Abstract of the Day: Hot Waitresses

Groundbreaking study out from the Cornell hospitality school (pdf): Hot waitresses earn more tips.

It’s a real, academic paper with all sorts of fun jargon and stats. Maybe not safe for work, though it’s all text. Here’s the abstract:

Waitresses completed an on-line survey about their physical characteristics, self-perceived attractiveness and sexiness, and average tips. The waitresses’ self-rated physical attractiveness increased with their breast sizes and decreased with their ages, waist-to-hip ratios, and body sizes. Similar effects were observed on self-rated sexiness, with the exception of age, which varied with self-rated sexiness in a negative, quadratic relationship rather than a linear one. Moreover, the waitresses’ tips varied with age in a negative, quadratic relationship, increased with breast size, increased with having blond hair, and decreased with body size. These findings, which are discussed from an evolutionary perspective, make several contributions to the literature on female physical attractiveness. First, they replicate some previous findings regarding the determinants of female physical attractiveness using a larger, more diverse, and more ecologically valid set of stimuli than has been studied before. Second, they provide needed evidence that some of those determinants of female beauty affect interpersonal behaviors as well as attractiveness ratings. Finally, they indicate that some determinants of female physical attractiveness do not have the same effects on overt interpersonal behavior (such as tipping) that they have on attractiveness ratings. This later contribution highlights the need for more ecologically valid tests of evolutionary theories about the determinants and consequences of female beauty. 

14 comments on “Abstract of the Day: Hot Waitresses
  • I’m glad to see fun research like this coming from my alma mater. The really interesting question is why do men (presumably) tip hot waitresses more? Along with that, do women tip hot waitresses more too? What about hot waiters? It seems to be some type of signaling, but I’m not sure it’s logical. I guess, as Jerry Seinfeld said about men honking their horns at women, it’s the best idea we’ve had so far.

  • Duh. Hot waitresses get tipped more? Did these researchers not know that already? Almost without exception, beauty has proved to be helpful in getting what you need out of life. But riddle me this: if hot people have such an advantage (as hundreds of research articles would suggest) why are less “desirable” people still walking around with the genes of their less-desirable ancestors?

  • In response to Sarah Getto:

    Social psychology has time and time again shown that what seems obvious isn’t so obvious. If all things appeared as they do, we wouldn’t need to do any research, and we wouldn’t learn any insightful information. Basically, it all comes down to *finding evidence* to fit a certain hypothesis. For instance, two disparate idioms are well-known in relating to love: 1) opposites attract and 2) birds of a feather flock together. Without actually researching the hypothesis, people’s predisposed ideas would either guide them to (1) or (2), but not both. So, again, that’s something to think about. However, the more pressing (and interesting) question in this case is the explanation given by social psychologists as to why hot waitresses get paid more.

  • @Sarah: because there has never been anything that stops ugly people from procreating.

    Until you stop ugly babies you won’t stop the flow of “undesirable genes”.

    Haha this is all quite ridiculous. What i find stranger than all of this is the “rule of ugly” where two really ugly people sometimes pop out incredibly good looking kids.

  • Or start a fad that ugly is beautiful 🙂 so that all the world’s non-blondes and flat chested, dull torsos having symmetrical `belows’ all in a line will soon see some light….

    Given that great lookers have all the advantages and are the most sought after everywhere, would they not aspire to be waited upon than be waiting on…?

  • To all: let me qualify my post. I naturally distrust claims made by evolutionary psychologists because their theories are applicable to many different versions of data. In much the same way that it seems silly to list, categorize or statistically prove all the things that are considered “instinct,” it also seems redundant to prove that being beautiful by today’s standards helps one get tipped more or less. In reality, both situations are provable. A waitress who is self-conscious about being “less beautiful” (as expressed by her explicit response to the questionnaire) might be aware that she is at a disadvantage and work twice as hard.
    Competing truths in social psychology are solved, not by theorizing from an evolutionary standpoint (which is inherently a hindsight evaluation), but by careful examination of the situations that our current culture creates.
    Last, I loved brad’s point, that ugly people have a reasonably good chance at hot babies and good looking couples can sometimes have rather unfortunate looking children; very true

  • Without reading the paper, I can’t help but wonder about a couple of the attributes, although they are nevertheless intuitive.

    For example, surely the younger ones on average are faster, after adjusting for experience. Faster=higher tips for many people.

    Younger ones may well also be more enthusiastic, which likely leads to a more pleasant dining experience than a bored server. More pleasant dining experience=higher tips for many people.

    Body size. Again, I can’t help but wonder about differences in speed and agility, with the faster and more agile (e.g. don’t need to ask customers to push in their chairs to squeeze by) naturally leading to a better dining experience, again leading to more tips.

  • By the way, anecdotally I once knew a waitress who swore her tips soared when she worked with loose hair, noting that the rule at her restaurant was that they were supposed to have their hair tied in a pony tail.

    She was (presumably still is, but I no longer know her) an attractive woman, but definitely (my bias) was more atttractive when her hair wasn’t tied up.

    Needless to say that loose hair doesn’t add to server performance. Indeed, just the opposite, sometimes a loose hair may find its way into a customer’s dish, hence the restaurant’s rule, which she loved to break.

  • Ok — now I went and thought about this, I haven’t read the paper, either, but the abstract is rather vague on instrumenting. Why wouldn’t women who think themselves more attractive (but are not) get more tips — there’s a lot to be said for attitude. Second, if this is all true, why do women work at Hooters? Presumably, they benefit from men seeking hotties (hooties?), but they could make far more if they worked with plain women and benefited from relative advantage. Way more work to be done here, and I’m willing to give some time 🙂

  • Do you think they tried an alternate specification with breast-size entering as a quadratic? My priors are that if they did, the squared term would have a negative sign.

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