are offering a tip prompt at the register.

Tips make the world go round for plenty of folks in the culinary, resort and hotel industries in Las Vegas, and a minimum of 18% to 20% is expected for most workers; however, plenty in various industries have different opinions on how to treat register prompts for gratuity.

“[Unless they’re] providing an extending service and I don’t think I should tip or even feel obligated,” one chef said.

“I usually always do 20% That’s to me the standard. Holidays is 30%, said one mother of a server, who gladly tips at registers.

Dr. Stephen Miller of the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research said the pandemic trend has continued: folks who could not eat at restaurants would offer tips to workers instead. Businesses operating at full throttle continue to ask for tips.

“Worker trends haven’t changed,” Miller said. “The problem is not so much tipping-- it’s inflation,” Miller said, noting that businesses may lower base pay to cut overhead, and expect consumers to tip. Miller said studies show that Americans will tip as a cultural norm, no matter the level of service.

Starbucks workers recently called for tip prompts, leading to changes at registers across U.S. stores.

“Every restauranteur across North America is terrified at the prospect of sticker shock, and having to raise prices to the point where it scares diners off,” said Corey Mintz, author of The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes After. “Now they’re dealing with, in addition to rising labor costs, out-of-control inflation that is forcing everybody to raise it all,” he said. Mintz notes, if wages for workers rise, payroll taxes rise for businesses as well.

Mintz calls for livable wages for those in hospitality, and calls tips and the “tip creep” phenomenon the “tipping con.”

“The real scam of tipping is just the perception: how do we show gratitude for a job well done, or how we incentivize a workforce? That’s never been true. if that were true, how much do you tip your dentist? How much you tip your accountant? A police officer?” Mintz said.

So how much should you tip? Mintz always suggests 20% at the register, especially if customers do not know the true base pay. “Follow with up the owner-- the person responsible for that business decision. Ask them, What do you pay your people? Google what is a living wage wherever I live,” he said.