This paper proposes an anthropology of services with implications for service science and design. Contemporary services are often presented as a rupture with previous economic regimes such as manufacturing, a discontinuity that allows services to be conceptualized as a professional domain. We argue instead that services have long characterized the human condition and that they are always embedded in local contexts. An anthropology of services explicates these social contexts to develop more varied and grounded approaches to service encounters, notions of co-production and co-creation, value propositions and service systems. Paradoxically, an anthropology of services draws attention to the conceptual and methodological messiness of service worlds and in doing so it contributes to expanding our understanding of the variety of services, the limits to their conceptualization as objects of design and the possibilities for intervening in and around them to contribute to human betterment.