When should you leave a tip? Americans sound off on 'cultural pressure'

If you enjoy eating out, then you could be feeling growing cultural pressures around one of the service industry’s most controversial topics: tipping.

A recent report from the Associated Press indicated silent frustrations around quick-service and to-go establishments prompting customers for generous gratuities, sometimes as high as 30%, at places they wouldn’t usually tip.

Wall Street day trader Shaun MacDonald, 27, and nursing student and trauma unit CNA Addison Reed, 25, both work busy schedules and admit to eating out more than cooking at home. They sounded off on the "frustrating" expectation to tip for drive-thru or to-go services, claiming they run into the issue "all the time."

"Especially the drive-thru places," Reed told Fox News Digital. "I know Einstein Bagels does it where they just let you go through the drive-thru, and they just turn an iPad around and expect a tip out of the drive-thru, which is frustrating."

MacDonald, who grew up working in the restaurant industry, echoed similar sentiments, noting that he sees pre-generated tip options "a lot more often" at his frequent quick-service spots like Chipotle.

"None of those [restaurants] I would really think about tipping at unless it was above-and-beyond service, they help me out with something," he said. "I think it's a little ridiculous especially when they're advertising minimum wage between $13 to $15. Personally, I didn't get $15 minimum wage. I had an $8 minimum wage and barely any tips if I was lucky. So for them to be expecting that, I don't think that's necessarily right to be asking all the time."


Reed mentioned feeling the "social pressure" in places like Starbucks or a local juice bar, where workers request tips for selling a cup of coffee or bottled pressed juice. The nursing student admitted to tipping 15% on average for quick food services.

"The other day on my way to work, they flipped it around so I could tip them on the iPad for making a smoothie for me," Reed said. "I just chose the 15%. But she turned it around and she was standing right there, like watching me do it. So I felt kind of obligated to do it."

While both busybodies agreed they’d tip at a to-go establishment for good quality service, they also expressed that eating out has become as affordable as grocery shopping.

"If I'm mentally exhausted, the last thing I want to do is have to work even more to eat a meal, whereas I could just pay $10 extra for a tip and just go out," MacDonald told Fox News Digital.

Reed explained that doling out more dollars for a tip "never" influences her decision of whether to dine out or not.

"Whatever I'm in the mood for, whatever I want to eat, I'm going to go eat that if I have to tip or not," she said.

The Wall Street trader and nurse’s assistant conveyed that their only concern about automatic quick-service tips is whether the gratuity goes towards the server helping you, the store owner or corporate.

"I feel like if there's an automatic question to ask for tipping, there should be fine print stating where these tips go," MacDonald said. "It doesn't have to be huge, but it should be in writing on the screen saying these tips help out employees or these tips go to all employees, which includes management. It should be specified."

Olivia Kerwin, a full-time college student and server at an upscale restaurant in the West Palm Beach area, confirmed there is indeed a difference between tipping etiquette at a sit-down restaurant versus quick services.

"If I go through a drive-thru like Starbucks or if I pay in-app because now apps give you that option to tip, sometimes I'll leave like a dollar or two because I know that they do make an hourly wage," Kerwin told Fox News Digital Friday.

"As someone who works in the service industry, I don't discount the amount of work they actually have to do," she continued. "But I don't think that I need to leave a $10 tip on a $50 Starbucks order if I'm picking up coffee."

Kerwin claimed the unspoken baseline tip for waiters and waitresses is 20% if "everything went great," but she won’t tip the full 20% at places where "there’s not a whole lot of service going on."

"At my job, most of my tables sit for an hour-and-a-half to two hours. So I'm taking care of those tables to the fullest extent," the waitress pointed out.

When using the automatically-generated tipping options, Kerwin said that tips on your credit card could end up being split between delivery drivers, food runners and bartenders.

Her general do’s and don’ts when it comes to tipping your server includes remembering the 20% rule, telling your server ahead of time if you can’t tip in full, and – most importantly – being kind.

"Be kind and have compassion. It's a hard industry to be in. There's actually a shortage of people willing to work this job," Kerwin said. "And if you don't want to tip, because tipping is optional, just make sure you let your server know before they take care of you that you're planning on not tipping them."

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