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The role of blocked gratitude in non-voluntary tipping

Ismail Karabas (Department of Management, Marketing, Business Administration, and Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, USA)
Jeff Joireman (Department of Marketing and International Business, College of Business, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 30 July 2020

Issue publication date: 30 November 2020




Non-voluntary tipping (e.g. automatic gratuity) has received growing attention in the service industry. Existing research suggests customers respond unfavorably to non-voluntary tipping, yet little research has examined why. The current study aims to address this question, with particular interest in response to non-voluntary tipping under high-quality service.


Two scenario-based experiments tested the proposed hypotheses in between-participants design using ANOVA, hierarchical regression and PROCESS.


Study 1 showed that non-voluntary tipping resulted in higher negative emotions, which led to lower return intentions. Surprisingly, the negative effect of non-voluntary tipping was as strong (or stronger) under high (vs low) quality service. To understand this counterintuitive effect, Study 2 developed and tested two competing process models (i.e. blocked vengeance vs blocked gratitude). Supporting the blocked gratitude model, results revealed that non-voluntary tipping hinders customers’ ability to reward service employees, undermining positive emotions and lowering return intentions.

Research limitations/implications

Current work was conducted in two settings using two scenario-based experiments. Hence, additional settings with non-scenario-based studies are encouraged.

Practical implications

The present work cautions managers considering a move to non-voluntary tipping to be aware of its negative effects, especially when the service quality is high. The blocked gratitude model suggests that managers should clarify methods available for customers who wish to reward good service.


This paper is the first to examine customer response to non-voluntary tipping under different levels of service quality and the underlying emotional mechanisms.



Karabas, I. and Joireman, J. (2020), "The role of blocked gratitude in non-voluntary tipping", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 7, pp. 983-997.



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