Should Tipping Be Banned? (Ep. 129)
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.
Why ban tipping? Lynn has found that tipping, as currently practiced in the U.S., is in fact discriminatory. If that’s not enough to make you dislike tipping, consider what Magnus Torfason, from the Harvard Business School, has to say:
TORFASON: The more tipping you see in a given country, the more corruption you generally see in that country as well.
You’ll also hear from a New York lawyer named Justin Swartz on the legality of tipping; Jay Porter, the owner of the San Diego restaurant The Linkery, where tipping is forbidden; and from people from all over the country who work for tips — as they dish on their strategies to make more money. (Thanks to radio producers Marc Sanchez, Colin Weatherby, Avishay Artsy and Kaitlin Prest for recording.)
Finally in this episode, you’ll hear how Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner dole out their dough.