Like most people, I’m a sucker for click bait, and one of my favorite variations of the genre is the feel-good big-tip story. For example, rapper Post Malone leaving a $3,000 tip above and beyond the $500-plus “gratuity” charge on a large restaurant bill. Nice guy by virtually all accounts, and the server was grateful for the unexpected pocketbook boost.
Not everyone tips so well, of course. Some people don’t tip at all, and not all restaurants tack on the “gratuity” charge. Anyone who works in a “tipped” service role can relate stories of demanding customers who stiffed them on tips.
I try to tip generously, with bigger tips for outstanding service However, the movement to eliminate tipping and replace it with a minimum wage (usually coupled with a proposal to increase the minimum wage) is a bad thing all around.
In trying to make the case for such changes, The New Republic‘s Elena Soderblom inadvertently exposes the scam involved by lying, then admitting she’s lying in the very next paragraph, in the apparent hope that no one will notice.
The lie: “Many are unaware of the subminimum wage that allows a tipped employee to be paid as little as $2.13 per hour.”
The admission of the lie: “[E]mployers are not required to pay minimum wages as long as customers make up the difference.”
By law, employers are required to ensure that employees receive AT LEAST the legally mandated minimum wage (I oppose minimum wage laws, by the way, but they do exist).
The idea of replacing tipping with a minimum wage doesn’t provide a “floor” to the employee’s earnings — that “floor” is already there. Rather, it creates an artificial “ceiling” to those earnings.
If the minimum wage is $15 an hour, the un-tipped employee makes $15 an hour and not a penny more unless the boss decides to offer a raise. With tipping, someone who provides good service to grateful customers may average $20 or $30 or more per hour … but still gets that $15 per hour, bare minimum, regardless.
The only real explanation for the effort to get rid of tipping is that proponents want to corral service employees — at their own expense — into political pushes for higher minimum wages, and perhaps unionization efforts.
Some service workers resist these efforts, for good reason. The District of Columbia’s bartenders and wait staff opposed a 2022 tipping law that drove up bar and restaurant menu prices by requiring the full $16.10 minimum wage. With tipping, they were accustomed to making $36-40 per hour.
If you live in an area with such counter-productive rules, don’t blame your waiter or bartender for the higher prices. Blame the politicians who imposed those higher prices. And if you can, please tip generously anyway.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.