Science of Love, Sex, and Babies

Do pretty waitresses really get higher tips?

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 19, 2009

Do pretty waitresses get higher tips? Researchers at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration want to know. Why? Because it may affect hiring decisions. The researchers claim in their recent study that evolutionary theory suggests that attractive women should receive higher tips than less attractive women.

To test this theory, the researcher recruited more than 400 restaurant waitresses to complete an online survey, asking them to rate their physical attractiveness, sexiness, age, bra size, hair color, waist size, weight, and average tip percentage.

The findings (or how to increase your tips if you’re a waitress):

1.) Blondes reported receiving larger percentage tips than did waitresses with other hair colors, as expected.
However, the blond waitresses in this study did not perceive themselves to be more attractive than the waitresses with other hair colors.

2.) Women with large breasts and/or slender bodies received larger average tips than their counterparts without these characteristics.

More surprisingly:

3.) Tips increased with age with the largest tips going to women in their thirties.

The author’s analysis:

Perhaps the male restaurant customers were most attracted to the waitresses in their late teens and early twenties as expected, but tipped the waitresses who were in their thirties more than those who were younger because they thought they had a better chance of picking-up the older waitresses. Alternatively, the majority of the male customers in this study, whose average age was probably greater than 35 years old, may have been most attracted to waitresses in their men age, they prefer women increasing younger than themselves, but nonetheless prefer increasingly older women in an absolute sense….. Given that the median age in the U.S. is 35 years old and that median age of paying restaurant customers is almost certainly even older,….most of the men is this study may have preferred women in their thirties, which is the age group among waitresses that received the largest tips.

4.) WHR (waist-to-hip ratio) was unrelated to tips in this study. Thick-waisted women were just as likely to get big tips.

The analysis:

Perhaps the effects of WHR on perceptions of physical attractiveness are too small to affect more overt behaviors… Alternatively, the failure to find a WHR effect on tipping may be due to the possibility that the waitresses’ clothing obscured their WHRs to their tipping customers.

The study has several weaknesses. First, it relies on women’s self-reports of their attractiveness, which is always tricky. More importantly, the study didn’t attempt to assess is a waitress’s effectiveness at doing her job. One would think competence and friendliness would would be stronger factors. (Which is most important — competence, friendliness, or looks? Fodder for another study?) Nor did it take into account other variables: venue, uniforms, and customer base. Did the study consider the fact that many customers may be (straight) women?

I, for one, don’t care if my waitress has big breasts or blond hair. I just want my food.

13 Responses

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  1. natiga said, on December 25, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    very nice post thanks alot bookmarkd!

  2. ian in hamburg said, on December 30, 2009 at 1:49 am

    She could be a knockout blonde, but she won’t get a dime from me if she’s not friendly or treating our table as if we’re just in her way.

  3. G said, on January 6, 2010 at 11:15 am

    We always talk about how trendier lounges have hot 21 year old servers who are practically forced to wear skirts that display their “assets” and ridiculous heels. I never would have thought that older women were paid better though. So if this whole college thing falls through for me, I still have ten years until my waitress-age expires.
    By the way, Jena. I bought Blondes in September and read it on the plane ride home… and then back again in December. My girlfriends are fascinated with the info I’m giving them about attractiveness. Really hope you’ll be able to do another book on following up on the topic, till then I guess I’ll just watch the blog :)

    • jenapincott said, on January 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm

      G, Thanks for reading the book. As for a follow up, well, keep watching the blog…. ;)

  4. Chris said, on January 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Another way to read that data, is that women who are in their 30s have more experience waitressing and do a better job. Or perhaps the women who are so eager to please that they bottle dye their hair blonde, are also eager to please their customers?

    • Karen said, on May 28, 2010 at 8:57 pm

      i think that is kind of retarded. i think the older ladies that are in their 30’s actually get more tips becuz they probably have more bills to pay and are more likely to have a family to support. i dont think anything has to do with their waitressing experience becuz i know plenty of girls in their teens or 20’s that do waitressing and they dont have much experience at all and are way faster and way better at their jobs and better at communicating with their guests. so the experience im sure has nothing to do with it. unless they have been waitressing at thh same place for all those years(which i highly doubt)

  5. SHOE INSERTS said, on January 13, 2010 at 8:19 am

    exemplary work. You have gained a new reader. I hope you can keep up the good work and I look forward to more of your excellent posts.

  6. Carmella Mastrangelo said, on February 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    This kind of blog is incredibly helpful for someone whom has also been having troubles with this circumstance. I have looked at lots of resources to no avail. I will continue readingg and learning here in the hope of ultimately getting past this impediment.

  7. Jack said, on March 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I feel that the size of tip has to do with appropriateness.
    We assume that an older person will get paid more, whereas
    teenagers get pocket money. I think it’s more to do with that
    than anything about attractiveness.

  8. Jeff said, on May 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I totally agree. A friendly, big breasted, good looking, properly groom waitress gets a 20% plus tip from me. Great study…better that studies about cow farting

  9. chadp said, on June 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    if your worried about tipping then you dont make enough money – get rich already

  10. dean temp said, on August 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    buy mustard free!

  11. […] The flexible hours, social interaction and possibility of generous tips (especially if one is hot, according to a study by Cornell University), make it the perfect occupation for someone trying to […]

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