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Freakonomics Radio: Should Tipping Be Banned?

Airs Friday, June 20 at 9pm on 93.9FM

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Broadcast time: Friday, June 20 at 9pm on 93.9FM

To an economist, tipping is a puzzling behavior – why pay extra when it’s not required? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner looks at why we tip, which factors affect the amount, and whether tipping should perhaps be eliminated altogether. Research shows that African-American servers earn smaller tips than white servers, so there’s an argument to be made that the practice is discriminatory.

Later in the hour: if you have a parent with the genetic code for Huntington’s disease, a debilitating and ultimately fatal disorder, you have a 50 percent chance of getting Huntington’s yourself. And yet only 5 percent of such people actually get the genetic test to see if they will fall ill. Dubner talks to University of Chicago economist Emily Oster about her research on Huntington’s, and the value of not knowing your future.

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Comments [7]

Anthony Ingoglia from Long Island NY

When I got my house painted, I didn't tip him, nor his staff. There was no percentage service charge. Why? because all the costs of running the company was priced into the bill. He paid his workers. He didn't expect me to do it. If his helpers did a bad job, they were fired.
When I go out to eat, all workers should do their best or get fired. The owner should be responsible for their wages. End of story.

Jul. 09 2014 11:55 AM
Paul from Long Island

So far we have addressed restaurant servers and hospitality workers. But we have not addressed hair stylists yet. Most hairstylists do not get paid a phenomenal amount for the services they provide which I would say are utilized by at least 99% of the US population. That being said I have a few gripes about tipping hair stylists and or barbers. The 15-20% general recommendation that I think most people follow for food service workers and hospitality professionals does not really apply. Think of it this way. You may go to a restaurant and you are one of 8 tables that any given server is taking care of during your visit however when you go to a stylist or barber you are their sole focus for the entire duration of your visit. Not to mention they have undergone substatial training to provide them the services you request. I would like to hear some more discussions about this segment of the tip driven economy.

Jun. 20 2014 09:14 PM
Peter from New York

There seems to be another option not considered here. Do certain ethnic or other population groups provide a poorer level of service that is reflected in the level of tips provided. i am not sure one can reach the prima facia conclusion that the practice of tipping is discriminatory. Perhaps African Americans require some level of training in providing service that would ultimately be reflected in higher tips. Being subject to poor service and without the ability to express dissatisfaction through the amount of tips, the only option would be to communicate with the management of the restaurant and then not patronize that restaurant, penalizing the wrong party.

Jun. 20 2014 01:15 PM
Peter Fidelman

There seems to be another option not considered here. Do certain ethnic or other population groups provide a poorer level of service that is reflected in the level of tips provided. i am not sure one can reach the prima facia conclusion that the practice of tipping is discriminatory. Perhaps African Americans require some level of training in providing service that would ultimately be reflected in higher tips. Being subject to poor service and without the ability to express dissatisfaction through the amount of tips, the only option would be to communicate with the management of the restaurant and then not patronize that restaurant, penalizing the wrong party.

Jun. 20 2014 11:33 AM
Jersey2 from North Bergen, NJ

If I order something form Houlihan's To-Go. I phone it in and go pick it up. Should I still tip. A server at Applebees once told me it was not required when I left a tip.

Mar. 21 2014 03:31 PM
carolita from NYC

In Japan, they don't tip. In France, I used to frequent Japanese ramen restaurants where most of the clientele were Japanese, and I noticed none of them tipped. So, it was a quandary. Tip like a French person? Or not tip, like everyone else who came to this restaurant? In the end I would not tip, because I didn't want to stand out. On the other hand, when a lot more Japanese ramen restaurants began opening, you had to really look around and see how Japanese the clientele was, because if they were more Frenchified, you definitely looked like a jerk if you didn't tip at least the French percentage. It was kind of funny, eating slow so you could watch everyone pay up and see what they did. I remember once tipping in a place where I wasn't a regular, just because I knew I'd probably not come back, and I tipped American style, because I'd just come back from a summer in the states, and the waiter gave me such a look of disdain that I realized I'd overtipped. Some waiters take offense if you tip them, like they're wondering if you think you can buy them or something. Complicated! I like it when waiters are paid well, or when the tip is automatically calculated for you.

Nov. 28 2013 10:30 AM
Jacqui

Freakonomics, one word OFFENSIVE!!!!
Please study the length of a mans penis in relationship to how much people tip.
At least then we might be close to the ratio of study to women's body size, parts, age etc.

Nov. 28 2013 10:14 AM

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