Nate Silver created PECOTA (for better or worse) and has expanded his statistical analysis into politics (he’s quite good at it) on fivethirtyeight.com and the Oscars (I don’t pay attention because I don’t care).
He also writes the occasional piece for the NY Times Magazine in which he counts stuff and calculates such things as the likelihood of a bar hookup (seriously) and in which country you’re going to get the best service in hotels, restaurants and other potential gratuity-based places of employment as he did in this week’s issue.
I understand the purpose of counting as they do in the PECOTA system of predictions, but as I’ve said numerous times, counting and calculating based on history and “projections” is not analysis. People are not boiled down to their statistical parts in any endeavor and there’s little-to-no accountability when it’s wrong. It’s chalked up to a player not “achieving his regular production”.
How is that an understanding of baseball?
In the Times piece, Silver discusses whether or not a patron will get better service in a country—like Japan—where a tip is unwanted. In Japan, good service is a matter of pride. In the United States tipping is expected and accounts for a vast chunk of the salaries of the employees.
The study is taken out of context—just like PECOTA.
In many areas of Europe, waiting tables in a restaurant is a salaried job in which people go to school to learn to do it properly; in the United States, in most casual establishments, that’s not customary. In fact, the hourly wages are minimal with only the promise of tips making it worthwhile.
All it takes is a little common sense—without counting things ad nauseam—to determine that you’re going to get better service in a place where employees are hoping to get a good tip or, as stated before, in Japan where there’s a matter of personal pride in their work to do a good job and shame to do a bad job.
Similar to the frequently denied free agent year boost, it happens regardless of any widespread numerical evidence. Jose Reyes is one such player who’s having his best year as he’s about to enter free agency. Another individual, Albert Pujols, is having a down year (for him) as he’s heading toward free agency.
The conclusion goes as follows:
All of this brings us to the Tipping Curve. If servers expect a generous gratuity, there is a strong economic incentive for them to do superior work. And if they expect nothing at all, good service is taken completely out of the economic context and becomes a matter of custom. But when countries try to split the difference or if they introduce confusing rules into the system, their servers are more likely to leave customers dissatisfied.
In other words, you don’t know what you’re going to get when there’s a wide range of possibilities as to the compensation for a job done well or poorly.
Like PECOTA, comparing individuals to the masses and making broad-based statements without accounting for the deviations doesn’t tell the whole story—in any case.