Skip to Content

What is tip shaming?

Tip shaming refers to the practice of publicly criticizing or expressing disapproval of someone for leaving a small tip or no tip at all. It typically involves posting a photo of the receipt or sharing details on social media. The goal is to call out the customer for not tipping an amount deemed acceptable.

Tip shaming gained prominence with the rise of social media. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook made it easy for service workers to share receipts and vent their frustrations. At the same time, customers could also use these sites to defend themselves against accusations of being bad tippers.

The practice remains controversial with strong opinions on both sides. Supporters argue it holds cheap customers accountable and brings awareness to the economic challenges faced by service workers. Critics say it’s inappropriate to publicly shame customers and makes unrealistic assumptions about people’s financial situations.

Why do people tip shame?

Here are some of the primary reasons people engage in tip shaming:

– To express frustration over getting a small tip – Service workers often feel they provided good service and deserve a decent tip. Leaving little or nothing can be seen as an insult. Posting the receipt is a way to vent these feelings.

– To expose alleged “bad tippers” – Some supporters of tip shaming believe it’s justified to call out those who consistently undertip. Posting receipts supposedly warns other service workers about these customers.

– To advocate for workers’ rights – Many argue that tip shaming highlights broader issues like the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. Low base pay makes workers rely on tips, so they feel shortchanged by small tips.

– Peer and social pressure – There can be significant groupthink in the service industry around tipping. Workers may feel obligated to participate in tip shaming to fit in with coworkers.

– To seek justice – Having a reputation as a bad tipper can motivate some service workers to try to settle scores by posting a receipt. They feel they were wronged and want to return the favor.

What are considered good vs. bad tips?

Tipping practices, expectations, and norms vary considerably based on geographic region, industry, and other factors. Here are some general guidelines on what’s considered a good or bad tip:

– Restaurants/sit-down service: 15-20% is the standard for good service. 10-15% would be considered acceptable but on the lower end. Less than 10% is widely viewed as an unsatisfactory tip.

– Taxis/rideshares: 15-20% is generally expected. Around 10-15% would be on the low side but still reasonable depending on trip length and difficulty.

– Hotels: $2-5 per night for housekeeping is typical. $1 or less per night is viewed as cheap. For porters and room service, $1-2 and 15-20% are the norms.

– Hair salons: 15-20% is standard. Some recommend even higher tips for specialty services like coloring. Less than 10% would likely be unsatisfactory.

– Coffee shops/takeout: Most people tip 10-15% for takeout orders. Others recommend $1-2 per order as a minimum. Not tipping at all on takeout would be considered cheap by many service workers.

– Bars: $1-2 per drink is the norm, or 15-20% of the total tab. Leaving nothing after sitting at a bar for multiple drinks would be frowned upon.

In general, tips under 10% of the total bill are viewed unfavorably by service workers. But there are always exceptions based on the quality of service.

Arguments for tip shaming

Here are some of the common arguments made in defense of publicly calling out customers for leaving small tips:

Holds customers accountable

Supporters contend tip shaming is often the only way to make notoriously bad tippers change their behavior. When they’re called out online, the embarrassment may motivate them to be more generous in the future.

Informs other service workers

Coworkers appreciate the warning about known bad tippers. If a customer has repeatedly left lousy tips, posting the receipt lets others prepare for lower gratuity from that individual.

Highlights broader economic issues

Tip shaming brings awareness to the plight of service workers relying on tips to make ends meet due to lower wages. The practice underscores problems with the tipped minimum wage.

Validates service workers’ frustrations

Leaving a small tip can feel like a slap in the face to workers who feel they provided excellent service. Being able to vent about it online validates these frustrations.

Levels the playing field

Customers hold a lot of power over service workers, who often have to bite their tongues to avoid angering customers. Tip shaming gives workers a chance to turn the tables.

Provides peer validation

Other service workers can relate to the experience of getting a bad tip. Offering sympathy and solidarity through likes and shares provides a sense of validation.

