Here’s Why Tipping is Down, Gambling’s Up and People Are Acting Like Jerks

We find ourselves in the middle of unprecedented and confounding times.

Las Vegas, for better or worse, is a microcosm of what’s going on in the world.

What’s clear is our culture and the world have changed. We have some ideas about why, and it’s time to grapple with what’s happening so we can understand the behavior of others as well as processing what’s happening within ourselves.

It’s not headline news our culture is shifting. Polarization is at an all-time high, and that’s
seeping into every aspect of our lives.

But polarization isn’t really a cause, it’s a symptom.

The symptoms are everywhere, we just don’t tend to see them as such.

Let’s take tipping, for example.

Our beat is Las Vegas, and we can tell you tipping is on life support.

Tipping, you might say, is just the tip of the iceberg.

We often share extreme examples, such as the TI guest who tipped $40 on a million-dollar slot jackpot, but the problem is far more widespread.

The decline of tipping is a big deal in Las Vegas, as so many service industry employees rely on gratuities to make a living. This isn’t just a Las Vegas trend, of course.

Tipping falling off a cliff isn’t political, it’s cultural. Tipping only exists because it’s an unspoken tradition we all agree to, at least in America.

For a time, people thought bad tipping had to do with the type of visitor Las Vegas was getting during the pandemic, value-seekers taking advantage of low room rates due to a lack of demand. That’s not really the typical visitor now, yet tipping is terrible across the board, and many front line employees are sharing horror stories about how their incomes have gone south.

Some are so affected, they’re leaving the service industry entirely, with no plans to return. The exodus is so large, casinos and other businesses are struggling to find and retain staff.

Nevada is one of the top three states where people are quitting their jobs. Folks are fed up with how they’re being treated, or rather mistreated, and that includes the sorry state of tipping. As tipping diminishes, so does interest in these demanding, often thankless, jobs.

Tipping, you might say, it just the tip of the iceberg.

Was this customer cheap, or was it a cry for help? Yeah, let’s go with a little bit of both.

We’ve got a theory as to why tipping has gone south. It’s not economic, it’s a symbol of an erosion in civility.

And the erosion of civility is the result of trauma, a sustained level of anxiety resulting from the pandemic.

Just consider this for a minute, before bailing. We know how you are.

For two years, we’ve been fed a steady diet of fear. Millions of people have thought about death every day. The gloom-and-doom headlines have been relentless.

It’s unnatural to think about death every day, and unhealthy.

The results of this sustained fear has resulted in fundamental changes in how we see the world and how we treat others.

We’ve tried to come up with a better way of saying this, but here it is: Many people have a serious case of the “fuck-its.”

Tipping is an expression of thoughtfulness and generosity. If you have been contemplating your mortality every day for years, those things have less importance. If you could be dead soon, why would you care if someone gets tipped? You’ll never see them again.

The affects of anxiety and a new outlook on life can be seen in many aspects of society now.

There’s an avalanche of evidence people are exhibiting more impatience, irritability, rudeness and often outright rage.

Of course, there was conflict prior to the pandemic, but when were there this many reports of altercations between passengers and airline staff?

When have so many people in the service industry just bailed from not just their jobs, but from the industry altogether? Why now?

Simply, people DGAF.

Here’s another great example of how things are changing, and we’re surprised nobody’s  really connecting the dots: Casinos have broken revenue records every month for nearly a year.

What does casino revenue have to do with the fallout of the pandemic? It’s not what you might think. It’s not stimulus checks or other superficial reasons.

People are gambling more because they have sort of given up hope. The fear has won, and people want to go out in style.

If you think your days are numbered, daily gambling budget are out the window. It’s time to live it up, let loose and have a blast.

Immediately after the lockdown, people came flooding back to Las Vegas due to pent-up demand. Now, it’s something else.

People are gambling more because if you DGAF, you go hard, you are more reckless, your tolerance for risk goes through the roof. In fact, some might say the simple fact someone has visited Las Vegas during a pandemic is a sign they’re up for anything and personal safety isn’t the highest priority.

Beyond the nagging sense of doom, the pandemic has also resulted in many feeling a loss of control. Psychologists have shown pushing buttons help us feel in control, especially when the result is pleasing. Slot machines provide the sense of control so many long for, especially during a time of great uncertainty.

That’s just the beginning.

We’ve all seen increases in public fights and even brawls in recent months.

