Americans widely believe tipping is an effective tool for incentivizing and rewarding good service. But that’s not always the case.
Researchers have found that 85% of Americans admit they’re just following the social norm when they leave a tip. That is, they’ll tip regardless of service quality – because everyone else does.
“Ultimately, social approval’s the main reason we tip,” says Mike Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at Cornell University.
Can we fix this? That is, can we do away with tipping and instead pay restaurant servers and others a living wage?
Easier said than done.
“Any restaurant of any price tier that replaces tipping with service charges, their online ratings go down,” says Lynn.
“People view service charges as mandatory tips, and we don’t like to be told that we have to do something.”
Online ratings similarly plunge when no-tipping restaurants raise menu prices by 15% or 20% to give workers a living wage.
“It turns out that when customers evaluate restaurants’ expensiveness, they’re pretty much looking at menu prices, and that’s it,” Lynn says. “We dismiss, or discount somehow, the fact that you’re expected to tip.”
Another problem: Restaurants can’t band together to do away with tipping. That would be price collusion, and that’s illegal.
Polls show most Americans like the tipping system – for personal reasons if no other.
“People, they already have it set in their mind,” says Rene Colorado, assistant manager of Morrison restaurant in Atwater Village.
“But at the end of the day, a tip is always optional, and it always comes out of people’s hearts.”
Actually, no. It comes from the fact that we’ve always tipped, so we continue doing so.
Don’t expect that to change any time soon.
Read Part 1 of this series here.