a tip for wait staff who want better tips

Wait staff who mimic their customers get bigger tips, Dutch researchers report in the July issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. No, the waitress who imitates her customer’s stutter won’t be raking in the dough, but if she literally repeats a diner’s order to his face, she’ll significantly increase the size of her tip. Rick Van Baaren of the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and his colleagues first established what an average tip at a specific restaurant was. They then had a waitress at the same restaurant do one of two things: she either repeated a customer’s order verbatim or, instead, just said something else positive like, “Coming right up!” By repeating the customer’s order, her average tip almost doubled. The authors write, “These results demonstrate that mimicry can be advantageous to the imitator because it can make people more generous.”

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 7/15/2003.
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