Aussies hit back at ‘cancerous’ tipping trend of tipping

Aussies have taken to social media to lash businesses aggressively, pushing tipping amid the cost of living crisis, describing the practice as “cancerous” and “predatory.”

In some countries, tipping is considered non-negotiable when eating out, but in Australia, the practice has never been mainstream.

Online ordering systems and food delivery apps have changed that. Some ask for a tip while others automatically select one, with customers having to actively opt out of paying extra.

A Reddit post on the topic has garnered hundreds of comments and over 1,300 likes about the practice.

The trend has particularly irked some because of cost of living pressures.

Australian households are under “extreme” cost-of-living pressure, with two in five people struggling to pay to have a roof over their head, according to Finder’s cost-of-living pressure gauge.

Currently, the annual inflation rate is 5.4 percent, and the official cash rate is 4.35 percent, the highest it’s been since 2011.

One person on the Reddit thread wrote they considered themselves “fairly assertive” but still felt guilty for opting out of tipping.

“We pay our hospitality staff an actual living wage, so I’ve only tipped if the service goes above and beyond what’s expected … I imagine many more people don’t have the same social/emotional strength to say no in the moment and would rather give $10 than look bad, and because of that, it seems almost predatory to ask for a tip to begin with.”

Another urged people not to bring “tipping culture to Australia,” labeling it “cancerous.”

“In the US if you don’t tip, staff will look at you like you insult their whole family, but they don’t understand their problem is from the employee,” a second wrote.

“It seems like some restaurants and companies like UberEats are waging some kind of concerted campaign to promote tipping,” a third complained.

“Workers should be pushing back against this. We’ve seen what happens in America once tipping becomes entrenched. Pay and benefits gets cut.”

“Don’t stand for it Australia. It’s like a cancer, once you make it socially acceptable you won’t get rid of it,” another agreed.

Tipping on the rise

A recent tipping trends report from financial services and payment solution platform Zeller found that Australians are certainly tipping more.

According to the report, not only has the average tip grown 12 percent since 2022, rising from $16.05 to $17.93, but Australians are also tipping more frequently, with the volume of tips increasing by 132 percent.

Melburnians tend to be more generous than Sydneysiders, adding an average of $18.57 to the total bill compared to $11.81.

Zeller’s director of growth, Joshua McNicol, described the result to as “surprising.”

“Given the rising cost of living and economic pressures on consumers, the average value of tips increasing by 12 per cent year-on-year – despite interest rate pressures – was one that definitely caught us off guard,” he said.

“With your cost of living increase, people are going out less often [but] looking for a great experience at a sit-down restaurant.

“The willingness to reward amazing service or great experience hasn’t changed, but potentially the frequency they’re doing it has changed… It shows that we still have a sense of generosity and community overall.”

The Zeller data also reveals some interesting quirks.

Average tip amounts for the hospitality sector overall have risen 11 percent, but bar and club staff saw a 23 percent decline, with the average tip now $10.21, while tips for coffee shops slid 19 percent to $2.94.

Sit-down restaurants and takeaway eateries are seeing the most gains, experiencing an eight percent increase to $19.98 and a six percent rise to $7.52, respectively.

According to SBS News interviews, Aussie hospitality workers feel they are “underpaid,” and tipping goes some way to addressing wage inequality.

Stacy Chapman, who lived in the US for 20 years, told the publication, “all services are underpaid,” and she tips if she gets a pedicure or massage or is at a cafe or restaurant.

“We need to find a balance where, if you do acceptable standards at hospitality work, you are paid a decent living wage… and if you are doing extraordinary wok you get to earn more for that,” she said.

“If we want to have great service we as consumers can judge that and incentivise that, and the only way we can do that is by appropriately tipping.”

Another hospitality worker, Gemma Walker, 23, noted that during the cost of living crisis, many workers have also been receiving fewer shifts.

She describes the situation as a “cycle” and says, “fewer people are coming out,” leaving staff with fewer tips and reduced shifts.