Gratuity : A Contextual Understanding of Tipping Norms from the Perspective of Tipped Employees

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Gratuity is based on interviews with 425 people in more than 50 occupational categories. The respondents from across the U.S. reflect the diversity of the population but have one thing in common: they earn tips. A tip is a price set almost entirely by a customer, less connected to demand than to social code. In the U.S., tipping remains one of our most controversial, confusing, and highly variable norms. In their own words, respondents present their perspectives regarding their compensation as well as what they like and dislike about work. Understanding what people think about tipping and how tipped employees experience their work provides an understanding of tipping norms that has never been addressed. The evidence in this study indicates that tips do not appear to increase in accordance with inequality, and tips do not alleviate the discomfort of inequality from the perspective of the tipped employee when they are given to demonstrate status over another. Tips may in some cases serve a redistributive function, but they are not consistent with regard to social status. The evidence in this study also indicates that tips are a weak signal of quality and are not likely to serve as an effective monitoring mechanism. People appear to conform to tipping norms for social and emotional rather than strictly rational reasons. Furthermore, conformity to tipping norms is likewise inconsistent across work contexts. One of the principal mechanisms for fostering conformity lies within the organizational hierarchy, and management plays a critical role. The definitive difference between those who like their job and those who do not is the experience with people, particularly management. Every person who interacts with the public encounters people who are rude or disrespectful. The critical lesson for management is that the emotional costs of these interactions can be mitigated by managers who extend trust and support to employees. The absence of trust in the workplace contributes to a work environment that imposes additional, unnecessary costs on employees and likely affects the experiences of customers.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 310 pages
  • Lexington Books
  • MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739144243
  • 9780739144244

Review quote

Who do we tip and why do we tip? What does it mean to work for tips? From food servers to housekeepers, animal tenders, musicians, ushers, repair people, and more, the authors use the perspective of over 450 interviews with tipped employees to explore what might be considered a growing trend: the giving and receiving of tips. Both controversial and emotional, tipping rituals defy rational economic models of behavior. That is what makes tipping such an interesting cultural phenomenon and Seltzer and Ochs s book a worthwhile read.--Eleanor LaPointe, Rutgers University"
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About Richard Seltzer

Richard Seltzer is professor of political science at Howard University. Holona LeAnne Ochs is assistant professor of political science at Lehigh University.
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