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March 31, 2021

What makes you tip more at restaurants?

Chances are, when you go out to eat, you’ve got it in your mind just what you’re going to tip and why you’re going to do it.

Istockphoto_15691573-woman-paying-bill Most diners, especially if they’re old and crotchety, are thinking: this server could bring out the goddamn Mona Lisa on a plate but if I have to wait ten extra minutes, they’ll be lucky to get five per cent.

As it turns out, maybe that’s not it at all. According to a couple recent studies, we tip because of flirting, smiley faces printed on cheques and breasts, breasts, breasts. Uh, not necessarily in that order.

Yes, tipping may be no science. In spite of social norms suggesting 15 per cent is the baseline, there are no written rules for gratuities, unless we’re talking this new North American trend of restaurants including a mandatory tip on bills – which, for anyone outside the service industry, is a little insulting.

But perhaps why  we tip, the behaviours and patterns behind the idea, can be broken down and measured to a degree. That’s what a few researchers have done, and the notion that tipping only rewards good, prompt service may be hogwash.

By the survey of Cornell research Michael Lynn, people claiming they tip because of punctual service doesn’t hold much water. According to his real restaurant findings, the best, most efficient service only leads to the slightest of tip increases – a one or two per cent jump above 15 per cent in most cases.

What does make tips, which account for some $40 billion annually in the U.S., rise? Boobs, according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The journal found bigger tips directly correlated with larger self-reported breast size (wasn’t this the idea behind a Seinfeld  episode?) and another survey, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, found a similar relationship between tips and makeup use.

Further, tips have been shown to rise up to the 20 per cent threshold when servers draw smiley faces on cheques, touch customers’ arms, stoop down to table level when taking orders, introduce themselves by name, compliment meal choices and give extra candies alongside the bill.

As SmartMoney.com puts it, “a little more flirting goes a lot further than a little faster refill on your coffee.”

When you really think about it, what makes you tip more? Be honest now: this is the Internet, it’s anonymous!

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money

*Follow Jason on Twitter here.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...