Friday, July 22, 2011

Don’t look down, Wile E. Coyote!

The Harvard Business Review’s Daily Stat of July 21, 2011, titled “Many Waitstaffers Say Tips Don't Reward Service”:

30% of waiters and waitresses said in a survey that they believe the level of service they provide has no bearing on the tips they receive, a finding that suggests restaurants should query job candidates about their beliefs on this subject, according to a team of researchers led by Michael Lynn of Cornell.

The suggestion that “restaurants should query job candidates about their beliefs on this subject” suggests, to me, that restaurants should select candidates who believe that better service will result in higher tips. Presumably, such waiters and waitress will deliver better service in their quest for higher tips.

But better service doesn’t result in higher tips. At least not much. A recent episode of NPR’s Planet Money covered tipping with the same researcher, Michael Lynn, who said that there’s a “pretty weak relationship” between service and tipping:

Studies have found for example that the amount of sunshine outside have as big an impact as the tips customers leave as the customer's ratings of service quality.

So the HBR is recommending that employers avoid hiring candidates who have a rational understanding of their industry’s (irrational) economics. Pick the guy or gal who goes with “common sense” instead.

The unfortunate thing is, it’s probably good advice.

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