“In defense of ‘micro wealth-transfers'”?

That is our revised title of Richard Cohen’s recent essay in the Washington Post. Here is the gist of Mr Cohen’s argument in defense of tipping:

The waiter is my guy for the duration of the meal. He’s my agent. He looks out for me and, if he does a good job, I look out for him. He has an incentive to give me exceptional service, not some mediocre minimum, to ensure that my water glass is full, that my wine is replenished, to make sure that the busboy does not prematurely remove the plates — that I am not hurried along so that the owner can squeeze in another sitting. The waiter is my wingman.

But is the waiter the “agent” of the patron or of the restaurant owner? In any case, where do you come out on this social norm? Would you rather abolish this old-fashioned practice altogether (but pay more for your meal), or would you rather retain your tipping option? Also, is there a stable equilibrium, one way or the other, in the case of tipping? What would someone like F. A. Hayek or Leo Strauss say? (By the way, will future patrons at Danny Meyer’s fancy restaurants in NYC really stop leaving tips even after Mr Meyer phases out this practice?) Addendum: via Crooked Timber, our colleague Corey Robin has written up a thoughtful critique of Mr Cohen’s essay.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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1 Response to “In defense of ‘micro wealth-transfers'”?

  1. Pingback: Thursday assorted links

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