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Six Tips to Get Higher Tips

These techniques predispose customers to leave higher tips.

Tipping is more than acknowledging good service. It’s about making a living. Service employees in the United States rely on tips to supplement their salaries. Customers tip the minimum because they feel obligated by social norms, but customers will tip more if they like the people who serve them. The key to receiving higher tips is to create an environment that predisposes customers to be more generous. The following six tips for higher tips psychologically predispose customers to leave higher tips.

Tip 1: Wear Something in Your Hair (Women)

Female servers who wear ornamentation in their hair such as flowers (real or fake), barrettes, or other similar objects receive higher tips from both male and female customers. One explanation for this finding is that more attractive waitresses receive higher tips than less attractive waitresses. Customers may perceive waitresses who wear ornaments in their hair as more attractive and thus, predispose customers to give higher tips. Interestingly, attractiveness had no effect on tip amounts for male servers from either male or female customers.

Tip 2: Lightly Touch Customers (Women)

Female servers who touch customers lightly on the shoulder, hand, or arm receive higher tips than customers who are not touched. Customers who were touched by female servers drank more alcohol than customers who were not touched, thus, giving customers more opportunities to tip the server. Touch when interpreted properly produces a feeling of friendliness and, therefore, predisposes customers to tip more generously. Touching can have a negative effect if it is perceived as flirtatious or dominating and could reduce the amount of tips rather than increase them. Female servers should be careful when touching male customers who are in the company of romantically involved females because any touching could produce jealousy. Since the effect of touch is the same for female customers as it is for male customers, touching the female customers will have the same effect.

Tip 3: Introduce Yourself by Name (Men and Women)

When servers introduce themselves by name, they receive higher tips. Personal introductions make the servers look friendlier. Customers tip servers who appear friendly and likable. Servers who introduced themselves by name received an average tip of $2 more than servers who did not introduce themselves by name. Mundanely providing customers your name is not sufficient. Your introduction should be accompanied by a wide smile. Servers who smile receive larger tips. A personal introduction accompanied by a smile make servers appear friendlier and more personable and thus, predispose customers to leave higher tips.

Tip 4: Create Reciprocity (Men and Women)

When people receive something from somebody, they are predisposed to reciprocate in like manner. Customers who receive something, even small items, will typically reciprocate by leaving a larger tip. Servers can induce reciprocity through several techniques. Servers who write “thank you” on the back of the check receive higher tips. Customers perceive this small gesture as both friendly and as having rendered a service and, in an effort to reciprocate, tend to leave bigger tips. Reciprocity can be induced in a more subtle fashion. Just prior to the time when the customers’ orders are complete, the waitress tells one of the customers that the manner in which the food was prepared was not up to the server’s standards and he or she sent the meal back to the chef to have it done correctly. The server then apologizes for the delay and after a few minutes, serves the food as it was originally prepared. The customers perceive the server as having done them a favor, although no favor was actually performed, thus predisposing the customers to reciprocate by means of a higher gratuity. Caution should be used when using this technique. Servers should select imperfections that do not question the taste or quality of the food nor will it discredit the restaurant. Reciprocity can also be induced by bringing mints along with the check.

Tip 5: Repeat the Customer’s Order (Men and Women)

People like people who are like them. When servers repeat orders, customers subconsciously feel that the server is more like them than not. People who are in good rapport mirror each other’s gestures and speech. By repeating the customers’ orders, they experience sameness with their servers, like them more, and tend to leave bigger tips.

Tip 6: Provide Good Service (Men and Women)

At the heart of a good tip is good service. Greet customers with a warm, friendly smile, introduce yourself by name, repeat the customers’ order, refill drink glasses without being asked, and periodically check in on the customers to see if they need anything. Each customer is different and servers should learn to speed read them. Some customers want to be pampered, some customers require minimal service, and some customers just want to be left alone to enjoy their meal. The quicker servers learn to read their customers, the higher their tips will be.

Now, let’s tackle the 90-pound gorilla in the room. Yes, research shows that more attractive waitresses get higher tips than less attractive waitresses, regardless of the level of service. Waitresses with larger breasts get higher tips. Waitresses with blond hair get higher tips. Tips increase as a waitress’ body size decreases. Waitresses who wear makeup receive higher tips from male customers but not from female customers. That is just the way it is. Enough said.

Research shows that servers can increase their tips if they employ a few simple techniques. These techniques have no downside. If they are ineffective, customers will not recognize that the techniques were used on them. The upside is increased revenue. The golden rule for servers to get higher tips is, “Make the customers feel good about themselves and they will like you. The more customers like their servers, the higher the tips they are likely to leave.”


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