We recently spent two months in the USA, and trust me, tipping is a royal pain in the butt. To put this in context, we are Australian and we don't tip. Tipping is one of those practices we simply are not used to, but it is also one of the reasons Americans get ripped off when they travel.
I am sure we over-tipped to be on the safe side when we visited, but it was always a situation which caused us some angst. Add into the mix that there are different practices in the various states in the USA, so yes, it became stressful. Some of the US states charge a sales tax as well as the tip. Some include the tip in the bill, others don't.
Suffice it to say, we did not see anything united about the tipping etiquette in the United States of America.
I get it that many workers are not paid an appropriate wage thus they subsist on the tips they receive. Many people in the service industry were sure pleased to see us and our overpayment on tips. It seems simple to me. Pay workers a proper minimum wage, or more for that matter, and get rid of this reliance on tips. Not to mention you would make my life easier, also.
Too simplistic? Probably, but we don't tip in Australia and it seems to work out just fine. Of course, if we love a meal or the service, we do leave a tip. In general, however,we don't tip in Australia because we pay our waitstaff well. We even pay double time and triple time on weekends and public holidays, so tipping is not expected in Australia.
However, because you are an American and Americans tip, I am reasonably sure that many Australians will let you presume that it is also standard practice here. We are not the only ones to take advantage of this tipping custom of yours.
Unfortunately, Americans are walking targets. A friend went on a cruise on the Yangtze. The American passengers were on one deck and all the other passengers were on another. He asked a staff member why. The answer was simple. Americans always pay tips. The subtext was that Aussies don't.
My husband was in Greece with some American friends. There were two prices, the Australian price and the American price. It could be because Australia is home to thousands of Greek nationals and Melbourne has the highest proportion of Greeks outside of Greece, itself, and they just like us. Or, the American price could have been because people know, worldwide, that Americans will pay more, then add a tip.