In the Social Responsibility of Tipping Well, m_turner makes a cogent and important argument for tipping, especially in areas where the cost of living is tremendously high as compared to other places. Below, I suggest an alternative intepretation, arguing that tipping should cease immediately if we are to support those whom we intend to help by tipping.

Let me begin by noting my major objection to tipping: It is a subsidy of private business, who in conjunction with government, has managed to legally underpay staff who then must rely on tips.

As far as I know (and I am willing to be shown otherwise), almost all employees working in the food service industry as waitstaff are exempted from standard minimum wage legislation which has been enacted to help to provide a living wage, or something approximating it. That waitstaff have been exempted is nothing short of criminal. Private business has manged to get this exemption to keep from having to pay those very staff members what they deserve to be paid. Instead, private business relies on the consumer not only to pay for the product that is provided, but also to pay at least part of the true cost of hiring the help. Imagine if this were to happen in other areas. Suppose you went to the grocery store and you were expected to pay for your purchases, as well as to kick in some money for the clerk behind the counter. Likely you would be incensed. However, over time, we have become so accustomed to this in the food service industry that we give it hardly any thought.

Why then should we not tip? My thinking is that if all tipping stopped immediately, it wouldn't take more than a few hours or days for workers to realize that private business was screwing them over. When the tips stopped coming, I believe the workers would organize to press for a reasonable wage for what they do. That reasonable wage would then equal the minimum wage (at least), or whatever the market would support, which my guess is would be significantly higher than the minimum.

This will never happen of course. The social pressures for tipping are tremendous. Folks who do not tip are seen as mentally defective, cheapskates, or flat out assholes. But I submit to you that tipping ensures that workers do not get paid their true worth, and leaves their wages subject to the whims of the public. This is a situation that in almost any other profession we would not tolerate for a moment.


An addition relating to origin of tip.

TIPS is not an acronym for To Insure Proper Service. The origin of the word dates back at least to the 1750s when used to mean a gratuity, and to the early 1600s when used as a verb. See and ask to define tip for more information.