Where a Waitress Stands Changes Her Tips

Posted by Alex Goldmark

pretty waitress

It's an adage in psychology that proximity breeds liking, the closer people are in physical space, the more likely they are to become emotionally close, but that's because they see each other more frequently, increasing familiarity. You're just more likely to befriend your neighbors than random families across town. But does physical proximity affect how much change we fork over during lunch?

This new study from the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research finds that waitresses who stand closer to the table get tipped more often, and get more money from solo diners. 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. 

Another study on tipping published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology offers a less intrusive strategy for upping food server earnings: spell out suggested tip amounts on the receipt. Restaurants that calculate right there on the bill how much 15 percent or 20 percent amounts to in dollar terms end up getting bigger tips. 

Oddly, in a less scientific study a few years back, the folks at This American Life found that being more aloof and less friendly actually increased tips. So, add it all up, and the path to maximum gratuity earnings might be standing up close and personal, acting distant and impersonal, and showing what a cheapskate looks like in dollar terms on the bill. Knowing the menu and being prompt might help too. 

[UPDATED to include study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.]

Image: (cc) by Flickr user WageIndicator - Paulien Osse

Via Harvard Business Review.