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The Study Of Tipping

Tipping Point: Study looks at the psychology of gratuity


(American City Business Journals)

Establishing a relationship with patrons goes a long way towards getting a bigger tip, according to a study that looked at the connection between non-service interactions between waitstaff and customers and the size of their gratuity.

Researchers investigating the logic of tipping analyzed why restaurant patrons might be motivated to tip more. It made sense that “regulars” at a particular restaurant might give higher tips to the waitstaff since they were sure to see them again and want continued excellent service in the future.

But the question was, what motivates someone to tip more when they have no continuing relationship with the server?

In one experiment, restaurant servers found that if they gave pieces of chocolate to dining parties after the meal, their tip increased from the average 15 percent to 18 percent. Researchers concluded that reciprocity – the motivation to return the right deed of the “gift” of chocolate, no matter how minimal, by tipping more – was the likely explanation.

Other experiments found that if a server writes “thank you” on the customer’s dinner check, tips go up two percentage points. If they pen something about ‘nice weather,’ the increase is four points. If a female server touches a customer’s hand, the increase in tips is five percentage points, and a server introducing herself or himself by name leads to a gain of eight percentage points in tips, The Washington Post reported.

The conclusion is that situations and actions that boost a customer’s mood prompt them to tip more.

Mood affects tipping in other situations, as well. Studies found that cab drivers get lower tips on overcast days because cloudy skies dampen people’s attitude. And although payment screens with higher-percentage “suggested tips” might get cab drivers more money, there is a limit. Riders also are more likely not tip at all if they think that the suggested amount is too much, which makes them crabby.