Americans Weigh In on the Tipping Process

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Average tip for restaurant service reported at 16%

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Tipping is a customary part of eating in a restaurant, although there is no widespread agreement on how much to tip. A recent Gallup Poll explored this aspect of the free-market economy with a random sample of Americans. According to the poll, 16% is the average percentage Americans consider appropriate for a restaurant tip, although most Americans choose either 15% or 20%. Nearly half of Americans say they have left a restaurant after eating a meal without tipping because of poor service. Women are more likely to favor giving larger tips than men are.

What Should You Tip?

The Dec. 11-14, 2006 Gallup Lifestyle poll asked Americans what the appropriate percentage of a restaurant bill to leave as a tip is. The two most popular tipping amounts are 15%, named by 37% of Americans, and 20%, named by 34%. Another 15% is on the stingy side when it comes to tipping, saying the appropriate amount is less than 15%. On the other extreme, only 2% believe a tip in excess of 20% is appropriate.

All in all, the average recommendation for a restaurant tip is 16.2%.

Women are more likely than men to favor giving larger tips at restaurants -- 41% of women and 30% of men say that 20% or more of the bill is an appropriate tip.

Tipping attitudes also vary by income. Forty-nine percent of those in the highest income category say 20% or more is an appropriate tip, compared with 35% of middle income respondents and 25% of lower income respondents.

Ever Leave Without Tipping?

Of course, those percentages apply to a typical situation, but not all situations are typical. Many believe that excellent service should be rewarded with higher tips and poor service with lower tips. But are Americans willing to deliver the ultimate punishment for poor service -- no tip at all? The poll asked Americans if they have ever eaten at a restaurant and left without tipping because of poor service. Nearly half, 46%, said they have done this.

Tippers who are not as generous with their tips are especially likely to leave no tip for poor service. Among those who say an appropriate tip is less than 15%, 64% say they have not left a tip after eating a restaurant meal. That drops to half of those who believe an appropriate tip is 15%-19%, and only 35% who say an appropriate tip is 20% or more.

Senior citizens may be somewhat more tolerant of poor service than younger Americans. Just 35% of Americans age 65 and older have done so, compared with 49% of those below age 65.

Who Tips More?

Married couples do not always see eye-to-eye on various aspects of their lives, which may include tipping philosophies. The poll asked married respondents whether they tip more or their spouses tip more. Overall, 45% of those surveyed say they tip more than their spouse, with 23% saying less they tip less, and 30% volunteering that they tip the same amount as their spouse. Married men are nearly three times as likely to say they tip more than their wives (50% to 17%), while married women are only slightly more likely to say they tip more than their husbands (38% to 30%).

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,010 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec.11-14, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ¬Ī3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For results based on the sample of 597 adults who are currently married, the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī4 percentage points.

19. Generally speaking, what percent of a restaurant bill do you think is an appropriate tip?

2006 Dec 11-14

%

Less than 15%

15

15%

37

16%-19%

6

20%

34

More than 20%

2

 

No opinion

6

 

Mean

16.2

Median

15

20. (Asked of adults who are currently married) When it comes to tipping, -- [ROTATED: do you usually tip more than your spouse, (or) does your spouse usually tip more than you]?

BASED ON 597 ADULTS WHO ARE CURRENTLY MARRIED

Tip more
than spouse

Spouse
usually tips
more

Same
(VOL.)

No
opinion

2006 Dec 11-14

45%

23

30

3

(vol.) = Volunteered response

21. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and left without tipping because of poor service, or have you never done this?

           

Yes,
have

  No, have
  never done

  No
  opinion

2006 Dec 11-14   

46%

  53

  1

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