Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tip inflation and tip shaming

In recent years, "tip inflation" and "tip shaming" have become legitimate issues, at least in North America.
Notwithstanding the ongoing problem of having to decide whether a tip of any kind is appropriate, generally speaking a tip of 10% would traditionally be considered low (but not an insult), 15% would be fairly standard, and 20% would be seen as generous or marking service above and beyond the call of duty.
However, more recently, and particularly in the United States, tipping rates have been on the increase, and tips of 20%, 25% and even 30% or 35% are more common. Recent data from Square, a popular digital payments system, shows that the average tip for taxis in the USA is now 16.5%, for food and beverages 17%, and for hair salons a whopping 18.6%.
At least part of the impetus for this hike is the advent of customizable payment screens with pre-calculated tip options. For example, Square's default top suggestions are no tip, 15%, 20%, and 25%. If, therefore, you see tip options of 20%, 25% and 30%, you know that the business owner has deliberately over-ridden those defaults (and notice that 10% is not even an option on the default settings!) We came across this very often on a recent trip to Hawaii, where digital payment systems like Square are immensely popular.
So, faced with an unpalatable selection of tip options after some distinctly so-so customer service, what is a fair-minded consumer to do? Most are too embarrassed to look for alternatives, and just tap one of the available options and swallow the cost. This kind of "tip shaming", though, leads to simmering resentment among consumers, and to even more tip inflation, thus snowballing the whole problem.
If you hate the whole idea of tipping, then many Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong typically do not expect tips and tipping may even lead to awkwardness and offence (although you can of course still tip - discreetly - for exceptional service), and this is also a common practice in several other countries including Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Estonia, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. And don't get me started on countries like France and Italy, which add in a "service compris" or "coperto" line on the bill, whatever the service was like!

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