A recent survey conducted by WalletHub has revealed that nearly three in four Americans believe tipping culture has gotten out of control, with more than half suspecting that businesses are using customer tips to replace employee salaries. The findings highlight a growing sense of "tip fatigue" among consumers, who are increasingly encountering tip request screens in unusual places and facing pressure to leave gratuities for a wider range of services than ever before.

The survey, which polled a representative sample of American adults, found that 78% of respondents believe automatic service charges should be banned, while half admitted to leaving tips due to social pressure rather than genuine appreciation for the service provided. This trend, often referred to as "guilt tipping," has become a source of annoyance for many consumers, who feel obligated to tip even when not entirely satisfied with the service or when faced with predetermined point-of-sale options ranging from 15% to 35%.

"It is becoming an issue and should this feeling of tip burnout reach a crescendo, there could be negative outcomes for individuals who rely on tips as their primary source of income," warned Cortney Norris, Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Oklahoma State University. "People just get fed up and stop tipping altogether."

The WalletHub survey's findings are consistent with those of a 2023 USA TODAY Blueprint survey on tipping, which found that 63% of respondents felt too many places were asking for tips, and 48% said they were tired of being asked to tip. While 52% of respondents in the September survey reported tipping more, 10% said they were tipping less, suggesting that the tipping culture may be hitting a tipping point.

Experts argue that businesses should increase wages to reduce the reliance on tips as the primary source of income for staff members. "Businesses should increase wages so staff members do not always think that tipping or getting higher tips is the best way of making money in restaurants and bars," said Muzzo Uysal, Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the Isenberg School of Management - University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

California is set to implement a law that increases the minimum wage for fast food restaurants with more than 60 locations nationwide, a move that could help alleviate the pressure on both employees and customers. According to Human Rights Watch, "Tipped workers in states that eliminated the subminimum wage enjoy higher earnings, face less harassment on the job, and are less likely to live in poverty."

Despite the growing resentment towards excessive tipping expectations, recent data from Toast's restaurant trends report shows that tipping at full-service restaurants and quick-service establishments has experienced a slight decline in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to five years earlier. Full-service restaurant tips fell to 19.4% from 19.5% in 2018, while quick-service restaurant tips dropped to 16% from 16.6%.

Alex Skijus, CEO and founder of True Life Wealth Management in Tampa, Florida, advises consumers to consider tipping when they genuinely want to express gratitude, but not to feel obligated at every point of sale. "People have a fear of being ostracized," he said, "but stick to your guns." Skijus believes that if more consumers resist the pressure to tip in every situation, business owners will eventually scale back on suggested tip amounts or eliminate tip prompts altogether.

As consumers navigate the challenges of inflation, shrinkflation, and tipflation, the growing sense of "tip fatigue" is becoming increasingly apparent. While tipping remains an important way to show appreciation for exceptional service, the pressure to tip in every situation, often driven by guilt, is leading many Americans to push back against the expanding tipping culture.