Special Report

27 Things You Should Never Tip On

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Tipping culture in the United States has always been a problem, but after the COVID-19 pandemic, it has grown out of control. If you feel overwhelmed by how many places now ask for tips, and how high the suggested tips have become on digital kiosks, you’re not alone. Everywhere from grocery stores to online markets have tried to get you to include a tip on your purchase. It’s understandable you might be looking for any excuse to not tip, and feel good not doing so. So, here are 27 things you should never tip on.

Tipping Culture in the United States Today

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The face after a small tip.

What started out as a small gesture of gratitude for a job well done has mutated into a corrupt practice of labor exploitation. Modern tipping is a scam that large corporations use to get out of paying a living wage to their employees.

Tipping is now a tool that restaurants (and now most large service companies) use to force the burden of paying their employees fair compensation onto their customers. In some states, servers are paid as low as $2.13 per hour, with the rest of their livelihood resting on the generosity of the customer. In no reality is that a fair and humanitarian system.

The excuse that paying employees a living wage will lead to sky-high prices for a cheeseburger also doesn’t fly. In every developed Western country where companies are forced to pay a fair, livable wage, and where tipping is not allowed, the cost of a comparable meal is the same or even lower.

That being said, tipping is the system we have now, and refusing to pay a tip after your meal is punishing the server for a system we are all forced to live in. If you want to go to a restaurant to eat, you are assuming the cost of the tip as part of your evening. It is not negotiable. Someone else’s life isn’t a bargaining chip you can use to complain about too much ice in your drink. If you can’t afford the tip for your meal, then you can’t afford to go out.

However, there are many things you don’t have to tip for, and some you should never tip for at all. Rich folks like to make a point of how much they tip for every little thing. Don’t feel pressured. These are 27 things you can feel entirely justified not tipping for.

#27 Anything That Does Not Include Human Interaction

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Don’t tip if you do self-check-out.

Checking in or checking out through a self-service kiosk implies that you don’t need human help with your task. If a company offers you a self-serve alternative for any service they provide, it is reasonable to expect that tips are not needed. Tips are meant to show appreciation for whoever helps you. Robots and kiosks do not want or need appreciation (yet!).

#26 Anywhere the Company Doesn’t Give the Tips Directly to Employees

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Wage theft is real. This includes tips.

Some companies keep all the tips customers pay. This defeats the entire purpose of the tip. If you patronize a company that does this, you have no obligation to pay any tip at all.

This is different from restaurants where tips are pooled and paid equally to servers and cooks. When in doubt, simply ask your server (or whoever is helping you) what the policy of the establishment is and how they prefer you pay your tip. They will be more than happy to help.

#25 Any Service Where it’s Not up to Standard (Except Restaurants)

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Don’t tip if your barber shaves you whole head by accident.

For most service jobs, a tip is appreciated if the job is up to standard. Most times the tip is small as just a show of appreciation. If the job performed (like a haircut, manicure, or home cleaning) is terrible, then nobody would expect you to tip for the service. The only exception would be for restaurants, where servers rely on tips to survive. If there is a real problem that you feel the need to withhold a tip, instead speak to a manager and explain the issue after paying your bill (with tip).

#24 When a Restaurant Includes Gratuity in the Bill

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Gratuity is another word for a tip.

Some restaurants include gratuity based on the size of your party. Others will automatically include a gratuity regardless. Check your bill at the end of the night to see if the cost of your meal includes gratuity. Ask your server if there is any doubt. If gratuity is included, don’t pay an extra tip (unless there are some exceptional circumstances that you feel compelled to do so).

#23 Non-Sitting Restaurants

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No server? No tip.

Juice bars, bagel shops, and other similar restaurants typically do not employ servers who are paid below minimum wage. They will, of course, always have a tip jar by the register. There is no need to tip, but of course, tips are always appreciated.

#22 Self-Service Food Restaurants

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Don’t tip here.

In some restaurants, you need to build or assemble your own meal. Salad bars, poké shops, and ice cream parlors where you pour your own soft-serve do not require tipping. This follows the same logic of self-check-out at grocery stores. If you’re doing the work of serving, then you’re the one who gets the tip.

