Tipping is, by definition, optional. But let’s face facts: it’s absolutely necessary for anyone who doesn’t want to live life as a total dick.
That’s why, as a millennial male, a new survey of American’s tipping habits from CreditCards.com is so disheartening. It found that women are more likely than men to always tip hairstylists (66 percent versus 60 percent), wait staff (80 percent versus 74 percent) and food delivery people (66 percent versus 59 percent).
The divide between Millennials and Boomers—their generational nemeses—is even worse. Wait staff (89 percent versus 66 percent), cab and rideshare drivers (63 percent versus 40 percent), hairstylists (73 percent versus 53 percent), food delivery people (72 percent versus 56 percent) and hotel housekeepers (33 percent versus 23 percent) are more likely to get a tip from a Boomer than a Millennial.
The only good news about millennial men is that those of us who do tip tend to tip better. Men who tip leave a percentage point more than women, and Millenials who leave a gratuity leave 22 percent, way better than the 17 percent a typical Boomer leaves.
The survey doesn’t quite prove why these differences exist, but experts have their theories. Ted Rossman, an analyst with CreditCards.com, says that he thinks Millenials have a “cultural aversion” to tipping, citing a separate survey that shows their generation is most willing to pay higher menu price and eliminate tipping altogether, suggesting that simply being cheap isn’t the issue.
Boomers also enjoyed a much more stable economy and greater government benefits than Millenials, meaning they likely have more money to spend and, given their advanced age, they’ve simply had more time to earn and save money as well.
But the real lesson of this survey is that tipping as a system is awful. It puts people in low-paying service jobs at the mercy of their customers. Imagine a lawyer or police officer working for tips and you start to understand how silly it is that whole swaths of people are expected to.
And on top of that, the tipping system is a way for restaurants, hotels, and other companies to pay their employees below the minimum wage. Customers are in essence expected to subsidize these meager paychecks on a case-by-case manner which preserves a level of uncertainty for vulnerable folks.
But tipping is the system we have, and for the time being everyone, including millennial men, should tip consistently and generously.