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Why pay extra? Tipping and the importance of social norms and feelings in economic theory

  • Azar, Ofer H.

Tipping is a multi-billion-dollar phenomenon that standard economic models find hard to explain. I discuss several aspects of tipping and divide tipping to six different categories: reward-tipping, price- tipping, tipping-in-advance, bribery-tipping, holiday-tipping and gift- tipping, and discuss the economics of each category. Often tipping has economic justification, because it solves some inefficiency and increases welfare. Analyzing the potential reasons for tipping illustrates the importance of social norms and feelings (e.g. embarrassment and unfairness felt when one does not tip) in motivating economic behavior. Retaliatory behavior that workers sometimes exhibit towards non-tipping patrons is then discussed, and ideas for future research are proposed.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics).

Volume (Year): 36 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 250-265

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Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:36:y:2007:i:2:p:250-265
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/620175

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  1. Ofer Azar, 2005. "The Social Norm of Tipping: Does it Improve Social Welfare?," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 85(2), pages 141-173, 08.
  2. Lynn, Michael & Zinkhan, George M & Harris, Judy, 1993. " Consumer Tipping: A Cross-Country Study," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 478-88, December.
  3. Ernst Fehr, 2003. "Psychological Foundations of Incentives," Microeconomics 0305010, EconWPA.
  4. Lynn, Michael & McCall, Michael, 2000. "Gratitude and gratuity: a meta-analysis of research on the service-tipping relationship," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 203-214.
  5. Ofer H. Azar, 2004. "Optimal Monitoring with External Incentives: The Case of Tipping," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(1), pages 170-181, July.
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  7. Rachel Barkan & Aviad Israeli, 2004. "Testing servers' roles as experts and managers of tipping behaviour," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(6), pages 91-108, November.
  8. 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.
  9. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  10. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  11. Wessels, Walter John, 1997. "Minimum Wages and Tipped Servers," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 334-49, April.
  12. Matthew Rabin, 1998. "Psychology and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 11-46, March.
  13. Ofer H. Azar, 2003. "The History of Tipping - From Sixteenth-Century England to United States in the 1910s," Economic History 0309001, EconWPA.
  14. 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.
  15. Richard H. Thaler, 2000. "From Homo Economicus to Homo Sapiens," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 133-141, Winter.
  16. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  17. Conlin, Michael & Lynn, Michael & O'Donoghue, Ted, 2003. "The norm of restaurant tipping," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 297-321, November.
  18. Ofer H. Azar, 2003. "The implications of tipping for economics and management," Others 0309002, EconWPA.
  19. Jon Elster, 1998. "Emotions and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 47-74, March.
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