Boston Tipped Its Deliverymen More During the Bad Weather

It was a silver lining for the guys who had to brave the blizzards to bring us our food.

Frosted delivery bike image by Luis Roca on Flickr

Frosted delivery bike image by Luis Roca on Flickr

Restaurants have had a really tough go of it this winter, thanks to record-setting amounts of snowfall that have kept customers away. But there’s a silver lining for certain members of the food service industry: higher tips for deliverymen.

After watching her own delivery guy struggle to reach her door this winter, CityLab’s Laura Bliss wondered if, like her, others felts compelled to tip more for the trouble of dragging someone out into the bad weather. She assembled data from online takeout websites GrubHub and Seamless and found that, indeed, we do tend to tip more during snowstorms.

On average, Boston tips 13.4 percent, according to the website data. But after the February 2 blizzard, our average increased by six percentage points. That’s nice, but actually, we were less generous than other cities this winter. New York’s tips jumped 9 percentage points after a January snow. Chicago responded to a February 1 blizzard with a 12 percent increase in tips.

We’ve seen this pattern before. The New Yorker used a similar data set during the polar vortex of 2014 to show that tips made a big leap during cold weather.

Is increasing your tip percentage during bad weather a standard practice? Should it be? Back in 2014, GrubStreet asked a researcher and PhD candidate who studies tipping behavior for a suggested convention. Here’s what he had to say:

If it’s raining outside, tip 22 to 25 percent. If there’s any snow accumulation, add a dollar or two on top of what you’d tip if it were raining. Having to work as a delivery guy during a blizzard is similar to getting stuck with a party of 20 as a restaurant server.

Speaking of your restaurant server, he’s had a pretty bad winter, too. As we’ve reported, the snow has forced dine-in restaurants to handle a lot of slow nights and outright closings. The lost tips and revenue can hit the restaurant’s staff hard.

So, whenever you do emerge from your snow cave, throw out those piles of pizza boxes (preferably in a trash can), and go out to eat for a change. Extend your generosity to your waiters, even if the sun is shining again.