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These are the worst tippers in America

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 9/12/2019 Quentin Fottrell

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“Give as if you were taking,” Hisham Matar, the Pultizer Prize-winning author of the memoir “The Return,” said his late father advised him. But not everyone follows that rule when dealing with members of the service industry, according to new research.

More than half of Americans aged 65 and over tip 20% or more at restaurants, the highest of any age group, the survey released Thursday by found. Women are better tippers than men and baby boomers are more generous tippers than millennials, according to the survey.

Baby boomers are more likely than millennials to tip restaurant servers and taxi or ride-share drivers (63% versus 40%), hair stylists (73% versus 53%), food delivery (72% versus 56%) and hotel housekeepers (33% versus 23%).

Why the differences? “Conventional wisdom says that if you have more money, you tip more,” said Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at “So maybe boomers have saved more money, or they have higher salaries if they’re still working.”

Government data concluding that women are paid 83 cents on the dollar compared with men might suggest that men would tip more rather than less. But that’s not the case. Rossman has a theory: “People who work in the service industry tend to be better tippers.”

For many people, tipping is a source of anxiety. “Almost everyone knows that it’s customary to tip at a restaurant,” Rossman added. “I don’t think most people know that it’s also expected with a hotel housekeeper and a barista.” Or, for that matter, the person who washes your hair.

Also see: Is this the worst tipper in America?

Case in point: More than half of U.S. adults (53%) said they give their kids’ teachers or child-care providers holiday tips at least on occasion. But a majority of people said they never give their trash/recycling collectors or mail carriers holiday gratuities.

A 2018 survey by the same organization found that diners in the South and West tend to tip less, while married people tip more than singles and more than half of Americans aged 65 and over tip 20% or more at restaurants, the highest of any age group.

Waiters have a median income of $21,780 per year or $10.47 per hour. While the growth rate for this industry is 6% a year, about the average for most U.S. jobs, “candidates seeking employment at upscale restaurants may face strong competition for jobs,” according to government data.

Russ Johnson, a retired septuagenarian manufacturing executive based in Louisville, Ky., is a champion tipper. After a conversation with a golfing buddy 10 years ago, he decided to stop donating to charities and start tipping 50% of the bill instead.

“I have convinced many of my friends to reduce donating to charities,” he told MarketWatch in 2017. “I would rather put money in the hands of people on the low end of the scale working their way up the ladder than in some bureaucrat’s hand who works for an organized charity.”

(Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator, gives a zero-star rating to groups that spend less than one-third of their budget on programs, and says seven out of 10 charities spend 75% of their budget on programs that are core to their missions.)


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