There are a wide range of service professionals heavily rely on tips to make their living and earn a vast personal wealth. Business owners and service trainers have a great interest in studying tipping behaviour because it is a useful indicator of customer satisfaction (Lynn & Latane, 1984). From an applied perspective, it emphasizes the need to acknowledge the relevant variables that would affect tipping behaviour within the context of employment and business. From an academic standpoint, the study of tipping behaviour can help inform theory and research on the field of persuasion that typically focus on influence tactic’s effectiveness in real-world contexts.
However, Seiter & Grass (2004) noted that too often scholars neglect actual strategy effectiveness, with an overload of attention focused on strategy preferences or strategy selection. With these issues in mind, the present study by Seiter & Dutson (2007) determined whether a specific type of influence tactic, the use of compliment, has an effect on tipping behaviour in hairstyle salons. Since previous research has investigated this topic which have been confined primarily to examinations in restaurants and bars, the current study aimed to generalize the results to settings other than restaurants. This would provide a complete understanding of tipping behaviours in which different dynamics might come into play (Seiter, 2007).
In the study, 115 adult customers who were having their hair cut and styled by two female hairstylists. The experimental manipulation was that after finishing a hairstyle, the stylist asked what the customer thought of the hairstyle, either complimented the customer or not. In the ‘compliments condition’, the stylist complimented the customer’s hairstyle either by saying ‘Your hair looks terrific’ or ‘Any hairstyle would look good on you’. After each customer left, the stylists counted the total amount of bill and the total amount tipped. The tip size as a percentage of the total bill was the dependent variable.
Table 1. One-Way ANOVA Comparing Three Types of Messages on Tipping Behaviour
Type of message
‘Your hair looks terrific’
‘Any hairstyle would look good on you’
Note. Means with different subscripts differ significantly. F (2, 112) = 4.38, p < .02.
As shown in Table 1, the one-way analysis indicated that there were significant differences in tipping behaviour between conditions, F (2, 112) = 4.38, p < .02. Specifically, customers gave smaller tips when they received no compliment than when they were praised either ‘Your hair looks terrific’ or ‘Any hairstyle would look good on you’. No significant differences were found between the two compliment conditions.
In conclusion, the present study found that the use of compliments was persuasive in settings other than restaurants and bars that were more personal in nature. This has further practical implication that hairstylists and other service professionals might compliment their customers in order to supplement their incomes.
Lynn, M. (1984). The psychology of restaurant tipping. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 14, 549-561.
Seiter, J. S., & Gass, R. H. (2004). Perspectives on persuasion, social influence, and compliance gaining. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Seiter, J. S., & Dutson, E. (2007). The effect of compliments on tipping behaviour in hairstyle salons. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 1999-2007.