Americans may complain about the new tipping rules, whatever exactly they are, but they’re paying anyway.

Figures payment processor Square provided to NBC News show that tipping frequency at full-service restaurants grew 17% in the fourth quarter of last year compared to the same period in 2021, while tipping frequency Tips at quick-service restaurants increased 16%. Restaurants considered quick-service, such as cafeterias and fast-food chains, generally do not offer wait service, the company said.

Square found that those tip increases added to third-quarter profit for both types of establishments.

TJ Horn, a 41-year-old construction worker living in Boston, said a 20% tip has been his standard minimum since the lockdown era, even on a $3 cup of coffee.

“It’s just become commonplace and expected in my brain,” said Horn, adding that having friends in the restaurant industry softened his outlook on tipping. “I see how much abuse they receive on a daily basis.”

The jump in tipping frequency comes despite a period of record inflation that has reduced the discretionary income of many consumers. And it coincides with a shift toward spending on services and experiences, like travel and dining out, during the recovery from the pandemic recession.

Economic changes in recent years may have helped shape attitudes like Horn’s, consumer experts say.

“Great disruptive moments reset habits,” said Americus Reed, Whitney M. Young Jr. Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The big part is just noticing and appreciating the human contact. If we receive really great service and you have a really great connection with a service provider, it fills you with joy,” she said. «It’s almost like a chemical reaction: You’re paying for that dopamine hit.»

But that doesn’t mean that all customers who have tipped more frequently do so solely out of the goodness of their hearts.

Point-of-service, or POS, systems that restaurants are increasingly using to process payments have made it easier than ever for customers to offer, and businesses to request, tips, experts said.

“People don’t like to waste cognitive resources,” said Deidre Popovich, an associate professor of marketing at Texas Tech University. “These retailers have gotten better at giving us those default options to trigger that tipping behavior.”

in a recent survey Of restaurant executives in the Hospitality Technology industry group, 71% of respondents said that using data to «understand guest preferences and behavior» was their primary reason for making POS upgrades. For 57%, enabling new payment options was paramount.

Those devices and software also give businesses more ways to gauge tip amounts. For example, managers can set tip percentages that customers can choose from and even include a certain selection in the subtotal by default.

Not everyone likes that, and some consumers have complained on social media about «tip inflation.»

“This is your job. She is getting out of hand,” she said. a Twitter user who said they recently refused to tip on a Starbucks order.

«At the cafe, I press ‘no tip’ on the little iPad while maintaining eye contact with the barista,» other posted, as if chronicling their defiance of what is sometimes awkward social interaction.

So far, the increase in tipping frequency suggests that the resisters remain a minority faction. Even if some find POS shoving irritating, many are likely to add a tip anyway.

I can help where I can, but you don’t tip the CVS employee for taking the bottle of aspirin and giving it to you.

tyler cooper

Tyler Cooper, 34, who lives in Oakland, Calif., and works as a technology marketer, said he has noticed that the default selection of tips at quick-service stores «continues to increase.» He said he adds tips for complicated orders, but is frustrated with what he sees as a growing expectation to subsidize workers’ wages.

“I make a good living, so I can help where I can,” he said, “but you don’t tip the CVS employee for taking the bottle of aspirin and giving it to you.”

However, consumers do not necessarily tip more generously. POS operator Toast found that the average tip of around 19% in its systems has been basically flat for much of the past 12 months. Even tips at quick-service restaurants have held steady, hovering just under 17% in the second and third quarters of last year as inflation picked up.

“Tips are still slightly higher compared to just before the pandemic in 2019,” a Toast spokesperson added.

hannah dough
Hanna Masse. Shane Dubois

Hannah Mase, a 25-year-old barista at Lobos Coffee Roasters, an Orlando-based coffee shop, said a customer recently tipped 14 cents when prompted on the touchpad. Mase said that while she believes the American tipping culture is «kind of ridiculous» in the absence of more equitable wagesthe tip often comprises a substantial part of your paycheck.

Of the $765 he earned during the last two-week pay period, at his base wage of $10.50 an hour, $263 came from combined tips.

“We’re not making something out of nothing, we’re making something out of all the ingredients that we have here,” said Mase, who is also studying for a recording arts degree at nearby Full Sail University. «Exactly how much someone makes per hour at a local coffee shop isn’t advertised, but those tips are very helpful.»

Many consumers described finding tip notices without wait service as «inconvenient.» Even users who are willing to add to their tabs said they aren’t sure when to tip and how much.

Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of the Texas School of Etiquette, recommends tipping in most situations, but said consumers looking to deflate their anxiety at the register may wonder: Did they give me a reason to tip? tip?

“Were they friendly? Do they know your name? she said. «It’s not required, but I encourage you to be generous when possible.»