Can a Joke on a Card Increase Tips?

If you are a wait person you probably are concerned about the tips that you receive from customers.  The tips you receive may greatly help you pay the bills. Your earnings from the job may seem much more reasonable with the tips you receive.  Is there a way to increase tips?   One simple way may be to leave a joke on a card with the bill.   

Gueguen (2002) conducted a study that involved tipping at a bar.  Each person in the study was randomly assigned to one of three conditions.  In the advertisement card condition, the customers received an advertisement on a card with their coffee and bill.  In the joke card condition, the customers received a joke on a card with their coffee and bill.   In the control condition, the customers did not receive a card.

Gueguen found that a higher percentage of customers gave a tip in the joke card condition than in the other two conditions.  In contrast, the difference between the advertisement card condition and the control condition with respect to the percentage of people tipping was not statistically significant.

These findings clearly indicate that humor may increase tips.  Providing a joke on a card with the bill may be a simple way to increase tips.

One possible explanation of the effect of humor on tipping is that it reflects the reciprocity principle.  The reciprocity principle suggests that we should help someone who helps us.  Providing a joke on a card can be viewed as helping the customer.  It may make the person more happy and cheerful. The customer may wish to reciprocate the expression of kindness by providing a tip.


Gueguen, N.  (2002).  The effects of a joke on tipping when it is delivered a the same time as the bill.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology32, 1955-1963.    

Can Funny Lectures Foster Learning?

By Brad Bell

Some lectures may be hard to pay attention to.  Some subjects such
as research methods and statistics may seem very dry.  What can the instructor do to make these topics more interesting?   One possibility is to use humorous examples in the lectures.

In Garner’s (2006) experiment, all the participants viewed three
video-recorded lectures on statistics and research methods.  Each
participant was randomly assigned to one of two conditions.  In one
condition (humor condition), the participant viewed lectures with
humor segments (e.g., with humorous examples).  In the other condition, the participants viewed the lectures without the humor
segment (control condition).  Garner found that the participants in the humor condition recalled more information on the average than
participants in the control condition. (1) Humor may increase recall because it is distinctive, vivid, or it attracts attention.  Greater attention may lead to deeper processing of the concepts.

This finding has important practical implications.  Examples are
routinely used to make concepts clearer and more memorable.  It
may be beneficial for instructors to use humorous examples.

There may be some limitations of education humor and the use of
humor in the classroom.  Offensive or unrelated humor may not be
beneficial.  It is important for instructors to use appropriate humor
that is directly related to the concepts in the course.


See Garner’s article for other research findings.


Garner, R. L.  (2006).  Humor in pedagogy:  How ha-ha can lead
to aha!  College Teaching54, 177-180.