Researchers found that diners tip their servers more when the music is upbeat

By Mike Pomranz
October 24, 2018
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Music can clearly get people amped up. Boxers don’t walk into the ring with a slow waltz playing in the background. But a new study out of Austria suggests that upbeat music may also cause diners to be more generous when dipping into their wallets come tipping time.

Researchers from the University of Innsbruck studied 277 diners at a local restaurant where the bill at a table for two typically came out to around $115. But though guests normally tipped around 10 percent, gratuities jumped about $4.55 on average per check when upbeat songs like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” and Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” according to the Telegraph. Interestingly, melancholy music—like The Beatles's “Eleanor Rigby” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”—also caused tipping to increase more than a chosen playlist of “neutral” music.

“Uplifting music makes people happy and the better mood someone is in, the more they tend to tip,” Annika Beer, a psychologist who co-authored the study, was quoted as saying. “Melancholic music, however, nurtures the people's helping behavior. The manipulated customers want to help the waiter or waitress with higher tips than usual.”

Despite all the big-name artists mentioned, the researchers said that, in general, they attempted to avoid well-known music, ostensibly because they didn’t want preconceived notions about the songs to bias people’s opinions. The study also apparently kept all the music at lower, background levels of volume to help understand if the effect may have been subconscious.

Clearly, this study isn’t without its possible flaws, but the researchers came across another odd anomaly as well: The increased tipping effect only occurred with older diners. Though researchers posited that this might be because younger people expose themselves to more music which makes them more immune to its influence, Beer also suggested it’s possible that younger people simply “don't have the financial freedom to tip as much as older people.”

Or maybe young people just heard a playlist of ABBA, Billy Joel, and Queen and found themselves thinking, “What old fart is in charge of the music at this place?”

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