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Tip to Show Off: Impression Management Motivations
Increase Consumers’ Generosity
JACR 2021

Shirley Bluvstein and Priya Raghubir


Tipping is ubiquitous in countries such as the United States. Given the importance of examining the experiential side of marketing, we examine tipping—a participative pricing context and introduce it to the literature in behavioral pricing. We propose that consumers use tips as an impression management strategy, tipping more when their goal is to impress others. We examine the robustness of these impression management goals when overall bills are small (vs. large, study 1), customers pay using credit card (vs. cash, study 2), and hold different denominations of cash (study 3), as bill size, and payment modes could attenuate the effect of impression management goals on tipping intentions. These findings allow us to better understand the underlying antecedents of tipping behavior, and the consequences of impression management motivations. As such, the article cross-fertilizes the hospitality, economic psychology, and behavioral pricing literatures with applications to consumer research.

Imperfectly Human:

The Humanizing Potential of (Corrected) Errors in Text-Based Communication

JACR 2024

Shirley Bluvstein, Xuan Zhao, Alixandra Barasch, Juliana Schroeder

Modern and gig economy businesses collect voluntary contributions (i.e., tips) from consumers via screen-based payment systems (i.e., $1, $2, $3; 10%, 15%, 20%). The use of these systems has been criticized by the popular media for forcing consumers to leave large tips in contexts where they previously would have left small tips or where tips were not required. The authors employ a multi-method approach, including an analysis of secondary data (N = 51,825), a field experiment (N = 1,810), and laboratory experiments (N = 2,321) to show that an absolute dollar frame (vs. percentages) leads to higher tip payments especially for low bill amounts. These effects are attenuated when (1) absolute options are presented in cents (e.g., $0.50), leading consumers to infer that small tip amounts are acceptable and, (2) absolute options start at high levels. Countering conventional wisdom, the authors further show that open-ended formats can lead to higher tip payments compared to closed-ended response formats in specific conditions. Theoretically, these results add to the behavioral pricing, prosocial behavior, and labor economics literatures. Managerially, the results are relevant for decision makers in the multi-billion-dollar digital service industry.

From bribes to bequests and gifts to gratuities: The black,
white, and shades of gray of how and why consumers pay
what they want

Consumer Psychology Review 2024

Priya Raghubir and Shirley Bluvstein, 


This conceptual paper presents a framework that integrates 11 forms of voluntary payments as seemingly disparate as bribes and bequests, and gifts and gratuities to show that “voluntary” payments vary in the shades of gray not only in terms of how
much like bribes they are but also in terms of how voluntary they actually are. We provocatively suggest that these payment types might be susceptible to becoming entrenched through self-reinforcing norms because the voluntary payments are not necessarily voluntary and to an extent akin to bribes. Specifically, it provides an overarching framework to showcase the similarities and differences between bribes, lobbying efforts, suggested fees, pay what you want, tips, bequests, legacies, charity, crowdsourcing, dowry, and gifts, identifying gaps in domains that are underresearched. Starting with the question as to whether a service has been, is being, or will be performed for the voluntary payment, and whether payments are made to an individual or a cause, the framework highlights the following: (1) the differences in the purpose underlying these payments, (2) the different modes of payment used;
(3) the economic and social norms governing the payments; and (4) external and internal emotions associated with these payment types. The integrative framework allows for an amalgam of disparate literatures ranging from morality and behavioral pricing to charity and gift giving. The process model suggests a multitude of areas for future research in the domain of consumers’ voluntary payment decisions.

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