Tips are not gifts. Apparently most people do not understand the concept that tips are not gifts. Waitstaff are underpaid to a degree that should be criminal. The average wage for waitstaff in the US is just a little over $2 an hour. This means that your tips are the vehicle that allows your waiter to do the job they do. If you stiff a waiter you are forcing them to work for free.

 A tip is at its heart a bribe. You gain a reputation for being a good tipper at places you frequent, and you get better service the next time you come in. This entire structure is a hold-over from the days when waitstaff were essentially indentured servants or members of the owner’s family who made no money of their own. It was a way to signal to the waiter that you understood the value of their work, even if the owner of the establishment did not. When wage laws were being passed, tipping was a thing that restaurants and other places that had wait staff wanted encoded into the wage laws, because it was a way to externalize the costs of doing their business. Profits are made and lost on externalizing business costs.

Because of this business pressure, tipping became a thing that we do in the modern world. It probably shouldn’t be a thing anymore.

Freakonomics Radio – Should Tipping Be Banned? (Ep. 129) – June 3, 2013

New research from Harvard Business School’s Magnus Thor Torfason finds a strong, positive correlation between tipping behaviors and corruption. Countries where tips are more frequent tend to rank higher on the Corruption Perceptions Index, which academics use to measure national differences in corruption.


Businesses should simply pay their staff enough money that they can live on it in the first place and that way everyone’s wages in the business reflect their contribution to the end product, whatever that product is. Rent seeking (activities like tipping) should be stamped out wherever it is discovered. In the meantime continue tipping your waiter anyway. No need to add another injustice to an unjust system.

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Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

Attacks on arguments offered are appreciated and awaited. Attacks on the author will be deleted.

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