The new rules of tipping in the age of ‘tipflation’

Customer places cash in tip jar

You’ve just ordered a muffin and an overpriced latte at a coffee shop. The teenager at the counter types in your order, swipes your debit card and turns the electronic keypad to face you. It’s time to choose your tip amount: Will you tip 15%, 20% or 30%? Or will you be a total miser and tap “No tip”?

Welcome to the world of tipflation — the term people use to describe the expansion of tipping over the last few years. Customers are expected to tip in places where tips were never requested before (or if they were, it was via an unobtrusive tip jar that could be easily overlooked). And the amount that people are expected to tip has also risen.

“Traditionally, the tipping percentage was considered to be 15%,” Jules Hirst, an etiquette and lifestyle coach, told Best Life. “Now, 18% is the new norm and can go as high as 20% to 22%.” And as for those digital tipping screens? “Consumers are facing [them] in locations where they never tipped before and are having a hard time knowing how to handle it.”

So it’s no wonder that in a recent survey, 66% of Americans were found to have a negative view of tipping. A large number of respondents (41%) believe that businesses should pay their workers more, rather than relying on customers to subsidize their earnings. And nearly a third (32%) say they are frustrated by digital tip screens specifically, where it’s increasingly common for establishments to suggest up to 30% in tips. Americans are already grappling with higher prices due to inflation, so being guilted into tipping can feel uncalled for.

MORE: This is why I always tip servers 20% at restaurants

With that said, the fact remains that many businesses do rely on customers to boost their employees’ salaries through tipping. “If I don’t get at least 20%, I struggle to pay my bills,” Kathleen Caspersen, a server at Bull City Ciderworks in Greensboro, North Carolina, told Bloomberg. “The right amount is 20% to 30%.”

And Dylan Schenker, a barista in a Philadelphia cafe whose employer pays him $15 an hour, told the Associated Press that he finds it hard to sympathize with customers who have the expendable income to buy fancy coffee but don’t want to leave a tip as well.

Etiquette expert Jodi RR Smith agrees about tipping according to your station. Those with the means to regularly buy $8 coffee drinks probably have enough to tack on another $2 for the barista. “If you are going to fancier salons, receiving more deliveries, frequenting nicer restaurants, and traveling to posher vacations, you will need to increase your tipping budget to cover the services you are enjoying,” she told Best Life.

“The most important thing to remember is that you can always say no to tipping,” Hirst said — and a coffee “doesn’t necessarily require a tip … It would be generous, but you must take into account your personal financial situation.”

Here’s a rundown of the latest trends in the age of tipflation.

How Much To Tip a Barista


Most coffee shops will give you tipping options (on payment screens) of between 10% and 30%. The standard amount to tip a barista is between 15% and 20% for hand-crafted coffee drinks and at least $1 for a cup of drip-brewed coffee.

MORE: The best espresso machines

How Much To Tip a Cashier at a Food Service Counter


In this case, when all the employee did was, say, hand you a sandwich, provide a small tip of 5% to 10% using the “custom tip” option. “I don’t think tips are expected in these cases but rather facilitated by the software being used in the POS [point-of-sale] systems,” Bruce Mattel, senior associate dean of restaurant education and high-volume production at The Culinary Institute of America, told Eating Well.

How Much To Tip a Hairstylist


Prior to the age of tipflation, the norm was to tip your hairstylist 20%, unless he or she owned the salon, in which case you didn’t need to tip. The new normal is that you always tip 20%, whether or not your hair stylist owns the salon. If your stylist has an assistant, you should tip them between $5 and $20. Also, give a few dollars to the person who washes your hair.

How Much To Tip a Lyft Driver or Uber Driver


As long as your driver arrived on time and drove you to your destination safely, you ought to tip 15% to 20% of the fare. Also, pay an extra $2 if they carried a bag for you (and $1 for each additional bag).

How Much To Tip the Pizza Delivery Person


The standard amount is $2 to $3 per pizza. But take a look at your bill and make sure that the tip adds up to at least 10% of the total.

MORE: The best countertop pizza ovens

How Much To Tip a Bartender


The industry standard is to tip $1 to $2 per drink. But the fancier the cocktail, the more you should tip. So if you’re about to sip on a mojito or an old fashioned, make sure to tip at least $2.

About the Author

Jennifer Graham Kizer

Jennifer has written features and essays for over a dozen magazines, including American Baby, Cosmo, Cosmo Girl, Fit Pregnancy, Good Housekeeping, Health, Marie Claire, Parents, Parenting, Redbook, Self, Teen People, TV Guide, and YM. More.

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