Are you going to leave a tip for your garbagemen this holiday season? For the paperboy? For your regular baby-sitter? Tipping has become so commonplace in our society that, according to research by a professor at Lehigh University, the typical service provider receives the equivalent of an extra week's pay each year around Christmas.
The professor, Holona Ochs, has written a whole book about the efficacy of tipping. For example, she found that someone receiving a tip doesn't usually think the amount has much to do with the quality of their service. Rather, the amount of the tip reflects, for the receiver, simply the nature of person leaving the tip.
So if you leave a big tip in a restaurant, the waiter isn't likely to assume that he did a good job; more likely, he'll just think you're a good person. (Similarly, Ochs found that servers assume that certain people leave skimpy tips - like foreigners or teenagers - and act accordingly.) If you're feeling generous this holiday season, comfort yourself with the idea that your big tip says more about you than it does about the beneficiary of your largesse.