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Tipping, firm strategy, and industrial organization

  • Azar, Ofer H.

Tipping is a phenomenon that has been studied for many years, but is receiving increased attention in recent years. The magnitude of tips is very large – in the US, for example, tips in the food industry alone amount to about $42 billion each year, and tips are given in many other establishments and countries, so annual worldwide tips are much higher than that. Millions of workers in the US alone derive most of their income from tips and tipping is prevalent in numerous countries and occupations. These are all good reasons to study tipping, but it is clear that tipping has created much interest also because it is puzzling from a theoretical perspective. The common assumption in economics that people maximize utility (which is derived by consuming various goods) subject to a budget constraint implies that people should give up money only when they receive something in return. This is not the case, however, when people tip: service has already been provided by the time the tip is given, so the tip is a voluntary payment that does not buy something real (such as improved service) in return. The literature on tipping can be divided to two main areas. The first area can be termed "understanding tipping behavior." This includes studies that try to understand why people tip, what affects their tipping behavior, why tipping is different across countries, etc. The second research area, which started to receive attention more recently, can be defined as "tipping, firm strategy, and industrial organization." This part of the literature deals with the effect of tipping on firms and markets. For example, firms can sometimes choose between voluntary tipping and compulsory service charges – which one is better for the firm? How should the existence of tips affect optimal pricing by the firm? How should firms monitor workers and provide incentives to them when tipping exists? Why does tipping exist in some industries but not in others? Does tipping increase social welfare in industries in which it is the norm? All these questions belong to this second research area and demonstrate the close relationship of tipping to industrial organization and firm strategy. Several review articles made an attempt to summarize and synthesize the extensive literature in the area of understanding tipping behavior, but no article has offered an extensive literature review that focuses on the area of "tipping, firm strategy, and industrial organization." The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to review and summarize the literature in this area of research.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 4485.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:4485
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  1. Ofer H. Azar, 2003. "The implications of tipping for economics and management," Others 0309002, EconWPA.
  2. 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.
  3. Azar, Ofer H., 2005. "Incentives and Service Quality in the Restaurant Industry: The Tipping – Service Puzzle," MPRA Paper 4457, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2006.
  4. Bodvarsson, Orn B. & Gibson, William A., 1994. "Gratuities and customer appraisal of service: Evidence from Minesota restaurants," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 287-302.
  5. Őrn Bodvarsson, 2005. "Restaurant tips and service quality: a reply to Lynn," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(6), pages 345-346.
  6. Ofer Azar, 2005. "The Social Norm of Tipping: Does it Improve Social Welfare?," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 85(2), pages 141-173, 08.
  7. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  8. Ofer H. Azar, 2005. "Why pay extra? Tipping and the importance of social norms and feelings in economic theory," Microeconomics 0503005, EconWPA.
  9. Ofer H. Azar, 2007. "Do people tip strategically, to improve future service? Theory and evidence," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 40(2), pages 515-527, May.
  10. Wessels, Walter John, 1997. "Minimum Wages and Tipped Servers," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 334-49, April.
  11. 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.
  12. Ofer H. Azar, 2003. "The Social Norm of Tipping: A Review," Others 0309006, EconWPA.
  13. Ofer Azar, 2005. "Who do we tip and why? An empirical investigation," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(16), pages 1871-1879.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Ofer H. Azar, 2003. "What sustains social norms and how they evolve? The case of tipping," Others 0309001, EconWPA.
  18. Ruffle, Bradley J., 1998. "More Is Better, But Fair Is Fair: Tipping in Dictator and Ultimatum Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 247-265, May.
  19. Azar, Ofer H., 2009. "Tipping motivations and behavior in the US and Israel," MPRA Paper 20304, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  20. Hornik, Jacob, 1992. " Tactile Stimulation and Consumer Response," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 449-58, December.
  21. Azar, Ofer H. & Tobol, Yossi, 2006. "Tipping as a strategic investment in service quality: An optimal-control analysis of repeated interactions in the service industry," MPRA Paper 4393, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2007.
  22. 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.
  23. Ruffle, Bradley J., 1999. "Gift giving with emotions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 399-420, July.
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