#21 Almost Anything Anywhere in the Rest of the World

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They will laugh at your silly American custom if you try to tip in Europe.

Tipping is a distinctly American practice. In most other countries, tipping is seen as unnecessary and sometimes even offensive. In places like China, it will be seen as a sign of unwelcome pity that they need your money. In Fiji, which has a communal culture, it would be seen as recognizing one person’s work as a more valuable part of a communal effort. Do your research before traveling to find out the societal norms about tipping. Only in America do we largely allow companies to openly exploit their workers and force them to beg for tips to survive.

#20 Contract Services

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No tip needed!

Professionals know how to bill for their own services, or they work for a company that pays them a living wage. Plumbers, electricians, and other trade professionals neither expect nor need your tips. You can feel comfortable simply paying your bill in full after a job is complete.

#19 In-Flight Services

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The correct term is flight-attendant, not stewardess.

It may feel like an odd exception that in-flight attendants don’t get tipped, but keep in mind that delivering your drinks and peanut bags is only a small part of their job. They are paid for the full scope of their job, and tipping will only slow them down in the course of their other responsibilities.

#18 On a Cruise

Shady employment and cruises go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Cruises usually include gratuity in the bill. If you’re unsure, there is usually a floor manager on your ship you can ask about the details of how their employees are compensated. Cruise lines already operate in a grey area of legal labor practices, and including tipping would only further complicate the business of running a cruise line. If your cruise includes gratuity, don’t feel obligated to tip on top of it.

#17 Medical Procedures

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Let the doctor do their job, and look forward to the extremely high American medical bill after!

Don’t tip your doctors or dentist. That’s just weird. We should be thankful that tipping culture never poisoned the healthcare industry, in which doctors would be motivated to provide better care for someone they thought would tip more. Medical professionals are paid a salary in most places in the United States and do not need tips. Big medical procedures in America are going to leave you bankrupt anyway, no need to add a 10% tip on top of it!

#16 Anyone Who Earns a Salary

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Salaries should compensate fairly.

Salaried employees are, in theory, supposed to be compensated fairly for the job they perform. Some service employees are paid a salary, so you don’t tip them. If you are particularly satisfied with the job someone performed, you can always ask if tips are appreciated, but you can feel comfortable that you’re not doing anything wrong by not tipping.

#15 Any Hotel Service That Isn’t the Valet

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A valet at work.

Valets typically expect a small token of appreciation, but everything else is optional. Room service and other services don’t expect tips. If you don’t want to tip a bellhop, say you don’t need their help. Front desk employees and concierge don’t need your tips, either.

#14 Coffee

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No need to tip for your daily bread.

Coffee shops have become the famous symbol of tipping culture after the COVID-19 pandemic. People on both sides of the tipping issue have yet to reach a resolution. There are many who support increasing tips at coffee shops and making it a normal practice. For now, however, it is neither normal, expected, nor needed. Don’t feel compelled to tip when they swivel the digital keypad with a suggested amount.

#13 Fast Food

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Fast food has never been a place where you should tip. However, recently it has become more normal for employees to bring you your food where you’re sitting, raising questions about whether they need a tip or not. They do not. Tipping fast food workers inside or at the drive-thru is not an accepted practice. The wage they are paid for their services, while it may be insultingly low, is separate from your responsibility to pay your bill.

#12 Wedding Bartenders

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At normal bars, tips are common.

Bartenders at a wedding open bar, or any catered event, are paid in advance along with gratuity. They will, naturally, bring along their tip jar, but you can rest easy that they have already been paid for their services. If you’re unsure, simply ask whoever organized the event what the expectation is for tipping servers and bartenders.

#11 Anything That Asks for a Tip Over 25%

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Don’t give more money to companies that don’t need it.

Restaurants in America typically expect the highest tips, between 15% and 25%. You never need to pay anything more than this anywhere, for anything. It has become common for companies to suggest higher tips than this. Don’t feel pressured. If the tips go straight to the employee, then 20% is the most you should pay for a tip.

