Which States Tip the Best — and Which Don't Tip At All

In Depth

Ever wondered what tipping trends look like across different US states, possibly for the purposes of trash-talking the terrible ones? Thanks to payment service Square, your moment has arrived.

Square analyzed millions of credit card receipts from restaurants, taxi services, cafes, and small vendors to figure out which states tip better, worse, or not at all. It’s unfortunate that the data wasn’t split up into smaller groups by type (as I suspect cafes and small vendors might be skewing the numbers down here), but we’ve still got plenty to play with here.

Speaking of data, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first: something something science something something data collection something something control group something something outlier variance other words, now shut up, I have fulfilled my science-y obligation for this article. The collection methods are in that link, and I’m not going to bother repeating them here, because if your first thought on reading that headline was “I wonder what the data collection methods were,” you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and figure out where your life went wrong.

OK, now let’s get to the actual interesting stuff: who is great, and (more importantly) who is terrible? It turns out that the worst offender in BOTH groups is Delaware, with a 14% average tip, and only 37.9% of people who actually tip (the next lowest in the second category is South Dakota, at nearly 12 full percentage points higher). The article posits that this might be due to Delaware’s location along a major interstate route, so you’re dealing with a lot of transient tippers. As someone who worked at a restaurant right across the street from Union Station in DC for two years, this explanation actually has more merit than you might think. Still, there are plenty of states with high transient tipping populations, and while they generally rank either low on the list (Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, Maryland) or somewhere in the middle of the pack (Florida, Louisiana), Delaware is WAY below all of them. Man, Delaware, what the hell is your damage? Are you still pissed about that Wayne’s World joke? Get your shit together, First State.

A lot of this list doesn’t gibe with my own experiences dealing with people from a wide variety of states, actually. South Carolina and Mississippi are both higher than Florida? NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE. On the other hand, this makes more sense if you’re applying the transient model, since such a high percentage of transactions in Florida are going to involve people who aren’t from there. Still, South Carolina ranking higher than ANYWHERE is kind of a surprise, given my experience. South Carolina is kind of the worst, but you already knew that.

California also ranks extremely low in both categories, and I’m not sure what to make of that. The argument could be made that California’s is low due to the fact that servers are actually paid a living wage rather than $2.13/hour…but that argument falls apart when you consider the same is true in six other states (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, and Nevada), and ALL of them outrank California (although Oregon and Minnesota by not that much). Alaska actually has the highest average tip percentage (17% flat) of any state. I’m going to blame California’s poor showing on anti-vaxxers. I have no logical reason for doing this, I just really, really hate anti-vaxxers.

Speaking of Alaska, when you factor in both categories, the three best states are Alaska, Colorado, and Illinois. As we’ve mentioned, Alaska’s tip % is the highest, and Illinois has the highest statewide percentage of people who tip (61.1%), possibly because they’re scared if they don’t tip, they might be forced to eat more deep-dish pizza. Colorado does well in both categories, and Denver has the highest average tip percentage of any city in America, at 16.8%. It would be simplistic to say that this last fact is because it’s hard to do long division after your eighth bong hit and you tend to err on the side of generosity, but it’s a working theory.

One state that actually doesn’t surprise me? Idaho, which is top ten in both categories. I know that seems weird, but some of the best customers I ever had were from Idaho. I have no explanation whatsoever for it, but it’s nice to see that vindicated here. So…go Boise State Broncos, I guess? Oh, wait, this. Never mind, Idaho, you still suck.

See a state ranked too low/too high and feel like talking smack about them? Have fun in the comments, guys.

Image via Paul Matthew Photography/shutterstock.

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