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Restaurant tipping in a field experiment: How do customers tip when they receive too much change?

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  • Azar, Ofer H.
  • Yosef, Shira
  • Bar-Eli, Michael

Abstract

Tipping behavior is analyzed in a field experiment where restaurant customers received excessive change, either 10 or 40 Shekels (about $3 versus $12). One third of the tables reported the extra change to the server and returned it. Tips were higher with the higher level of extra change. Returning the extra change was negatively correlated with tips. The interaction between the level of extra change and whether it was returned had no effect. Possible explanations that tips are higher when the excessive change is not returned due to a positive income effect or perceiving paying a tip out of excessive change as less costly because it is a forgone gain and not a loss, are not supported by the data. Subjects may have exhibited moral licensing and moral cleansing effects. These effects, however, were possibly mitigated by a self-selection effect going in the opposite direction: those who are more generous or altruistic by their nature are more likely to return the extra change and also more likely to tip generously. Receiving the larger amount of extra change may result in feelings of good mood, perceived luckiness, or individuation and unconscious fear of being observed, which increase tips. Interestingly, these feelings seem to remain even if the extra change was returned.

Suggested Citation

  • Azar, Ofer H. & Yosef, Shira & Bar-Eli, Michael, 2015. "Restaurant tipping in a field experiment: How do customers tip when they receive too much change?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 13-21.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:50:y:2015:i:c:p:13-21 DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2015.06.007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lynn, Michael & Grassman, Andrea, 1990. "Restaurant tipping: an examination of three 'rational' explanations," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 169-181, June.
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    6. Wessels, Walter John, 1997. "Minimum Wages and Tipped Servers," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 334-349, April.
    7. Azar, Ofer H., 2004. "What sustains social norms and how they evolve?: The case of tipping," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 49-64, May.
    8. Lynn, Michael & Jabbour, Patrick & Kim, Woo Gon, 2012. "Who uses tips as a reward for service and when? An examination of potential moderators of the service–tipping relationship," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 90-103.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Fielding & Stephen Knowles & Kirsten Robertson, 2017. "Alcohol Expenditure, Generosity and Empathy," Working Papers 1711, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2017.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tipping; Field experiments; Social norms; Consumer behavior; Moral licensing and moral cleansing;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis

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