Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Psychology of Tipping

Great article in the NYT today entitled "Why Tip?". Basically it discusses the pros and cons of tipping in restaurants and details the story of a restaurant in San Diego that has abandoned tips and placed a service charge in place for all meals. I have to admit, I haven't thought about tipping much lately...I pretty much standardly tip 20% without thinking about it. I don't really factor in the quality of service, and I honestly can't remember any times that the service was so bad that I even had to think about reducing the tip amount.

The main reason the owner of the San Diego restaurant eliminated tips was because the staff was squabbling over money, including waiters angling for better shifts and tables, and the kitchen workers didn’t feel they were getting a fair share of the profits. One of waitress interviewed for the piece claims she can concentrate on the job better now because she's not focused on kissing up for good tips. The counter-argument, of course, is that by leaving the size of the tip up to the discretion of the customer, it places incentive on the waitstaff to provide the best service possible. However, a study found that there is only a 2% correlation between the quality of service and quality of tip, thus overall, the incentives may be diminished.It would have been interesting to know if the quality of service improved or declined after elimination of the tipping rules at that restaurant (or at others that have done the same thing).

How do you all feel? Do you feel that tipping gives you leverage in obtaining better service? Do you change the size of tip based on quality of service or only reserve that for only major offensive violations in quality? A lot of restaurants do have gratuity included for parties > quality of service diminished for bigger parties? In Europe, where tipping is much smaller, how does the quality of service compare on a systematic basis? (in my experience quality in Europe has been good). Do you give bigger tips at restaurants where the waitstaff are forced to memorize all of the specials of the day and recite them without notes vs. with notes? (although impressive, I don't think I have ever decreased my tip size for the restaurants in which they allowed the waitstaff to use notes).


Will said...

To get my 20%, you have to at least come by and ask 'how is everything' somewhere btw 3 and 10 mins after arrival of food. If you don't do that, you're getting 16.6 repeating. Also, if you're working at a diner or somewhere where the food is really cheap, I'll prob give at least 20%.

julie said...

When has Will ever tipped 20%? Anyone?

Will said...

I knew that was coming...just wasn't sure from what quadrant of the haters' society. Once you get a rap for being cheap, terrible at directions and mechanically disinclined, you might as well stay home clipping coupons, lost in your own house trying ineffectually to fix appliances cuz ain't NOBODY gonna cut you some slack.