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Emotional Costs Of Service Labor: Do Consumers Care?

Nora Moran, Sigalit Ronen

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Purpose Consumers can provide monetary tips to service employees as a reward for their efforts. However, consumers’ ability to recognize the demands of these jobs could affect tipping behavior. This study aims to examine the difficulty consumers have recognized the emotional toll of service work, and how this affects tipping behavior. Design/methodology/approach Three experiments were conducted with US participants to determine how the focus on emotional burdens of service work affects willingness to tip lower level service employees. Findings Results reveal that when consumers hear about the emotional costs of service labor, they report less willingness to tip low-level workers, compared to when they learn about other job costs or contributions. Results further show that reducing power distance between customers and workers can increase willingness to tip when emotional costs are emphasized. Research limitations/implications This research contributes to the services literature by showing how feelings of power affect whether consumers appreciate certain job costs, and, in turn, their tipping behavior. Practical implications This research clarifies how consumers perceive job demands, which has direct consequences for tipping behavior and suggests more strategies to improve tips. Social implications Findings can help advocates looking to advance the status and compensation for lower-level service workers. Originality/value This research is first to explore why the emotional costs of service labor are not recognized in certain cases, and provides insight on how to improve customer treatment of lower-level service labor.