• author
    • Kelvin Wade

    • March 13, 2014 in Columnists

    I don’t tip at Starbucks

    Starbucks announced this week that their iOS app will now allow digital tipping. The new service will allow patrons to tip 50 cents, $1 or $2. An updated Android app will be released later this year. I don’t think I’ll be using that because I’m not down with the idea of tipping at a coffee shop. I know discussing tipping is the third rail of food service so I’m prepared to be pilloried.

    The first time I went through a Starbucks drive-thru, I mistook the tip cup for a free sample and drank about $2.69 cents worth of change. Why was a tip jar sitting at the drive-thru window? I thought their job was to take my order, make coffee and hand it to me. What am I tipping for?

    My favorite Starbucks drink is a venti iced Café Americano with an extra shot, one Equal and a splash of half ‘n’ half. When I say a splash, I mean very little. I’d like just enough to change the color from black to slightly less black. Over and over at different Starbucks locations, they’d hand me a drink that looked white. I changed from asking them for a splash to asking for a tablespoon. White. Then a teaspoon. White. So they A) don’t have any tablespoons or teaspoons, B) have never actually seen a tablespoon or teaspoon, or C) are just assholes and they’re messing with me. I resorted to asking them to not put any half ‘n’ half in my coffee but to give me a tiny cup with some half ‘n’ half in it so I could add it myself. On at least two occasions they handed me a cup of half ‘n’ half. A cup. 8 ounces. Really?

    And you want a tip for what?

    Now I just go inside, which kind of makes the idea of a frequenting a drive-thru restaurant pointless.

    Mail deliverers do an awful lot of driving and walking, fighting the weather, and unruly canines, yet they don’t have a tip jar on mailboxes. When police come out on a service call, they’re not expecting a tip. My granddaughter works at a movie theater making popcorn and serving treats for a demanding public. Doesn’t she deserve tips?

    Yes, I tip pizza delivery guys for doing what they’re supposed to do, but that’s different. I’m tipping them to ensure they don’t leave their DNA in my next pizza order if I don’t tip. They’re alone on the road with my food.

    It’s not as if baristas are working in a sweatshop. They’re making coffee drinks in a cool (bordering on cold), smartly decorated store while listening to Barry Manilow on the sound system. Starbucks pays $7 -$12 an hour with $8.80 being the average. Starbucks baristas, or “partners,” who work more than 20 hours a week are eligible for a perks package called Your Special Blend. It might include bonuses, 401(k) matching, and health coverage. Starbucks will also help partners with college textbooks, tuition and more. Employees get a 30% discount in store and are given a pound of coffee or tea a week. And last summer, Starbucks increased prices on its tall drinks by a dime. Starbucks could increase all of their drinks by a nickel or dime and raise wages if they wanted. People would still buy it.

    I promise I’m not picking on Starbucks. Many businesses have added a tip jar. One of my favorite Mexican eateries has a tip jar at the drive-thru window. Since I’m paying with a debit card, there’s nothing to toss in that Styrofoam cup, not that I’d be inclined to do it.

    A waitress’s job is different than a baristas. A waitress at a restaurant has to accurately record everyone’s order at a table, bring out the food and check to see if the orders are okay. If not, she ferries dishes to and from the kitchen. She has to make sure glasses stay full and help with things like additional napkins, condiments and other requests. And she has to do it for multiple tables. They certainly earn their tips. Plus waiters and waitresses are paid very low wages, with tips making up the difference.

    This is not about me being cheap. I’m not. Anyone who has dined with me knows that I tip a minimum of 20% in a sit down restaurant. When a valet brings my vehicle at an Indian casino, I give him a few dollars for running to get my car. When room service brings me food at a hotel, I tip the lady or gentleman. When I’ve gone on cruises, even when tips have been prepaid, I still tip on the ship for service. I even tipped a teenage girl who washed my car last year. Anytime someone goes above and beyond for me, I have no trouble slapping some dollars in their palm in appreciation.

    But having a tip jar sitting there next to the register or at the drive-thru window? Sorry.

    If you tip at Starbucks or any time you see a tip jar, more power to you. Have at it. The new Starbucks app will make it even more convenient for you. Go for it. Do you.

    In the future I’m thinking about adding a link to PayPal at the bottom of my columns so you can shoot me a buck or two. Or maybe you’ll think, “Why should I tip you? You haven’t done anything special. You’ve just written a column like everyone else on iPinion.”


      • davidlacy

      • March 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm
      • Reply

      I mostly share your sentiment on this but I do want to add one thing. My sister was visiting this weekend with her hubby (he just got into a PhD program at Irvine and we’re hoping he chooses to come here). She has been a Starbucks barista for six years, and has exemplary evals, yet her raises are tremendously modest. She says the tips push her into a living wage. She also said the liberal gaga-ing over Starbucks’ healthcare for part-timers is a bit exaggerated (and she’s practically a socialist). She said it’s prohibitively expensive for many of the employees (herself included).

        • Kelvin

        • March 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm
        • Reply

        I just think her raises may have been modest because a company that had its strongest performance ever last year knows the public will supply the money that they don’t in those tip jars.

    • I tip everywhere. Just yesterday I gave my Verizon tech $20 because I was happy after 11 days he fixed it all. Sure it was his second time but no one else even came out and sure I have a new in with his supervisor who sends them to me now on the same day I call. I just figure if I am happy they should be as well. i can afford it so it doesn’t hurt me and I feel it really helps them. And of course in the end I feel I get much better service the next time.

        • Kelvin

        • March 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm
        • Reply

        That’s good. I tip for good service. I just don’t tip by rote just because there happens to be a jar there.

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