Arguments against tip shaming

Here are some of the common arguments made by those who oppose publicly shaming customers over small tips:

Violates customers’ privacy

Sharing personal details like names and receipts without consent is unethical. Customers have a reasonable expectation that those details will remain private.

Promotes online harassment

Angry social media mobs can take tip shaming too far, devolving into harassment campaigns against customers. This negativity often goes overboard.

Assumes the worst of customers

Not everyone tips poorly out of cheapness or entitlement. Personal circumstances like financial struggles are not always apparent. unduly harsh judgements.

Reinforces bad tipping culture

The responsibility should be on employers to pay fair wages, not guilt customers into tipping more. Tip shaming perpetuates the pressure to tip rather than fixing the root problem.

Discourages empathy

Public shamings can bring out the worst in people. Focusing anger at individuals makes it harder to consider how society, employers, and the government have created the situation.

Can damage businesses

No restaurant wants to be known as the place with the notoriously bad tippers. Damaging a business’s reputation can end up hurting employees too.

Usually ineffective

Internet pile-ons rarely change people’s opinions and behaviors. More often, tip shaming just rallies those who already agree and hardens the original offender’s stance.

Legal considerations

The legality of tip shaming is somewhat murky due to competing privacy and employment laws. Here are some key factors:

– Consent – Posting personal information without consent is generally prohibited. But receipts themselves are not always viewed as private.

– Defamation – Publicly spreading false accusations about bad tipping could qualify as defamation. But expressing opinions would likely be protected free speech.

– Confidentiality – Employees may breach workplace confidentiality agreements by posting receipts online. But labor laws protect discussions of wages, tips, and working conditions.

– Harassment – Shaming campaigns could potentially cross the line into harassment, stalking, extortion, or libel/slander.

– Firing – Workers fired for tip shaming could sue for wrongful termination if the social media policy disproportionately restricts their rights or singles out protected concerted activity.

– NLRB – The National Labor Relations Board has ruled certain firings over Facebook posts unconstitutional and ordered reinstatement. This could extend to tip shaming situations.

– Location – Laws vary significantly between states and countries. For example, France has banned managers from retaining tips under any circumstances.

So both customers and employees face some legal risks depending on the specific tip shaming situation. But protections for free speech and labor organizing act as limits on restrictions.

Statistics on tipping practices

Surveys consistently show that a majority of customers do tip at least something, but norms and averages vary widely:

Industry Average Tip
Restaurant server 16-20% of bill
Bartender $1-2 per drink, 15-20% of tab
Hair salon 18% for women, 15% for men
Taxis 15-20% of fare
Food delivery $5 or 20% of order
Hotel housekeeper $2-5 per night
Barista $0.50 – $2 per order

Some key tipping statistics:

– 18% of customers routinely leave no tip at all when dining out

– 10% of customers are considered “undertippers” leaving less than 15% at restaurants

– Men tip around 3% less than women on average

– 57% of customers say they tip more during the December holidays

– 33% admit to leaving a smaller tip if they have to enter it themselves on a credit card reader

– 27% of customers tip more if the server is exceptionally attractive

– Over 75% of servers admit to profiling customers and stereotyping by race, age, gender, etc. based on past tipping behaviors

So while the majority adheres to the 15-20% tipping norm, a sizable minority consistently tips below that. This fuels frustrations and leads some servers to retaliate through tip shaming.

Trends and controversies

Tip shaming has been tied to several controversies and trends in recent years:

Coronavirus tipping debates

The COVID-19 pandemic affected tipping dynamics. With restaurants closed or operating at limited capacity, unemployment spiked and workers relied more on tips. Some felt customers should tip more generously to support struggling service workers. Others argued tips should be reduced because sit-down service was limited. Heated debates erupted over appropriate pandemic tipping.

Tip baiting

Some customers engaged in “tip baiting” where they promised a big tip to ensure prompt delivery but then removed the tip after receiving the order. Delivery drivers complained this allowed customers to jump ahead in line during peak demand. Some drivers took to tip shaming to fight back.

