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"I don't tip because society says I have to," Mr. Pink says to his colleagues at a cafe. "This tipping automatically, it's... for the birds. As far as I'm concerned, they're just doin' their job."

You don't need to be in a Quentin Tarantino movie to deal with the curious issue of tipping in America. After working years in restaurants, I've felt firsthand the pain of the subpar or even zero dollar tip. It is a crushing feeling for a server, especially after the relentless stress, anxiety, and hustle we put in every day. I eventually realized that most of the appeal of tipping is emotional--the feeling of gratitude and personal connection. For better or worse though, this sort of rhetoric simply doesn't work with everyone. Like Mr. Pink, some recognize that tipping is optional, and are simply exercising their right to not do so.

So, the argument must be much more logical. Let us then skip over the fact that serving is an emotionally and physically demanding job that requires inexhaustible composure and stamina, that the tip is often split between other employees, or that tips are taxed altogether. We will simply focus on one simple economic concept: supply and demand.

To do this, we will make the basic assumption that you, the frugal customer, enjoy restaurants, given that you voluntarily go to them. Then, let's imagine that every patron refused to tip the same way you do. The lower wages would reduce the supply of qualified workers in the restaurant industry, severely reducing the quality of overall service for consumers. In other words, the restaurant experience that you've come to expect and appreciate would never be the same, in those restaurants that actually survive. Whether a tip is too much or too little, it is the equilibrium price we all must pay to enjoy it.

In other countries, a gratuity is automatically included, or the workers are guaranteed a living wage no matter how the customer feels about tipping. It's a better system, but it's unlikely that employers here in the US will take the first step. So, the next time you're finished with your restaurant meal, tip your server what's owed: the standard 15-20%, and most importantly, a "thank you".


With a Perspective, I'm Daniel Shepard.

Daniel Shepard is pursuing a business administration degree at UC, Berkeley.