Hey big spender! A golden (color) atmospheric effect on tipping behavior

Abstract

This research examines how gold-related color in atmospherics might influence customer tipping behavior at restaurants. A series of five studies shows that the color gold (as opposed to other colors) in a service atmosphere positively influences consumer tipping. First, a field experiment (Study 1) demonstrates that customers presented with a gold-colored (vs. black-colored) service prop (i.e., bill folder) leave larger tips. Study 2 further confirms this effect of the color gold by validating the findings of Study 1 with a different service prop (i.e., tablecloth). Process evidence demonstrates the underlying mechanism of this effect, whereby a gold-colored service prop increases tipping by influencing status perceptions about the restaurant and the self (Study 3). Additional studies further confirm this by ruling out novelty of the color in this mechanism (Study 4) and by highlighting the effect of status on tipping through status priming (Study 5). The findings of this research have implications for strategic use of color in servicescape design and atmospherics in general.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Power is conceptually different from status. Unlike status, which is determined by “the eyes of others,” power is defined as the ability to influence others through control over resources or through the capacity to punish them (Anderson et al. 2015; Emerson 1962; Fiske 1993; Magee and Galinsky 2008).

  2. 2.

    Since individual’s identifiable information could not be collected, returning customers were not captured. When customers left a tip in cash, wait staff noted the tip amount on the merchant copy of the receipt.

  3. 3.

    Age and gender were not significant covariates in Studies 2, 3, and 4. In Study 5, gender was not a significant covariate but age was (F(1,79) = 11.32, p < .001).

  4. 4.

    Time of day was not a significant covariate.

  5. 5.

    These results are a combination of two datasets that were collapsed. In the first round of data collection, 76 participants were randomly assigned to the black-colored bill folder condition (n = 39) or the gold-colored bill folder (n = 37) condition. Tipping in the gold condition (M = 26.24%, SD = 8.78) was significantly larger than that in the black condition (M = 22.60%, SD = 5.63) at F(1,72) = 4.16, p < .05. Serial mediation tests showed a significant indirect path at the 90% CI [.0040, .1488] but failed to establish significance at the 95% CI. Acknowledging the significance of the indirect path at the 90% CI from the first dataset we collected, we conducted another round of data collection and then collapsed the two datasets into one to ensure that the lack of power would not be a concern in this study. The two rounds of data collection followed the same procedures; recruitment, manipulation, and the lab environments were the same.

  6. 6.

    This result shows significant serial indirect effects. However, we do acknowledge that the direct effect remains significant, which suggests the existence of additional factors that could be influencing tipping behavior.

  7. 7.

    We tested for a simple mediation effect of status (either restaurant status or self-status alone as a mediation mechanism), however, as predicted only a serial mediation chain was established.

  8. 8.

    We added two items to restaurant status perception from Study 3 to make it a multi-item scale.

  9. 9.

    This result shows significant serial indirect effects accompanied by significant direct effects, which suggests the existence of additional factors that could be influencing tipping behavior.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Lauren Beitelspacher, Anne Roggeveen, and Stacey Robinson for their suggestions on Study 2.

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Correspondence to Stephanie M. Noble.

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Kelly Haws served as Area Editor for this article

Appendix

Appendix

Table 5 Descriptive statistics and measurement reliability
Table 6 Summary of CFA results for key constructs in Studies 3 and 4
Table 7 Correlations between variables in the hypotheses for Studies 3 and 4

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Lee, N.Y., Noble, S.M. & Biswas, D. Hey big spender! A golden (color) atmospheric effect on tipping behavior. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 46, 317–337 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-016-0508-3

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Keywords

  • Color
  • Gold
  • Payment behavior and tipping
  • Servicescape
  • Service props
  • Sensory cues
  • Atmospherics
  • Retail ambience
  • Frontline employee
  • Retail strategy