When I was in law school, I waited tables in a restaurant in Texas for a couple of months. The tips were good, but every once in while a customer would stiff me. The customer would be nice and friendly and never complain about the service but then just walk out of the restaurant without leaving a tip. It happens to every waiter.
Isn’t that what the state’s minimum-wage law is all about? Doesn’t it mandate that employers pay workers a state-established minimum wage to ensure that employers don’t exploit them by paying them sub-minimum wages?
Why shouldn’t the state do the same by enacting a minimum-tipping law, one that requires restaurant customers to pay waiters a minimum 15 percent tip? Given that the state protects workers from the possibility of exploitation with a minimum-wage law, why shouldn’t it protect waiters from the possibility of exploitation from restaurant customers?
The reason is freedom. Most Americans don’t want the state to be involved in tipping. They understand that the matter of tipping is simply none of the state’s business. They want the matter to be handled by the free market, i.e. , a market that is free of governmental interference or involvement.
In fact, the free market has come up with a variety of alternatives when it comes to tipping. Some restaurants leave the matter of tipping entirely to the customers. If they choose not to tip, that’s their business.
The waiter takes the risk. Some restaurants try to protect waiters from non-tippers by providing them with a base pay that at least guarantees some income if the waiter happens to hit a bad day with respect to tips.
Other restaurants have a policy of a set tip — say, 15 percent — whenever the party consists of, say, 6 people or more. That way, the waiter is protected from a no-tip experience after devoting much of his time and energy to that particular party.
Restaurants could even build in a set tip for all customers—say, 15 percent. If customers don’t like that policy, they can go elsewhere.
The point is that the matter of tipping is no business of the state. It should simply butt out of the issue. Waiters, restaurants, and customers are able to work it out for themselves, without the state serving as their parent.
For that matter, the same principle applies to wages and all other economic activities. Ideally, Americans would separate the economy and state entirely, just as our ancestors separated church and state. The state is not our daddy. And we don’t need it to watch over us and take care of us. People, including waiters and other workers, are fully capable of taking care of themselves.