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Why do diners tip: rule-of-thumb or valuation of service?

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  • Orn Bodvarsson
  • William Luksetich
  • Sherry McDermott

Abstract

When diners decide how much to tip, is the decision based on social convention or on conscientious appraisal of server productivity? Previous researchers in economics and social psychology are generally inconclusive on this question. A common finding in the literature is that tip size and service quality are unrelated, a result usually obtained from OLS regressions. OLS is only appropriate if service quality is exogenous. It is argued that service quality is very likely endogenous in any regression of tip size; good quality encourages good tips, but server expectations of good tips encourage good quality. This simultaneity is accounted for by jointly estimating percentage tips and customer rankings of service quality on a sample of 247 diners in a Central Minnesota restaurant. Included are explanatory variables consistent with both the social psychology and economic views of tipping. In contrast to previous studies, it is found that service quality significantly affects tip size and when servers expect higher tips, customers rank service quality higher. Also it is found that patronage frequency and coupon redemption have no effect on percentage tips, but server gender influences quality significantly. It is concluded that the results are generally supportive of an economic hypothesis of tipping.

Suggested Citation

  • Orn Bodvarsson & William Luksetich & Sherry McDermott, 2003. "Why do diners tip: rule-of-thumb or valuation of service?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(15), pages 1659-1665.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:35:y:2003:i:15:p:1659-1665
    DOI: 10.1080/0003684032000126799
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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.
    2. Lynn, Michael & Zinkhan, George M & Harris, Judy, 1993. " Consumer Tipping: A Cross-Country Study," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(3), pages 478-488, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Saunders, Stephen G. & Lynn, Michael, 2010. "Why tip? An empirical test of motivations for tipping car guards," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 106-113, February.
    2. Azar, Ofer H., 2009. "Tipping motivations and behavior in the US and Israel," MPRA Paper 20304, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Michael Lynn, 2004. "Restaurant tips and service quality: a commentary of Bodvarsson, Luksetich and McDermott (2003)," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(15), pages 975-978.
    4. Caitlin Knowles Myers & Marcus Bellows & Hiba Fakhoury & Douglas Hale & Alexander Hall & Kaitlin Ofman, 2010. "Ladies first? A field study of discrimination in coffee shops," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(14), pages 1761-1769.
    5. Ofer Azar, 2009. "Incentives and service quality in the restaurant industry: the tipping-service puzzle," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(15), pages 1917-1927.
    6. Azar, Ofer H., 2006. "Tipping, firm strategy, and industrial organization," MPRA Paper 4485, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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