John & Shari: Inflation has forced some people to adjust their tipping habits

Mar 24, 2022, 10:13 AM
diner, tip...
Inside a diner in New Jersey before the return of indoor dining in September 2020. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Inflation is driving up prices on nearly everything, and it seems to be leading some people to tip less.

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“Now when you go to have that little transaction occur after you get yourself something to eat at a restaurant and they give you [the option of] 15%, 20%, 30%, what do you want to tip the waiter, waitress, bartender? People are making adjustments there,” KIRO Newsradio host John Curley explained.

According to new data from Square as reported by The Wall Street Journal, when COVID-19 cases were surging and stay-at-home orders were in place, many customers were more generous in their tipping.

“People kind of felt bad for people who worked in restaurants because they knew that restaurant traffic was down and that servers weren’t making nearly as much money,” Shari said.

Additionally, since so many people were staying home, they were spending less money, so they became bigger tippers, she said, sometimes adding up to 30% on a takeout order.

“They were really being very, very generous,” Shari said.

“Well now, because people are out and about more, things are getting back to normal, they’re spending more money, and there’s inflation, they’re finding that tips are going down pretty significantly,” she added.

The only place tips have stayed steady, Shari says, according to the data, is when eating in a restaurant.

“With everything else, they’re kind of skimping a little bit,” she noted.

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John says he, personally, is not adjusting his tipping based on inflation, and is still a “great tipper.”

“If you go to, say, a Starbucks, and they just pour you a cup of coffee — they don’t do anything special, they don’t make whipped cream and all kinds of other stuff, just a plain old cup of coffee — do you tip?” Shari asked.

“Yes, I do,” John said. “… It’s 20% for that, 30% at Mike’s Tavern, 30% over at the Caboose. Just generally, I want to be known as the rich guy in town, tipping people 30%.”

“You frequent these places so you get a reputation if you’re not a good tipper, so you have to do that,” Shari said. “But let’s say nobody knows you, you go out of town, you have a drink somewhere, then are you still a good tipper?”

“Nobody knows me?! That’s rich,” John joked.

“OK, so everybody’s blindfolded and they can’t see how famous you are and you can get away with not tipping your usual 60%, are you still a good tipper?” Shari asked.

“Outside of town, if nobody knows me, I go somewhere, no, I’m down to 15%,” John admitted.

John says when he’s at a fast food restaurant though and is given the screen where you can choose a percentage, he typically chooses the middle, which is often 20%.

“What happened to 10%? Ten percent doesn’t even show up on the little spin around thing,” he said.

“You can also pick ‘no tip,'” Shari told him.

“That’s rich,” he replied, with a laugh. “You have to tip!”

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 3pm for John Curley and Shari Elliker.

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John & Shari: Inflation has forced some people to adjust their tipping habits