#10 If the Restaurant Says Tipping is Not Necessary

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A happy server is one who is paid fairly.

Some restaurants have begun to pay their employees a living wage. This means they have taken upon themselves the full responsibility of fairly compensating those who work for them. If they do, they might include a sign at the front of the restaurant or somewhere to let their American customers know that tipping is not needed. Please follow their suggestion and do not tip in these restaurants.

#9 Unsafe or Unprofessional Taxis/Rideshares

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Don’t tip if you were put in danger.

Your safety should always be your top priority. When in the back seat of a stranger’s car, you might feel some pressure to tip something in the hopes you make it back home alive. That pressure increases based on the unpredictable nature of your driver. That’s why it is good you can wait until after your rideshare trip to decide on a tip. In a taxi, it is a little less easy, but taxi drivers also have to abide by more laws and rules than rideshare drivers. If your ride was unsafe or unprofessional, withhold a tip.

#8 Food Trucks

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No need to tip here.

Food trucks are typically owned and operated by the owners. They don’t have servers that need to be tipped. It is not your responsibility to single-handedly keep your favorite food truck in business through tips. You’re already paying a premium for your street tacos or artesian crepes, you don’t need to add a tip for no reason.

#7 Takeout

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Don’t tip for work you do yourself.

Takeout used to follow the rules of fast food: if there’s no server, you don’t pay a tip. This included takeout from a sit-down restaurant (if they offered it). However, with the introduction of food-deliver apps, the waters got muddied. These apps give you the option of picking up the food yourself at the restaurant, yet they will still ask for a tip. You don’t need to tip for this food. The price of the service is included and the food price was already inflated. This tip will only go to the company that owns the app.

#6 Grocery Stores

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Don’t tip at checkout.

Do not tip at grocery stores, especially if you use the self-check-out. It may seem strange not to tip the person bagging your groceries, but you are not expected to. These employees are all paid minimum wage. Whether that minimum wage is ethical or livable is a separate question entirely.

#5 Lawyers, Accountants, and Other Services

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Tipping your lawyer probably looks really shady.

Some professionals do provide better services based on how much they are paid, but those prices do not include tips. It is not normal, expected, or acceptable to tip professionals you hire to provide these kinds of services. There are always exceptions to the rule, and those exceptions are usually negotiated as part of a contract agreement within a company. For you, however, do not expect to tip your lawyer after they spare you from serving jail time. Though a thank-you card might be appreciated.

#4 Government Services

Don’t hand cash to police, please.

Tipping government employees is called a bribe, and bribes are illegal. This includes police, firefighters, DMV employees, and postal workers. Handing cash to government employees is a great way to bring unwanted government attention to your home. Don’t tip them, no matter how good you look in your new license picture.

#3 Online Services

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Large online retailers should not ask for tips.

Don’t tip online. Tipping online is a scam to get you to pay more for something. Most online stores are automated, anyway, so your tips go straight to the pockets of millionaires and billionaires. If you are buying from a boutique shop or from an artist with an online store, you can ask them what their policy for tips is.

#2 Restroom Attendant if You Don’t Need Anything

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A public restroom.

Fancy restaurants and hotels sometimes have a restroom attendant at the door. They might hand you a towel, help with wardrobe adjustments, or something else. If you go to the restroom just to adjust your makeup or fix your hair, you don’t need to tip these attendants. You will feel the pressure to do so, especially since they stand next to the door, but a simple ‘thank you’ will suffice.

#1 Commission-Based Jobs

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Don’t tip on your new car.

Commission-based jobs know how much they need to make per sale to survive. Anything you buy from a commissioned professional will include a premium for their time and effort. Whether you’re buying a service or product, tips are not needed.

Car salesmen are already scam artists, so adding a tip to the system would probably make their heads explode! Commission-based jobs are usually used to avoid paying a regular salary to employees, anyway. They are marketed as a means of motivating employees, but usually just end up costing the customer more money while the employee gets paid less.

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