Miss Manners: Tipping used to be straightforward. Now it’s confusing.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was taught to tip generously, and I don’t mind tipping people who provide direct services: restaurant waitstaff, bellhops, spa workers, hairstylists, nail salon workers, hotel housekeepers, etc. However, I am confused about all the tipping requests I am presented with now.

For example, if I buy a hot chocolate or tea at the coffee shop, they’re just pouring a premixed substance into a cup and handing it to me. Is that really a service?

When I picked up a takeout order recently, the credit card machine suggested a minimum 15% tip. I gave 10%. The cashier looked disgusted. Was I wrong? They filled a container from a soup pot and placed it in a bag. That is not the same as waiting tables.

Tipping used to be straightforward, but now it isn’t. This is a conversation many are having.

GENTLE READER: You will recall that during the pandemic, many people were especially generous with tips out of appreciation for the workers whose health was at risk in order to keep things running.

This seems to have made a big impression on their bosses: They learned that more could be squeezed out of their customers to supplement their employees’ wages. The system was already in place whereby the income of many workers was at the whim of the customers. It only remained to expand this beyond visible customer service.

So now there are tip jars and electronic prompts everywhere. The notion that people tip to reward those who have made a special effort on their behalf is absent.


Miss Manners is disgusted by the whole scheme. At the same time, she recognizes that workers who are underpaid depend upon it. So, like you, she tips when she knows that to be the case.

It is not always easy to judge; the coffee pourer may well be underpaid.

But simply being asked, or being scowled at, does not mean that you are required to support the dubious business practice of using shame to shift the responsibility for providing decent wages from the company to you. Just be sure not to complain about higher prices in establishments with no-tipping policies.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: When responding to personal compliments, a simple “Thank you,” or “How kind of you to say so,” seems obviously appropriate. My question is about handling an indirect compliment.

It happens that my dog, an English springer spaniel, is a particularly gorgeous example of the breed. When I am out and about with her, people will frequently say some version of, “You have a beautiful dog!”

I had nothing to do with her breeding and her resulting appearance, and my saying “thank you” seems to imply that I am taking credit for her beauty. What would be a more appropriate response?


As your dog cannot speak for herself, it is up to you to reply with gracious thanks, as you presumably would when complimented on anything of yours.

If it makes you feel better, you did choose her. And Miss Manners assures you that no decent person would think you had direct genetic input.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to