Recent research published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior suggests it could have a staggering influence.
Researchers sought to find out whether oestrus was really “lost” during human evolution (as some often claim) so they examined the ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by professional lap-dancers working in gentlemen’s clubs.
Eighteen dancers recorded their tip earnings over a sixty-day period, which included a total of 296 shifts (representing around 5300 lap dances) and the results demonstrated cycle phase and tip earnings were significantly correlated.
On average, participants (who were not using contraceptive pills) earned US$335 per five-hour shift during oestrus, US$260 during luteal phase and US$185 during menstruation.
By contrast, participants using contraceptive pills showed no oestrus earnings peak. That is, they had an extended luteal phase in terms of tip earnings.
Based on these results it would be curious to investigate how these results affect people’s conceptions about tipping being money given for ‘good service’.
Now, of course we are talking about results from a very specific situation, which may not be translatable to our everyday lives. Apart from the obvious distinction, the moneys paid to lap dancers were not ‘tips’ in the commonly understood sense. These tips were, strictly speaking, money for service, but they were not a payment freely given above the contracted price. The tip is the payment.
However, even though the ‘consumers’ had to pay a tip of some kind, the exact amount was at their discretion (much like a standard tip). Thus I suggest that given the customers had some discretion over how much to ‘tip’ enables something to be gleaned from this study, which could be used to better understand tipping in a more general, everyday, sense.
Obviously, these guys did not know what stage of the cycle the lap dancer was in. Yet their behaviour was significantly influenced by something they could never have ‘known’. On some level the way they perceived ‘the service’ was affected, presumably in a positive way since they left significantly higher tips.
From an evolutionary point of view, the lap-dancers in oestrus were technically able to become pregnant and there seems to be something in guys that is able to subconsciously be aware of this.
This type of logic can be easily applied to more everyday situations. I wonder if there are any waitresses or barmaids who had an unexpectedly good night in tips, or if there are any guys out there whom upon reflection pondered why he tipped so much?
I’m sure it could very well have been that, in such situations, stellar service was given or received. But I’m sure it could also have been something much more to do with basic instincts.