The Excuses For Not Tipping Your Waiter Decently

A new study finds a genetic reason for less generous tips

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Research has been boiling down the science of restaurant tipping for years. But sometimes, it seems, studies can give the service industry short shrift. Today we learned that science has pinned tipping on your genes. As CNN relayed, the study suggested "that generosity is built into human nature and isn't solely a result of social pressure," a finding that has to be disappointing for over-worked servers.

To us, the "My Genes Say I Don't Tip Well" excuse just seems like another reason to be stingy (not that the researchers intended the findings to be read that way, it should be noted). But science is full of such empirical links that can be covers for excuses not to tip well. Here are just a few of the more humorous, notable ones:

  • The 'Music Could Be Better' excuse: This might be one of the odder findings. A 2010-reported French study highlighted by research magazine Miller-McCune found that restaurants who play music with "pro-social" lyrics (we take that to mean more communal) elicit larger tips from patrons. "Patrons who heard either the restaurant's usual soundtrack or the emotionally neutral songs gave tips 24 percent of the time. Those who heard the songs with pro-social lyrics gave tips 35 percent of the time," the study found.
  • The 'You're Not Standing In the Right Place' excuse In May, Good magazine highlighted a study finding that a waitress's closer proximity to the patron can lead to bigger tips, with a predictably bigger tip if the diner was alone. "It's just a natural human reaction it seems--at least for those eating alone--to reward servers more for increasing the intimacy, represented in inches from the table," Good wrote. A caveat, as with many similar studies, was that researchers only tested five waitresses in three restaurants, according to the abstract.
  • The 'Weather Isn't Very Good' excuse: The tips-are-better-when-it's-sunny refrain has been echoed by newspaper reported research for years. We'll cite a 2004 CNN/Money article highlighting a Cornell Hotel Administration study that noted the occurrence.
  • The 'I Already Have a Large Bill' excuse: An alternate title might be the "I Didn't Mean To Spend That Much" excuse. A 2003 study conducted by Washington University in St. Louis psychologists found that as the check or bill increased, tip percentage declined. From the press release:

Their findings indicate that the percent of the tip actually decreased with the amount of the bill across all three tipping situations [food servers, hair stylists, and cab drivers], although with bills over $100, the percent of the tip levels off -- if the bill is $200, the server is likely to receive the same percentage as if it were $100.

  • The 'You Didn't Flirt Enough' excuse: This past March, Smart Money magazine not only highlighted research suggesting that "A little more flirting goes a lot further than a little faster refill on your coffee," it also noted two other studies with even more unsurprising results:

A 2009 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that larger self-reported breast size among waitresses correlated with bigger tips. Similarly, a 2010 study in the International Journal of Hospitality Management found that waitresses' use of makeup significantly increased their tips. Female servers can also increase their tips by drawing a smiley face on the back of customers' checks (male servers, it turns out, can't achieve the same with this tactic).

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.