We’re almost two years into the pandemic’s new “normal.” Once rare occurrences are now routine. We conduct most of our business at home–from work to leisure to shopping. As a result, the need for delivery drivers and at-home service providers has skyrocketed.
But the pandemic didn’t just change our way of life. It also altered how we keep things running.
Under these new circumstances, tipping culture has also changed. This may come as a surprise to some, but in a post-pandemic world, tipping isn’t just for bartenders and hairstylists anymore.
Adjusting To The New Normal
Despite early fears, COVID-19 has not deterred us from spending money. In fact, June 2021 marked the ninth consecutive month of US retail growth. Additionally, e-commerce sales have grown a whopping 95 percent since June 2019.
However, this surge isn’t good news for some industries. The delivery industry, which was already stretched thin, is especially feeling the brunt of this sales spike.
As we enter the second year of the pandemic, it would appear that this new normal is here to stay. And with that new normal comes a new tipping culture.
The New Normal Tipping Culture
Even before the pandemic, the US had a strong tipping culture. We were already used to tipping servers, bartenders, hairstylists, nail techs, and other special service providers. In fact, the US tips more than any other country. So, it’s unsurprising that we carried this tradition over into the pandemic. Except this time around, there seemed to be even less rhyme or reason.
As Toni Dupree, professional etiquette coach, told Reader’s Digest, “we were just tipping based on emotion. That may or may not have had anything to do with the actual service.”
Indeed, the early days of the pandemic were emotional. The restaurant industry saw a slight rise in tips when we first started calling essential employees “heroes.” But pandemic fatigue quickly set in, further muddying the waters. Suddenly, our usual tipping culture was confusing and hard to navigate.
Do we tip normally, or are we still under special circumstances? Do these new services require tips? Who shouldn’t I tip?
From Deliveries To Dog Grooming
According to etiquette professional Lisa Grotts, there’s a lot to catch up on. Grotts told Reader’s Digest that “the rules about whom, how, when, and how much you should tip have changed.”
Tipping waiters and bartenders has always been good etiquette. But now, it’s also appropriate to tip food delivery drivers, personal grocers, and yes, even on take-out orders.
For hospitality workers like valets, door hops, and housekeepers, Grotts suggested a $5-10 tip. Reader’s Digest also recommended tipping delivery drivers based on the frequency and size of the deliveries.
Tipping hair stylists, nail techs, and tattoo artists is also typical. In a post-pandemic world, this norm also extends to personal trainers, handypersons, and house cleaners.
However, not everyone requires a tip. You don’t need to tip teachers, doctors, or lawyers. Nor do you need to tip government workers, who wouldn’t be able to accept anyway.
Independent contractors often set their own prices. So, a tip isn’t entirely necessary. Still, tipping is an excellent way to express your gratitude if you feel the service was excellent.
To Tip Or Not To Tip?
These new tipping norms can seem overwhelming for the over 37 million people living below the poverty line. People who’re living paycheck to paycheck often don’t have the cash to spare.
As a former waiter myself, I do find merit in the old adage, “if you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.” But in reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Not all of the services included in the new tipping culture are superfluous, like a trip to the bar. People in quarantine need personal grocers. Appliance and home repairs are necessary expenses.
If the person obtaining these services can’t afford an extra tip, does that make them unworthy of the service? In a word: no.
Whose Responsibility Is It?
The responsibility of fair compensation shouldn’t be on the consumer alone. For most services that accept tips, the corporations who employ the workers also need to be accountable. They need to provide their workers with a living wage.
“One of my favorite quotes, by George Eliot, says, ‘what do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?’” Dupree said. “Tipping well is one way to make things a little easier for someone else.”
Because we won’t win the fight against tipping culture by just not tipping. That only hurts the worker, not the cause.