The Loh Down On Science

A Tip on Tips

Waitresses, question: Can you dress your way to larger tips?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet sociologists Nicolas Gueguen and Celine Jacob of France’s University of South Brittany. Their object of study? What gets restaurant wait staff bigger tips.

They’ve found that for waitresses, dressing provocatively or wearing red lipstick affects male customers’ tip amounts. Quelle surprise, denizens of Hooters.

But they wondered further: Does clothing color make any difference?

To answer that, they asked eleven waitresses in five restaurants to wear the same style T-shirt every day. Only difference? Rotate shirt colors. Everything else about the waitresses, from behavior to cosmetics to bad recommendations about the special, stayed the same.

For six weeks, the waitresses recorded their tip amounts and each tipper’s gender.

What happened? When the waitresses wore red, male customers’ tips increased up to 26 percent, while female customers’ tips stayed the same. Other shirt colors? Ordinary tips all around.

The researchers say that since red has no negative effect on female customers, it’s in waitresses’ best interest to wear red.

And stop recommending the low-fat tuna croquettes. Please.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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