Sunday, November 20, 2005

What Affects Tips?

Remember this in case you ever get a job waiting tables (from an article in the Washington Post by Richard Morin):

Scrawling a patriotic message on a restaurant tab is a great way to boost tips -- at least in northern Utah. Communications professors John S. Seiter of Utah State University and and Robert H. Gass of California State University at Fullerton instructed two waitresses to serve up four different types of bills to 100 diners at two local restaurants.

The servers wrote "United We Stand," and "God Bless America" or "Have a nice day" on the bills. A control group received no personal note.

Patrons gave a 20 percent tip on tabs that included "United We Stand" but only 15 percent when they got no message at all. The other two messages garnered slightly more than 15 percent, Seiter and Gass reported in a recent article in the Journal of
Applied Social Psychology.

These conclusions about tipping come from a researcher named Michael Lynn from Cornell:

1. Two studies show little relationship between quality of waiter service and size of tip.

2. Hotel bellboys can double the size of their tips, on average, by showing guests how the TV and air conditioning work.

3. Tipping is less prevalent in countries where unease about inequality is especially

4. The more a culture values status and prestige, the more likely that culture will use tipping to reward service.

5. Tips are higher in sunny weather.

6. Servers can increase their tips by giving their names to customers, squatting next to tables, touching their customers, and giving their customers after-dinner mints.

7. Drawing a smiley face on the check increases a waitress's tips by 18 percent but decreases a waiter's tips by 9 percent.

8. In one study, waitresses increased their tips by 17 percent by wearing flowers in their hair. In general it pays to look distinctive albeit not freaky.

Here is a full article by Dr. Lynn offering advice on how to increase tips based on his research.

Any thoughts on why these techniques work for increasing tips? Any other things that you think affect the amount that you tip in a restaurant?

(Source: Marginal Revolution)


Anonymous said...

Those conclusions make sense. If there was one I think is odd, it would be the first. But then again, most people will just tip the 10-15% unless the reciever goes above and beyond, like conclusions 2 and 6. Conclusions 5,7 and 8 make sense too. When people feel good they will open their wallets more. 7 is funny though, I would have to guess most customers find it disturbing that a man drew a smiley face.


Daniel Hanison said...

I would agree that a man drawing a smiley face would be a little strange! Conclusion 5 seems a little strange to me, I have never tiped more because it is summer - does anyone have an idea? Another way to make more money as a waiter/waitress is that if you have a regular customers, learn their names. I agree that if a waiter takes the time to talk to you and help you with choices and such then he is more likely to recieve a bigger tip. Tipping becuase a girl has flowers in her hair seems a little weird again. I would also say that I tend to tip more in a nicer restaurant as most waiters are nicer!

Rebecca said...

Some other ways that waiters might be able to increase tips:
1. By apologizing for inconveniences, even when the waiter is not to blame.
2. By recommending dishes to the customer (only if they actually turn out to be good, I guess)
3. By writing their name on the check (or on the table like at macaroni grill)-- seeing the name in front of them makes tipping more personal.
It's a little bit surprising that smiley faces and flowers can affect tipping so significantly because it seems like most people I know tip at a standard 15% or 20%.

Anonymous said...

To me, number one stating "Two studies show little relationship between quality of waiter service and size of tip" I guess would make sense at times because people typically have a set amount they tip, typically ranging between 15% and 20%. However, I disagree in my own experience because most people I know and eat with, including myself, give 15% for o.k. service and 20% for great service. It may be because a lot of my friends are servers themselves, but they watch to see if the waiter does the things they should, like the other day my friend who works at Roadhouse and I were at Olive Garden and our waiter did nothing, never checked on us or anything (probably because we looked like low tippers being teens and whatnot). Ya well lets just say he probably wasn't too thrilled with our tip as a result. Actually, he was probably pretty pissed. o well. And lastly, if a guy drew a smiley face on my tab, i'd be kind of weirded out. Just saying. Moral of story: put a smile on your face, be friendly, and do your job, and the money will come a-rolling in.

-Elisabeth Bentley

Nic Neinken said...

This all makes sense however it is weird to think about. Personally, i like to tip a standard rate but if service is exceptionally bad or good i give less or more of a tip respectively. Also I think it is important for people that are waiting tables to relate to the customer in order to increase tip size. If I knew someone or if i took a liking toward someone i would tip them more. Also, if honesty is not one of your virtues, then lie up a bad story about yourself inspiring pity in your customers. I saw a family guy once where the teenaged girl Meg brought her baby brother Stewie into her job as a waitress and when people thought it was hers they tipped her ridiculous amounts. Now i know Family Guy isn't true but i beleive it would work. It's all about being personal and relating to your customers as a waiter/ress.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Ballard-
All of these instances have a common theme. The employee is going out of his way to try to please the customer.
The customer is always more inclined to leave a larger tip when he/she feels that the employee has given extra effort. The various methods
mentioned, such as the smiley face, work especially well because they are unique. They stick in the customers mind. Also, a happy, satisfied customer is more likely to leave a larger tip. The happy messages should, although it may be small, make the customer more happy.

Anonymous said...

I agree that some of these things that increase tip seem to be a bit strange, in particular the one about wearing a flower in your hair. Why would that do anything? But I do think the smiley face would make someone happier and more likely to leave a larger tip (unless the waitress was not very nice the entire night and you could tell it was just a fake routine... yea that just happened to me recently). Also about the smiley face though... I don't really see why it would be so creepy to have a guy draw a smiley face haha why must we judge? maybe he's just a fun happy smiley guy that's what i'd think.
Anyway... I do think that a lot of these things seem to help the waitor gain higher tips. My friends and I tend to tip higher when they are really nice and friendly and maybe make a bit of conversation with us.. and always being very helpful. I think one important thing is to check on tables a lot.. make sure they have everything they need all the time, in particular making sure their drinks are always full. I know that my pet peeve is when a waitor delivers your food and then never comes back like FOREVER to see if you need more of your drink. Eating without a drink is pretty much horrible. Also, getting everything right is probably pretty important. People tend to get really annoyed when they ask for something a certain way and it seems that their request was ignored. I'm sure people will make fun of me for saying this but i'm alergic to milk and when I have to ask for stuff without cheese or something of the sort a LOT of times it comes out wrong. Now all of my friends notice and have gotten to the point of speaking realllly loudly when I ask for no cheese, saying things like "GOSH, SUCKS YOUR ALLERGIC TO CHEESE... SUCKS YOU COULD DIIIEEE" haha yea but when its wrong and I just have to wait again for food its pretty annoying. So yeaa.... I think if you do those things you are pretty set for a super tip :-D