Should Tipping Be Banned?

Season 5, Episode 24

This hour of Freakonomics Radio is all about tipping. As we all know, the practice of tipping can be awkward, random, and confusing. What you might not know is that it is discriminatory, and according to at least one academic's research, correlates with corruption. We talk with a professor who has written over 50 papers on the subject.

Then, we explore the warped restaurant business model: kitchen wages are too low to hire cooks, while diners are put in charge of paying the waitstaff. So what happens if you eliminate tipping, raise menu prices, and redistribute the wealth? New York restaurant maverick Danny Meyer is about to find out.

The No-Tipping Point

The restaurant business model is warped: kitchen wages are too low to hire cooks, while diners are put in charge of paying the waitstaff. So what happens if you eliminate tipping, raise menu prices, and redistribute the wealth? New York restaurant maverick Danny Meyer is about to find out.

Should Tipping Be Banned? A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

This week’s podcast is a rebroadcast of our episode called “Should Tipping Be Banned?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

As we all know, the practice of tipping can be awkward, random, and confusing. This episode tries to offer some clarity. At its center is Cornell professor Michael Lynn, who has written 51 academic papers on tipping.

Should Tipping Be Banned?

Season 4, Episode 5

The practice of tipping is one of the most irrational, un-economic behaviors we engage in. It’s not in our economic best-interest to tip; essentially we do it because it’s a social norm -- a nicety. In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner looks at why we tip, what kinds of things can nudge tips upward, and what’s wrong with tipping overall. In the end, we wonder whether or not the practice of tipping should be eliminated altogether. Research shows that African American waiters make less in tips than people of other races, so tipping is a discriminatory practice. Later in the hour: if your parent has the gene for Huntington’s disease you have a 50% chance of getting it yourself. Huntington’s is a debilitating fatal disorder. People can do genetic testing to see if they will fall ill, yet only 5% of people choose to do so. Stephen Dubner talks to University of Chicago economist Emily Oster about her research on Huntington’s genetic testing, and the value of not knowing your fate.

Should Tipping Be Banned?

Our latest podcast is called “Should Tipping Be Banned?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) 

As we all know, the practice of tipping can be awkward, random, and confusing. This episode tries to offer some clarity. At its center is Cornell professor Michael Lynn, who has written 51 academic papers on tipping. A few examples: 

Are Christian/Religious People Poor Tippers?”
Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping
Determinants and Consequences of Female Attractiveness and Sexiness: Realistic Tests with Restaurant Waitresses
National Personality and Tipping Customs

Because Lynn has largely built his career around tipping, it came as a bit of a surprise when Stephen Dubner asked him what he would change about the practice: 

LYNN: You know, I think I would outlaw it.