Why do we tip?

woman tipping hotel worker

The Economics of Tipping

My dinner companion sounded indignant. “It’s a shame we have to tip the waitress,” she said. “The restaurant owner ought to pay the staff enough to live on.” I imagine that is a common attitude among those steeped in our current cultural climate of envy and dislike of economic success — the anti-capitalist mentality, as Mises put it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we tip waiters out of sympathy, due to their misfortune of having to work in an industry full of greedy restaurant owners who won’t pay a “living wage.” In fact, tipping is an elegant market solution to a particular set of circumstances, often present in service jobs, that makes determining an appropriate wage extremely problematic. The practice of tipping used to be more common, applying to many more service positions than at present, when it is largely restricted to waitstaff and skycaps. ….[READ]

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