How many of you have had the following experience at a Paris bistro? You find a table on the sidewalk and before you’ve scraped your heavy chair across the pavement and sat down a waiter steps over with a menu and says, “Bonjour, je m’appelle Pierre et je serais votre serviteur aujourd’hui.” (Hello, my name is Pierre, I’ll be your waiter today.)
Well, none of you have, because it’s never happened. You may put it down to French rudeness or contempt for foreigners, but the truth is French waiters aren’t friendly because they don’t have to be friendly, because they don’t rely on tips for a significant share of their earnings.
Tipping is one of the most entrenched and successful forms of gamification. It’s a standard game element – a reward – ritually given for satisfactory service at the end of a meal or haircut or taxi ride. As employees we don’t like being dependent on the kindness of strangers. As customers we don’t like forking over that 15%, or having to calculate it every lunch time. But think for a moment what that tip does, how it changes the relationship.