Whether you're leaving a restaurant tip or a gratuity for a hairdresser, a little financial gratitude goes a long way. Let's just say it builds your savings in the karma bank. 

By Sarah Lemire
June 04, 2021

There's truth behind the old adage that it's better to give than receive. In fact, science supports that there are all sorts of benefits associated with the act of giving. According to an article published by the Association for Psychological Science, taking care of others not only boosts health and well-being, but it also appears to increase positive emotions and reduce stress in givers. 

"It absolutely is true that we reap psychological and physical benefits from doing kind things for others," says Gwen Kesten, PhD, a Connecticut-based psychologist. "Acts of kindness increase levels of certain brain neurotransmitters and hormones associated with feeling good. They also boost the body's immune response and are associated with greater self-esteem and less depression." 

Volunteering, donating, and kind gestures are all great ways to give. But there are many other ways to express gratitude, and tipping is one of them.  

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Why tipping matters

Along with having a positive impact on both the giver and receiver, Kesten says that deliberate acts of kindness can help build connection and cultivate an overall feeling of engagement and helpfulness.  

"Culturally, seeing and hearing about acts of kindness by others can have a contagious impact. It can remind folks of the vast array of types of help that are meaningful and achievable," she says, and cites the joy many people find in doing small things for others, like paying for the person behind them in the coffee drive-thru line.  

In effect, it makes us feel good. And in the process, can also help restore someone else's optimism and sense of goodwill. 

Going the extra mile to acknowledge a job well done has become especially important in the pandemic, which has affected the mental health of millions of people who, according to Kesten, are suffering from a variety of issues, including fears over health and finances, depressed moods, anxiety, irritability, stress, and loneliness. 

Unsurprisingly, service and tipped workers have consistently been among some of the most impacted. A report published by One Fair Wage suggests that food service workers, in particular, have faced increased job duties and workloads, as well as being at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

While service workers of all kinds have seen their responsibilities increase, Joshua Chaisson, bartender, server, and president of Restaurant Workers of America says that he, along with many of his colleagues around the country, have seen a marked rise in appreciation for that added workload.  

"[We're] seeing an abundance of people genuinely appreciating and being insanely thankful that we're still out here, grinding and hustling and doing our thing."  

More often than not, that appreciation translates into generous tips, which go a long way in helping service workers both financially and emotionally, and Chaisson says that it makes the guests and workers feel good.  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that as of May 2020, the median wage for waiters and waitresses was $11.42. But according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, tipped workers can make as little as $2.13 per hour. So, beyond acknowledging good work, tips are often what service workers live on and use to help pay the bills.  

"The reality is, that person is helping me pay my rent, they're paying for my dental visit," says Chaisson.  

Who should you tip?

While some people are confused over the ins and outs of proper tipping etiquette, most everyone agrees that it's customary to tip your server in a bar or restaurant, hairdresser, cab or rideshare driver, and hotel housekeeper, among others.  

But who else should receive a financial acknowledgement of a job well done?  

Just about anyone whose services you utilize, says etiquette educator, Karen Thomas

"Tipping is something that should be done often," she says. "And we're talking about in a drive-thru, a delivery person, when you pick up from a restaurant, if you pick up groceries, or if they deliver groceries."  

Thomas says that it's important to look beyond the concept of "that's what I'm paying for," and instead consider what you're receiving from the service and what the person has done to perform it.  

"Tipping goes beyond an act of civility; it goes into an act of appreciation. Appreciation for the service that was performed, whether it was that person's job. We all have a job, and we all perform it. We hope, though, in any job that we do, that people will recognize that we did good or bad." 

Service workers most commonly overlooked are flower delivery people, various home improvement workers like lawn and snow maintenance, movers, and furniture delivery drivers. Tipping them is not required, of course, and the quality of the service you receive should definitely factor into whether you decide to offer a few extra dollars in thanks. 

But Thomas says that in many cases, they are workers who deserve extra acknowledgement and are the "unsung heroes" doing the difficult work.  

How does tipping benefit the tipper?

There are psychological benefits that accompany acts of altruism, says nationally recognized tipping expert, Michael Lynn. According to Lynn, social science research shows that people who think about things they are grateful for and express more gratitude tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. 

"They feel good about themselves when they give to charity and do positive deeds for other people," he says.  

Counted among those positive deeds is tipping someone or offering a gratuity. It's a way of helping someone, says Lynn. And in turn, the giver is rewarded with the sense of pleasure over having done something to contribute. 

Less altruistic, but also important, is that shelling out some extra cash in certain circumstances can ultimately equate to better service or outcomes in the future. 

"If I tip the bartender at the bar I go to frequently, or the server at the restaurant I frequent, or the pizza delivery person is likely to be the same guy, those are the contexts where having a history of being a good tipper is going to give you better service," Lynn says.  

And Chaisson agrees with him. 

"If you tip well, I will absolutely remember your name, your face, what you drink, and your little intricacies about what you prefer and don't prefer," says Chaisson. "And you will absolutely get better service. Period, end of story."  

Can you tip with something other than money?

Though most people probably prefer to be tipped in cash, not everyone has the means or money to tip, let alone tip extra. That's OK, says Thomas, there are other ways to go above and beyond to let someone know that you appreciate what they've done.  

Filling out a survey at the store, if an employee has been particularly helpful, can help them earn kudos or rewards from their company. "That is a way for them to receive recognition within their company," Thomas says. The same holds true for staying on the phone for an extra minute or two to answer the survey questions at the end of a customer service call.  

Tipping can also come in the form of kindness. Leaving water out for the delivery person, paying them a compliment, or simply letting them know that they did a good job, can all go a long way in establishing relationships and positive future exchanges.  

"We need to take the time to do more of it," says Thomas. "We need to stop and give recognition and tips or kudos. These are all ways that we can spread civility and gratitude."