Only half of restaurant tippers fall within the gratuity sweet spot of 16 to 20 percent, according to a new report by CreditCards.com. The study, a survey conducted last month, examined tipping behavior at restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and hair salons. It sampled 1,002 adults who used cash, credit or debit cards.
It found that the most generous tippers in the U.S. are Republican men who live in the Northeast and use a credit or debit card. They generally tip at a median of 20 percent when dining at a sit-down restaurant.
On the other hand, it said, women tip a median of 16 percent, while Democrats, Southerners and cash users tip a median of 15 percent. About 2 percent of those surveyed said they never left a tip in a sit-down restaurant, and 7 percent said they tipped “only sometimes.”
"People now see 15 percent as a floor rather than a ceiling when it comes to tipping. The truth is that the median was about 18 percent. So, it's somewhere between 15 and 20," Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, said Monday on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"It's really all about income," Schulz said. "The more cash you have, the more likely you are to plunk a little more down at the table at the end of the night."
The survey found that 27 percent of hotel customers always tip their housekeeper, 29 percent who visit coffee shops always tip, and 67 percent always tip their hair stylist and barber.
Men tend to be more generous restaurant tippers than women, but women are better when it comes to hotel housekeeping, baristas and hair stylists. The survey found that four out of every five people always leave a restaurant tip, with the median being 18 percent of the bill.
Age also played a factor, with older diners leaving larger tips. Baby Boomers left 20 percent, Generation Xers left a median of 18 percent and young Millennials, those ages 18 to 26, left a median of 16 percent. Median tips slipped to 15 percent for those 72 and older, the survey found.
"My general rule of thumb is if it is a business you are going to go to and you're going to spend time there, and a person you're going to see on a regular basis, when in doubt give a tip," Schulz said.
A personal or emotional connection also might influence someone's tip.
"Everybody has been in a situation where they're rummaging through their pockets to find a couple of singles to tip somebody. And there has been certainly situations where you ended up not tipping somebody because you didn't have the cash," Schulz said.
Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted the poll from June 22-25, and interviewed 1,002 adults in the continental United States by telephone. The margin of error was 3.7 percentage points.
The survey results indicate “tipping is alive and well in restaurants throughout the nation and that tippers are getting more generous,” said Schulz. “That’s a great thing for those hard-working service industry folks because it means they’re likely to take a little more home at the end of the night than they used to.”
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