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Why I Don't Tip Baristas
February 21, 2005
Not-so-subtle hints from two baristas at my neighborhood coffeeshop lately. See, I don't tip for counter-service coffee, a counter-service tea bag in hot water, counter-service chai, or counter-service espresso with steamed milk. Yes, I use that phrase "counter-service" a bit pointedly. Since when do you tip the guy who gives you that sub, or Philly Cheese Steak, or Vienna Dog over a counter? "Hey Pal, great job with the mustard and pickles, here's a buck." Right.
Yet many coffeehouse patrons shovel the change into the obnoxious tip jar on the counter. It's a way for guilty white liberals to express solidarity with the "working class," I guess. Now, because I don't, I notice one barista left out a credit card receipt plain as day for me to see. Someone had filled in $1.00 in the tip section. She'd never done that before, but I guess months of my not tipping pushed her over the edge. Another barista, after I paid for my tea, and cookies for my kids, noisily rattled around the contents of the tip jar and emptied it.
I tip 15 to 20 percent at restaurants, if the service warrants, less if not. I tip livery and cab drivers quite well, as I rather happen to value my life, and want to encourage safe driving. I've tipped movers, and even contractors. These people are all giving me a special service. Dripping some bean water with steamed milk into a cup and passing it to me over a counter doesn't rate. Sorry.
Other bloggers and blog readers have been debating this burning issue as well.
At the blog, Starbucks Gossip, there are several interesting comments appended to this post.
From a barista:
Tipping makes us love you, and when we love you we make better drinks for you, give them to you faster, etc.
OK, so it IS a racket, then. I don't need your love. Just the bean water.
From a few more commenters in the same string:
Tip for a cup of coffee? You guys are already outrageously over priced, and you want more? It's coffee for gosh sakes. I even have to wait in line to receive it. Does this mean I should tip the counter help at McDonalds? Maybe you can tell me the difference.
Seriously, Starbucks is one of the best places to work for (from what I read). They get PAID WELL OVER MINIMUM WAGE and plus BENEFITS!!! Now, do I need to start tipping the supermarket checkers for checking out my groceries??? Apparently, they're usually MORE busier than Starbucks peeps (EVERYONE goes to the grocery store) and they get paid less....)
It's not rocket science, you are just pouring a cup of coffee or frothing some milk. Give me a break.
Roj, at Milog, has this:
Heck, I feel strongly that jugglers performing on the street deserve your sympathy. But does this apply to the person working the register at a coffee shop? Is this person underpaid and if so is it reasonable to expect me and not the store to compensate them for that? What about the person who swept the store and the person who ground the beans? Don't they deserve a tip? What about someone working at a supermarket cash register? Why shouldn't they have a tip jar?
Or is the story really that coffee shop workers are exploiting people's fear of looking cheap in front of friends, coworkers, and dates, their dislike of coins in their wallets, and (perhaps most significantly) their suceptibility to eyelash batting?
Bingo, Roj, on all but the last point cited here. In the end, it's less about what other strangers may or may not think, and more about self-image. "I am not the kind of person who stiffs a barista," the victimized say to themselves.
Yet discrimination is a concept that should not be bled of its positive meaning. I am a discriminating tipper. And if I am walking up to a counter to get a food or beverage from you, you are almost certainly NOT going to get a tip from me.
Posted by Matt Rosenberg at February 21, 2005 05:42 PM
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Hey Matt, I think you've got some unintentionally nested <blockquote>'s in that post. Also, comment "preview" doesn't seem to work at all for me, on Firefox (the superior browser). Maybe that's just me.
On tipping: I was just thinking about a similar topic the other day. I used to work at a sandwich shop. When I worked there, I never really felt very fulfilled, since I was basically providing people a "service" that they could just as easily have done themselves, but were simply too lazy to do at the time, so they paid me to do it. I don't think that jobs that fit that description merit a tip. That would be most all "counter-service" type jobs.
Who cares if everyone and their brother want a tip. Of course they do. Humans, by nature, are selfish creatures. You don't have to justify not handing out tips left and right. Besides, if we as a society start tipping for every little thing, what meaning does it really have any more?
Skor, thanx for your comments, and interface feedback. I tested things out in my Apple Safari Browser, the closest to Mozilla Firefox I've got, and t'was all OK. But keep me posted.
Regarding barista tips, Skor wrote: "Who cares if everyone and their brother want a tip. Of course they do. Humans, by nature, are selfish creatures. You don't have to justify not handing out tips left and right. Besides, if we as a society start tipping for every little thing, what meaning does it really have any more?"
To which, I'd add:
Matt I like your style. I agree. No tips for Barista's.
Additionally, not tipping them is the best way to ensure that they remain firmly ensconced in the proletariat existence they are so enamored of.
Just blast the steam through the grounds already. -SpinDaddy
I'm inclined to agree with you Matt, though with one caveat. When the service is really good, or the barista gets a specialty drink right (like my usual single tall 140 degree 2% hazelnut latte with whipped cream) and goes out of their way to be friendly, then I tip.