There have been increases in drug abuse and overdoses (fentanyl and meth-related deaths are soaring), domestic abuse, mental illness, suicides (including a nearly 50% increase over the past year in emergency room visits for teens who have attempted suicide) and other social ills.

Excessive speeding in Las Vegas has gone up dramatically and authorities expect it to get worse. Again, if you don’t particularly value your own life, or the lives of others, you speed. Ditto DUIs. Deadly crashes in Las Vegas are up 30% in Las Vegas since last year.

It’s all an epidemic of unaddressed emotional fatigue.

It’s a stress, a weight, that never subsides.

For example, we can debate endlessly the efficacy or value of masks, but there can be no disagreement they are a barrier between people. Perhaps the worst part: They cover up smiles. Las Vegas was built on smiles. Smiles are social lubricant.

Las Vegas smizing
Las Vegas is now a world leader in “smizing.”

Masks should symbolize a collective concern for others, but instead, they’re a daily reminder of how afraid we’re supposed to be.

In Las Vegas, they’re a source of friction as front line employees have been asked to become monitors and enforcers of rules rather than ambassadors of carefree fun.

Masks have contributed to an onslaught of unpleasant, contentious interactions that have changed the mood of Vegas at a fundamental level. They’ve become an excuse for bad behavior and disrespect toward people who didn’t sign up for this gig.

Contempt has become the norm, the default.

Some mistakenly believe the scariest thing about the virus is it’s an “invisible threat.” Is it, though? Other people are now the enemy. They’re carriers. They’re dangerous. All we’ve heard for two years is we need distance between us to be safe.

Is it any wonder we’re treating each other differently?

Some of the consequences of this unraveling of civility hit close to home.

We’ve done this blog for about eight years. Anything popular is going to attract haters, and we had our fair share of detractors prior to the pandemic. We’re super popular, in case that wasn’t readily apparent.

During the pandemic, however, we’ve seen a stunning increase in haters, beyond anything we can easily describe. Not just quanity, but in the level of vitriol.

We have several haters who do nothing but spew hate all day, every day. It’s not just disagreement with our opinions, it’s seething hostility. It’s obsessive. The attacks are often personal, and they are evidence of how people have lost their minds due to persistent, unwavering stress, one of the results of which is a lack of critical thinking and the ability to just move on.

The catalyst of all this rage? A travel blog about a tourist destination.

Vital Vegas logo
When did disagreement turn into enmity? Also, when did we start using such fancy words?

It’s easy to blame social media on these distressing changes in our culture, but social media isn’t some thing, some magical robot, it’s all of us.

Social media is a reflection of what we’re going through. The way people communicate online is just a bolder version (especially on platforms like Twitter where anonymity is allowed) of real life.

Civility is a social contract, and it’s falling apart.

There are a lot of contributing factors, including leaders whose crass and childish behavior fans the flames, but ultimately, it’s a fear of death and looming disaster at the core of what we’re seeing in Las Vegas and across the country.

Kindness and generosity are losing. Selfishness, invalidation and jackassery are winning.

These aren’t superficial changes, and they aren’t merely a case of pining for the good old days when these kids today and their rock ‘n’ roll music weren’t ruining everything.

We have to get a handle on where it’s coming from, and we have to start giving the problems we’re facing the proper context.

If civility and politeness and thoughtfulness go, we’re in for a bigger catastrophe than a pandemic. Pandemics end, but the way we treat each other is here to stay.

The path toward reversing these trends can start simply, today.

Slow down. Talk to your neighbor. Tip more. Be patient. Listen. If you see something that makes you mad or hear an opinion you don’t agree with, just move on.

Treat others as you would like to be treated, or maybe even a little better.

Simply put, cut people some slack.

You’ll be OK.

Who we’re being isn’t who we are.

Lucky at O'Sheas
Thank you, Lucky, for teaching us all about the power of hugs.

We can’t control others, or what happens in the world, but we do have control over our reaction to people and circumstances.

The impatience and frustration and anger have a source and it’s temporary. Those feelings are natural. Unleashing them on others doesn’t help us, it just amplifies the chaos.

We’ve all been through so much.

While destructive feelings may be part of us, they don’t have to run us and it’s going to get better. It has to.

We all have a say in that. Kindness begets kindness and what goes around comes around.

It’s going to get better.

If you read this far, it means you think so, too, and that’s a start.