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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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    Cited by:

    1. Fielding, David & Knowles, Stephen & Robertson, Kirsten, 2018. "Alcohol, generosity and empathy," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 28-39.
    2. Tobol, Yossef & Siniver, Erez & Yaniv, Gideon, 2022. "Do restaurant customers who receive an unreasonably low bill bring it to the server’s attention? A field experiment on dishonesty," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 90(C).
    3. Elif Aydin, Asli & Acun, Yüksel, 2019. "An investigation of tipping behavior as a major component in service economy: The case of taxi tipping," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 114-120.
    4. Thrane, Christer & Haugom, Erik, 2020. "Peer effects on restaurant tipping in Norway: An experimental approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 244-252.
    5. Conlisk, Sarah, 2021. "Tipping in Crises: Evidence from Chicago Taxi Passengers during COVID-19," OSF Preprints brvhp, Center for Open Science.
    6. Medler-Liraz, Hana & Seger-Guttmann, Tali, 2021. "The joint effect of flirting and emotional labor on customer service-related outcomes," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 60(C).
    7. David Fielding & Stephen Knowles & Kirsten Robertson, 2017. "Alcohol Expenditure, Generosity and Empathy," Working Papers 1711, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2017.
    8. Frank, David G. & Lynn, Michael, 2020. "Shattering the Illusion of the Self-Earned Tip: The Effect of a Restaurant Magician on Co-Workers’ Tips," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    9. Conlisk, Sarah, 2022. "Tipping in crises: Evidence from Chicago taxi passengers during COVID-19," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 89(C).
    10. Giaccherini, Matilde & Gilli, Marianna & Mancinelli, Susanna & Zoli, Mariangela, 2021. "Nudging food waste decisions at restaurants," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tipping; Field experiments; Social norms; Consumer behavior; Moral licensing and moral cleansing;
    All these keywords.

    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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