I do agree that there shouldn't be a double standard between a counter service coffee server and other customer service related people. After seven years of working at a grocery store, I never understood why the Starbucks barista was entitled to $1 for spending a minute on a drink that they have made thousands of times before (oftentimes by a series of pressing buttons), but as a clerk when I would remember a customer by name, search the backroom stock for the specialty item that wasn't on the shelf, get it for the customer, and bag and carry their groceries to the car for them, that was somehow par for the course, and undeserving of a tip (especially when I started out $1 an hour less than the starting salary at Starbucks, and without health benefits which are extended to all full and part time Starbucks employees.)
Over the past ten years Starbuck's has gotten all of ten dollars from me, and that was for Odwalla.
As for the mindset that created the ahemming, tip-jar shaking barista: a tea bag costs $.08, but they charge, what, a couple of bucks?
Since Howard Schulz has the stones for that kind of ludicrous mark-up (value/price ratio) his workers follow his lead. Ten seconds of work they're already paid for, but they still want your spare change.
I understand your unwillingness to tip. However, there is more that goes into coffee than you seem to give credit for. If you only go to $tarbuck$, then obviously you are not that much of a coffee person. Some people, on the other hand, take pride in visiting their local independent coffee houses and have grown accustomed to the quality drinks that can be made at such places. One of my local shops nearly always serves their "real" espresso drinks with beautiful latte art. If you have ever tried to make your own latte art, you would know how difficult it is to do. Such baristi are artists and should be treated as such. Only once people migrate away from the atrocity that is $tarbuck$ can they realize when tipping a barista is warranted. I have never been impressed with a $tarbuck$ drink; sometimes, they are merely the only place open.
I work at a coffee shop. In fact, I work at on of the coffee shops Sean goes to. It was while making his drink that he told me about your tipping habits. Honestly, I felt sad. I go to work day after day and am as nice to my customers as possible. In fact, I've gotten to know some so well that I talk to them outside of work. I am not alone on this. Most coffee shop workers are college students trying to balance school and work. It is hard, and, though I don't have it at all as bad as most of my co-workers, I still know what it feels like to not be able to buy dinner because I didn't make enough in tips that day. We don't have standard percents for tipping like restaurants and we don't get a set share of the tips depending on the hours we worked like Starbucks. We merely go to work every day, help people as best we can, and hope we have enough for food.
I just happened to run across this. I have been a Barista for 2 years, and tips is what makes the job worthwhile. Coffee customers have to be the bitchiest, most arrogant people I have ever met in my life. And as for it being 'pouring coffee and frothing milk', we all went through training that took up to a month to complete. Remembering dozens of drinks and terms, and being able to smile back at the lady that is cussing at you on the other side of the counter, is alot harder than someone from the outside would think.
Do you tip bartenders? They, too, provide "counter service." As a college student who pays for her rent, utilities, and groceries with a job at an on-campus coffeeshop (one that pays significantly less than area standard), tips are a nice addition to my income. I don't expect tips on packaged goods or drinks that don't require anything special (e.g. coffee, tea), but for espresso drinks and specialty drinks (especially when someone's ordering more than two at a time), tips are greatly appreciated. Making an espresso drink isn't the same thing as slapping together a burger at McDonald's: it takes a decent amount of training to learn how to pack espresso with just the right amount of pressure or steam milk to get the proper consistency in the foam. Tips for baristas, like those for bartenders, are OPTIONAL both in percentage and payment: they're a handy way to reward someone for their attitude, extra effort, specialized skill, or good job. If you don't want to tip, it's your prerogative not to; I can't say that the behavior of the baristas who not-so-subtley encouraged you to tip was appropriate, but if you don't care enough about their service to tip, why should you care if they think you're stingy?
I work at a coffee shop that isn't as busy as Starbucks. We work alone when we work, and we actually make the coffee fresh instead of leaving it there or just pressing a simple button. Special attention goes into each cup. If you don't want to tip us, fine, but i worked at McDonnald's for $5.60 and hour, and I get $5.75 at the coffee shop. If it wasn't for the tips I get, I would definetly quit the shop since it is much harder work than McDonnald's. McDonnald's involves teamwork, and people help you clean up. You are not stuck there 2 hours after close cleaning up like you are at a coffee shop. You non tippers are cheap, and it doesn't matter how expensive a drink is, we don't get any of that money, so please, give an extra twenty cents, because it carries us much further than it carries you. Also, don't lie to yourselves. If you can't tip twenty cents then you are cheap!!!!!
hi, i own a coffee shop & i have worked at several before. it is so hard to make an independent coffee house work without a good barista who catches your attention like no other at those chain coffeehouses. they deserve every bit of any change you can spare for that one smile that a person may get all day. & its so nice to walk into place & someone has already started on YOUR drink becasue they know you. doesnt that deserve a lil something. i am young & when i work by my self, folks think im a barista & i get tipped well. but its becasue i treat each of my customers like it is just them who i woke up (way earlier then you can imagine) for! & if you are coming in almost daily & can afford a coffee houses drink, then you can most def afford to put in 50 cents or so in! you obviously have the mula! & yes you are cheap!