Tippooling bans

Recent bans on tip pooling and tip sharing in some states outraged back-of-house workers who had previously received a share of pooled tips. Online tip shaming campaigns went after customers who continued tipping only front-of-house staff under the old model.

Minimum wage preemption

20 states preempt localities from setting a minimum wage higher than the state level. Advocates claim this leaves many workers dependent on tips. Some have tip shamed governors and state legislators who support preemption.

Celebrity incidents

Stories of celebrity bad tippers frequently go viral online. Servers have posted receipts from famous athletes, politicians, and entertainers. More generous celebrity tippers also get recognition.

Remote workers

With remote work increasing, some question expectations around tipping for home food deliveries. Delivery drivers complain remote workers often tip less than office workers.

Generational differences

Surveys show younger generations often tip slightly less than older ones. Some servers speculate it’s due to frugality or philosophical opposition to tipping overall. But others argue millennials and Gen Z just have less disposable income.

Racial differences

Studies conflict on whether race influences tipping behavior. But some tip shamers have been accused of using racist stereotypes in assumptions about who will tip poorly.

Restaurant surcharges

A growing trend is adding mandatory service charges in lieu of tips. Some customers have been tip shamed for not leaving an additional tip after paying a service charge.

Tip transparency

Apps now allow customers to see delivery driver tips before accepting orders, which enables cherry-picking. Drivers have tip shamed customers who don’t pre-tip to get faster service.

Tip alternatives

In lieu of traditional tipping, some restaurants are adopting new models like service charges, profit sharing, and hourly wages. Some guests have faced backlash for still not tipping on top of these changes.

How should customers respond to being tip shamed?

If you find yourself targeted by an online tip shaming campaign, here are some tips on constructively responding:

– Stay calm – Don’t get defensive or escalate the conflict. A reasoned, level-headed response tends to garner more sympathy.

– Be empathetic – Consider things from the worker’s perspective. Acknowledge their frustrations while providing your context.

– Reflect – Ask yourself if it was an innocent mistake or if you could learn something from the incident to improve as a customer.

– Apologize – If you were genuinely in the wrong, own up to it and apologize for the poor tip.

– Explain – If there were mitigating circumstances, clarify the situation politely without making excuses.

– Tip better – If the criticism is fair, make amends by tipping more generously next time.

– Stand your ground – If you feel sincerely attacked, stick to your principles while remaining respectful.

– Contact management – For extreme cases of personal attacks, alert the business owner or manager about the employee’s conduct.

– Ignore – For relatively harmless venting, simply disregarding it and moving on may be the wisest strategy.

The ultimate goal is reaching understanding through open communication. Don’t escalate or prolong negativity.

Alternatives to tip shaming

Rather than public shamings on social media, here are some more constructive ways workers can address bad tipping:

– Have empathy – Try to understand the customers’ possible situation before getting angry. Don’t make assumptions.

– Communicate – Politely talk to bad tippers explaining that gratuity is appreciated for good service.

– Provide feedback – Let management know about issues with certain customers so they can give reminders or handle discussions.

– Advocate change – Push for higher base wages from employers and amendments to tipping laws.

– Discuss – Have reasonable debates around tipping rather than attacking individuals.

– Rate generously – Still provide good service and rate/review customers fairly, regardless of tips.

– Let it go – Ultimately, move on from small tips without dwelling on the negativity or taking action.

– Find other work – For those who can’t accept the ups and downs of gratuity, explore non-tipped positions.

With understanding and open communication, tipping cultures can evolve without toxicity. Change starts with reasonable dialogue, not personal attacks.


Tip shaming highlights tensions around gratuity and fair compensation for service workers. While calling out individual customers online may feel justified, shaming tends to breed more negativity without solving root problems.

Constructive change requires nuanced discussions on tipping cultures and norms. Workers, customers, employers, and policymakers all play a role. Through empathy and understanding, we can work to make tipping practices more consistent, equitable, and positive for all involved.