Food & Drink

The Reports of Millennials "Sucking at Tipping" Are Greatly Exaggerated

Photo: Getty/Studiocasper; Design: Thrillist

Have you heard about the terrible, no-good, cheap, devious, lazy, entitled, embattled, LaCroix-guzzling, debt-owing, murderous Millennial?

We've single-handedly killed vacations, napkins, marriage, sex, movies, home ownership, and the Home Depot.  I say single-handedly, because our other, free hand, is usually busy adjusting our man buns or nursing an avocado-related injury. Now, it appears we're fucking up the sacred, American hospitality/generosity tango of tipping your servers.

You might have seen this story, based around this original "study," floating around this week. Oh yea, it's bad.

"Millennials Are Really Bad Tippers."

"Millennials are Uniformly Bad Tippers."

"Millennials Are the Worst Generation For Tipping."

"Millennials May Kill Tipping -- and It Could Cost Them Their Job." (you know because most "debt-laden" Millennials work in the service industry themselves).

And my personal favorite:

"Millennials We Love You But You Have to Start Tipping!"

It's full blown madness. We are yet again the unequivocal worst.

In case you don't want to read the actual survey, conducted by, (and listen, you probably shouldn't) here's the nugget that's been disseminated and published ad nauseum:

"Ten percent of Americans ages 18 to 37 say they routinely leave no tip. Nearly one in three leaves less than a 15 percent tip at restaurants. Older adults tip more."


"When presented with a variety of suggested tipping options, as you might find at a food truck or coffee shop or after taking an Uber, about one in six millennials say they regularly choose the lowest option, and nearly one in five gives no tip – the highest figures of any age group."

For the record, The study was "conducted for by GfK Custom Research North America on its OmniWeb online omnibus. The sample consists of 1,000 completed interviews, weighted to ensure accurate and reliable representation of the total population, 18 years and older and was conducted May 18-20, 2018."

And this information has naturally been framed, like so many of these studies before it, to get clicks (obviously), but to also in turn give older generations -- the good guys, the big tippers -- an air of superiority. It's nothing new. A random, small, dubious sample study is published by a debatably reputable source. A tantalizing kernel is pulled out. Said source gets a ton of free press. Tons of outlets get a story to drive the needle.

But this one in particular, stings. It frames an entire generation as cheap, shallow, and borderline malicious. And much of the real truth gets lost in the headlines.

First and foremost, there are about 71 million millennials in the United States. surveyed 1,000 people. It's unclear how many of those thousand people were millennials -- but whatever the case, it's obviously a fractional representation of the overall population. It's like finding a hair in your ice cream sundae, and assuming every ice cream sundae ever must contain hair now (probably because of millennials).  

Secondly, the data loosely classifies restaurants, and includes fast-casual, fast food, and take-out options.

And, being the youngest generation on record here, millennials are naturally going to be the generational segment making the less overall money. This is paramount. Not only would this factor into being less able to drop tips in general, but more importantly, it also ensures that the kind of restaurants millennials frequent, would probably be ones that you don't normally tip at. Sure, when I get a slice of pizza, I'll commonly toss a buck or two in the tip jar if I have it. But more often than not, I don't.

It specifically calls out (in a bullet point) that Millennials are most likely to select the "lowest" option when presented with multiple tipping options, "as you might find at a food truck or coffee shop or after taking an Uber," when traditionally, those options usually start at 18% - 20% -- generally accepted as the threshold for a "good" tip.

Finally, it does take into account the fact that 27% of millennials would prefer a system that does not rely on tipping to give servers a decent wage (meaning, "hey, let's start actually paying people who work in restaurants like they're actually human beings"). But it doesn't explain the why, and also uses it as some type of pseudo-excuse for our "poor behavior."

Let's get this straight: this may be my opinion, but I have a very hard time believing anyone that is committed to the no-tipping movement -- which, essentially, boils down to wanting to give service workers a more livable wage -- would take it out on the servers themselves by refusing to tip. Chalk it up to my faith in humanity. And my distrust of loose Internet studies that get picked up by major media outlets.

But if you are reading this, if you're a Millennial yourself, you know that we aren't inclined to tip less than our parents generation, or our grandparents generation. You also probably know the reports of us "killing" every industry that Americans hold dear have been greatly exaggerated.

And you (hopefully) know that every Internet-based study claiming so, should be taken with a grain of locally sourced, artisanal sea salt.

Luckily, we still haven't killed salt.


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Wil Fulton is a staff writer at Thrillist and a passionate doer of other stuff. For more info, you'll have to do a free background check.