Battle brews over who gets Starbucks tips

Baristas say that because they interact with customers more, they deserve the money more than the assistant managers.

By Jonathan Berr May 28, 2013 5:15PM
A Starbucks Corp., sign is displayed outside a coffee shop in London, U.K. / Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesA nasty legal battle is brewing among Starbucks (SBUX) employees over who is entitled to the tips left by customers -- and New York's highest court has agreed to settle the issue.

According to, Starbucks baristas, the workers tasked with filling customer orders, are trying to prevent assistant managers from getting some of the gratuities. The Court of Appeals was asked by a federal court to determine whether assistant managers, who have no power to hire and fire, are considered "company agents" under New York law and are therefore prohibited from receiving tips.

 Starbucks has prided itself for years on treating employees well, and says on its website that working at the company is "a lot like working with your friends." But the stakes for the low-wage employees watching the case are certainly high.

"Yes, managers do interact with customers but it's more the baristas who connect with the customers so they deserve the tips more," a Manhattan barista told CBS Radio.

Attorney Adam Klein, representing the assistant managers, argues that they also spend most of their time serving customers and deserve tips as well, the site says. According to Starbucks, which is based in Seattle, assistant managers are not eligible for tips since they are full-time employees and eligible for "performance-based bonuses" that their subordinates can't get.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks.  Follow him on Twitter@jdberr
May 28, 2013 9:20PM

"According to Starbucks, which is based in Seattle, assistant managers are not eligible for tips since they are full-time employees and eligible for "performance-based bonuses" that their subordinates can't get."


Seems to me, that should pretty well settle the issue.

May 29, 2013 12:08PM
Why you gotta tip 'em at all?  You don't tip the McD's guy for handing you your Big Mac and you don't tip the cook, either.  Keeping the baristas pay so low so that they HAVE to depend on tips should  be the issue.  Like most other posters have said, with the prices they charge, they make enough to pay the baristas a decent wage.  Oh, well, it's New York, the California of the East Coast.
May 28, 2013 6:24PM

Damn.  For the prices of those concoctions you'd expect the tip to be included and divied out by computer according to employee number.  The assistant managers can get themselves a free espresso capu mocha frappe dappa ding dong.

May 29, 2013 2:06PM

Management should never share in the tips

May 29, 2013 1:38PM
Did you notice now that when you pay for a carry-out at a restaurant they have a line on the bill for tips - and a tip jar at the register!  Also, last time i went to a restaurant my bill was roughly $8 and i was paying cash - gave the waitress a $20 and she had the gall to ask if i wanted change!  When was the last time ANYONE left a $12 tip for an $8 meal?!?!?!  She got her tip - i wrote a complaint on the bill when i paid - and NO money was left at that meal!  It seems like everyone thinks they deserve to make $50,000 annualy now, no matter what job you have - and if you don't make that much - people should give their money to you!  i worked way too hard to move up to a decent salary and paid my dues - to give it away to a 20-something who talks on her cell while waiting on you - cannot get the bill correct - but is WAAY over the top on computing how much tip they should get -- ENOUGH !!!
May 29, 2013 2:14AM

I quit tipping the employees because its divied among people who aren't making my drink. If the tips were dispersed at the end of every shift to those who were working that shift I would more happily hand over the money. That said, the drinks are expensive enough that starbucks surely can afford a decent wage. When I dine out I always tip minimum 20 percent of the bill. When I valet I tip 5 coming and going. I am far from cheap but I have to draw a line. Giving someone any money who never did a thing for me won't happen!

May 29, 2013 12:49PM

First of all - I tip very well 20% at restaurants. However i do not tip the workers at Starbucks, why because to me that is their jobs. Waiters/Waitresses do more works than baristas. I hate to see at the cashiers where they have a jar for tips. You work for the jobs, for your duties. If you don't like the job, switch. American have a tendency to tip no matter what it is.. I only tip waiters/waitresses and cleaning personel in hotel room. The rest i don't.

May 29, 2013 1:57PM
who gets the tips at McDonalds & Burger King & Arbys & Wal-Mart.....? oh, they don't!....p.s.  Starbucks isn't hurting to pay their workers decently - anytime I see a chain explanding, the money must be coming from somewhere - if they underpay their workers, then they must be building on the backs of their workers.
May 29, 2013 1:43PM
Tips? At Starbucks? Are you kidding me? Tipping someone for dropping off your overpriced sugary/caffeinated drink on a counter? Why does everyone that works believe they are entitled to a TIP. Another reason to head to Micky Dee's for your coffee fix. Not tip jars there, just order, get your Java fix, and move on.
May 29, 2013 1:20PM
I don't drink Starbucks . why should i pay $3.50 for a cup, 
when i can go to mcdonalds and get one just as bad for less.
May 28, 2013 6:56PM
This is one of those "Good reasons to have a personnel meeting":  iron out the apportionment of monies.   In its long run, one would think that a successful operation like Starbucks would have already ironed out this sticky issue.
May 29, 2013 2:21PM

Being a waiter many years ago. I tip only those who are severing me. Waiters/waitresses, work solely for the tips, the hourly wage they get is pitiful at best. And if the waiter/waitress has a great personality, and doesn’t bug me every 5 mins, to ask how’s everything, they will earn more from me. From my experience, management overall works very little, and only helps out when there a lot of people standing, watching.

May 29, 2013 1:50PM
i got hired to do a job and get paid for performing that function - I don't get tips for doing what I was hired to do - that's crazy!  if someone goes ABOVE & BEYOND their normal job description, then a tip is warranted - I haven't seen anything fitting that description in YEARS. Since Starbucks DOES have this jar, then the people who give to it can make their own determination - however it should NOT be shared by anyone other than the buspeople and waiters - anyone making minimum wage (most restaurants get away with paying LESS than minimum wage!) qualifies to split tips.  Management & Supervisors, you get enough already - why would you take money away from the minimum-wage people - you're just a bunch of greedy %$#%^% !!!!
May 28, 2013 7:14PM
If it's like most minimum wage food service businesses, anyone who has been there more than six months is an assistant manager.
Schultzy build a nice business and it's time to step up and pay his employees a living wage. he's a billionaire now built on the backs of his loyal employees. time to get rid of the tip jars and pay up. i've found much better coffee at several other coffee houses where i live. see ya later Schultzy! mw
May 28, 2013 9:50PM
I've always found it is best not to tip. If tip jars are at the register the "barista" argument becomes mute. Nothing has occurred other than an order and collection of fee for same. Tipping the bartender but not the chef doesn't make sense either. "Sharing" of "tips" is just transference of a service cost from the employer to the customer especially if the tip is added automatically by the business.
May 28, 2013 9:24PM
And, btw, the New York ruling would only be valid in New York State.
I would never tip a counter person.  THey all share and most of the others did nothing to serve me.
May 29, 2013 2:23PM

Here in WV employees of Bob Evans, Ihop, Fat Pattys, Logans Roadhouse, and MOST, not just a few, major (non-fast food) restaurants pay servers a mere $2.23 to $4 per hours.   


A meal at Logans will run $30, at Bob Evans $15 and so on.   Back when lunch was priced about $1 or $2 those wages might have been excusable.   NO LONGER.  But we don't see the Chamber of Commerce or WELL-BOUGHT WV LEGISLATURE making any effort to provide the WORKING POOR with reasonable wages.


THE MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD BE AVAILABLE TO ALL EMPLOYEES, more especially these working poor from whom the GOP has now tried 137 times to take away the only possible access to health care for themselves and their children.. 

May 29, 2013 1:55PM
I don't tip someone if they just pour me a cup of coffee,if it was a fancy drink I would give a tip.

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