US still feeling effects of 'tip culture' following COVID-19 pandemic, professor says

Tip culture has evolved since the pandemic, with many consumers now wondering why they keep seeing a tip screen no matter what food or drink they buy.

"Tip creep," is what it's called and with more tip screens, people are having "tip fatigue." 

A business professor blames it on the pandemic and inflation

"I feel a little guilted into having to give it," says St. Louis native Mike Goldberg, "now I’m the kind of person, I give it every time."


Money in a tip jar in a Taos, New Mexico. (Credit: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Goldberg has noticed how often the tip screens are popping up, no matter where he buys food. But not everyone feels guilty if they don't tip. 

"No I don’t," says Mark Mclain, "especially pre-pandemic in spots where I wouldn’t be tipping, I have no problem not tipping, especially now."

One Charlotte business owner says tipping became more common during the pandemic, now, it helps with his operating costs. 

Tommy George owns Pasta & Provisions, a pasta specialty grocer. He says they recently switched to Italian flour, an authentic ingredient with a 50% higher price tag. 


"We’ve raised our prices once in the last two years, all our stuff has gone up in price, everything that we buy has been going up in price, so the tipping helps defray some of my payroll costs, a little bit."

The tip screen is on most automated systems. Clemson University's Associate Professor of Marketing, Angeline Scheinbaum says the switch from face-to-face interactions to automated systems has people wondering why they need to tip. 

"It’s not the service providers, it’s the shift in technology, and culture post-pandemic, and we got to account for inflation, that’s one of the reasons consumers are having this tip-fatigue," says Scheinbaum.

"I feel like sometimes it’s not warranted when they just hand me something from behind the counter," Goldberg says while rethinking his tipping habits. 

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However, George knows tipping can be overwhelming these days, but believes an extra dollar or two goes a long way. 

"In my mind it helps spread the wealth, but it’s a real tough question."

Bankrate, the financial research site did a survey in early 2023, finding 66% of people have a negative view of tipping. 

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