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Will Starbucks cost workers their tips?

Rumor has baristas worried about a reduction in their drive-thru loot.

By doubleace May 11, 2011 1:38PM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.


Those feisty baristas at Starbucks are all atwitter again, this time over a post on Starbucks Gossip that management has ordered everything -- including the tip jars -- removed from the outside ledge of the drive-thru windows.


Tips are a big deal for anyone slaving in the restaurant and coffee shop trades, but for Starbucks baristas they are a very big deal. They actually went to court in 2008 and won an $86 million award -- later reversed -- over shift supervisors sharing the help's tips.

Barista tips vary, of course, depending on location and service, but court documents in 2008 said the average was $1.71 an hour. Reportedly, $5 is possible, not bad for a $9- to $10-an-hour job. 


A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company has not modified its tip jar policy, adding that "some areas may choose to modify their standards ... at the discretion of local leadership teams." But the issue remains: Would moving the tip jar inside the window affect the amount you tip, or even whether you tip at all? 

If you walk in, tipping seems a given. During the morning rush hour, Starbucks always seems to have enough help, managing an inefficient process -- despite new technology, latte-making takes time -- as quickly as possible. OK, sometimes navigating is like shopping at Costco on a weekend, but it's a more civil crowd.

Then there's the staff: Green apron-clad, cheery, often greeting you with a friendly "Hi, guys," and always seeming to know it is the fourth person in line's turn to order. The "granola girl" look of the early days has been replaced by the Disneyland model, but it works. And the product's pretty good, too. Post continues after video.

Your two "tall" (small) coffees cost you $4.69 including tax. Do you flip them a five and drop the 31 cents into the ever-so-obvious jar? No, they've done all they could to make this a pleasant experience, so you stuff a one into the jar, too, making sure they are watching you -- and they are -- so they know you are not only appreciative, but a wonderful human being, too. That's a 28% tip.


In the drive-thru, it is different: Less personal contact; no watching them actually create your Frappuccino; not just one, but two physically awkward movements; and besides, you are semi-anonymous in your car. One suspects this means less in tips.


Now, if the tip jar is less obvious, maybe just inside the window, the customer can fall back on universal law: No tip jar means no tipping allowed. Percentage of the bill: zero.


No wonder the baristas are in chattering mode.


More from MSN Money:
May 11, 2011 4:13PM
I usually don't tip people behind a counter at all.  I pay for the product; the company pays for the service.  Perhaps that doesn't matter as I don't buy Starbucks anyway (too strong and bitter).
May 11, 2011 4:18PM
Tipping counter people is beyond my understanding.  I understand why we tip waitresses.   Which is the fact that businesses refuse to pay them a fair wage.   But to tip people getting a fair wage is silly.   By the sounds of this article many of them will be making more than waitresses and I can tell you who is working harder.
May 11, 2011 5:25PM
I am sorry unless you are a waitress, garbage man, or hair dresser I will not tip you. I worked fast food until I graduated high school and we NEVER had a tip jar. It is a entry-level job with no skills needed why would I tip you for doing your job. Everyone has to start somewhere and the bottom of the ladder is usually a good start. I love how this article states they are "slaving" away. That is so far off base.
May 11, 2011 4:32PM

you are telling me that these barista's are making $9- to $10-an-hour job and they still want a tip for making someone's coffee. if they think this is difficult tell them to get a real waitressing job and then work for $ 2.15 an hour and then work their butts off for their tips.  A real waitress gets a good tip if they service the customer from the time they are seated to the time they leave by taking orders, bringing drinks and food to table and prebussing their dirty tables so the customer can sit and  enjoy his experience.

May 11, 2011 4:18PM
As a former Barista, I'm all for tipping, but since Starbucks turned most of their machines over to an automatic system & the Barista's only need to push a button to make my coffee, I don't tip. I don't even go to Starbucks. I mean push button coffee, come on, I can get this at a gas station and save myself $3.50

May 11, 2011 4:31PM

Tipping has gotten to be such a joke and totally out of control.  Tipping at the counter or drive-thru?  Give me a break.  That is their job!  They are not doing anything extra by holding a cup under a spout and letting the cup fill up.  You don't tip the kitchen help puts the food on your plate.  You don't tip the department store clerk for ringing up your purchases and putting them into a bag.  You don't tip the grocery store clerk for it either.  If they want a $15 an hour job, they will eventually work they up to one.  Don't make them think that slinging burgers or being a soda fountain jerk is going to be their lifelong career.

May 11, 2011 4:36PM
tipping at the drive thru window? I DONT THINK SO!!!!! for the prices these places charge for a product they can pay their help more money. as for me i dont give a flip if the stock holders recieve a penney in dividends. screw em. i tip a home delivery person cause they are usually driving their own personal vehicles, but as for tipping at the order counter or drive thru window, it will be a cold day in hell before I do that.
May 11, 2011 4:57PM
Tips are out of control.  Everywhere I go there sits a tip cup, with the hand written note, tips appreciated.  I hope sixbucks, sorry, starbucks goes out of business.  How about tips for electrical workers?  You are pouring a cup of $5 coffee!  That's it... Where in the equation is a tip earned or deserved?  Don't like it quit, work elsewhere.  Or, go to your employer and negotiate higher wages.  Your weekly take home is no more my problem than mine is yours.  I waited tables, it blew.  That's why I moved on to bigger and better things.  Wise up and take responsibility for your own conditions. 
May 11, 2011 4:48PM
I have worked in the service industry. And in that actual service industry, you made $2.13 an hour and essentially lived off of your tips...thats acceptable. When someone is making $9-$10 an hour AND expecting tips on top of that???That's a little much. I have a desk job now, and ANY job can be thankless at some point or another, so do I put out a tip jar for the people who come to my desk to show me appreciation for doing my job? I always tip to those whose pay are based on a performance level and are paid less than minimum wage, but seriously..McDonalds, Starbucks, Arby's etc..they get paid an HOURLY wage for a reason and its in that job description to provide specific duties and attitude..
May 11, 2011 5:07PM
Boater--Servers are lucky to make 2.25 an hour before tips, so they rely on their tips..$10 or more an hour is plenty for you to be making coffee!  Everything is pre-made and all you have to do is add a little milk, coffee, whipped cream, it is not hard.  I don't tip Dairy Queen for making me a sundae the way I want it!!
May 11, 2011 5:40PM

I never have, and I never will, leave a tip for counter service foods or drinks. Like the article said, they get 9-10 dollars per hour.  OK, not much money I agree. But a "real" waiter/waitress in a restaurant does not get minimum wage, and most of their money is made on tips, which is also 9 times out of 10, in a sit-down type restaurant or bar.

  So I don't know who started this leave a tip jar on the counter age, but it actually was never appropriate to do so in the first place. Do you tip a McDonald's counter person? No. Do you tip the popcorn/candy people at the movie theatre? No. Do you tip for carry-out pizza or Chinese? No. So why Starbucks?

May 11, 2011 4:27PM

I've never even heard of a "drive through tip" before.  Is  that a joke?


I don't even tip INSIDE if all I'm getting is a cup of coffee.  I'm paying for it already.  Or did lifting that gigantic caraffe and turning it over sprain your widdle wrist?

May 11, 2011 5:01PM
Get a grip!  If people in food service positions aren't getting adequately compensated, how is that my problem?  If your car salesperson isn't getting adequately compensated, would you add $3000 to the bill for your car?  Your house?  Maybe tip your general contractor several grand for finishing the remodel on your bathroom??  How much do you tip the photograph-taker at the DMV??  C'mon, people!  Put responsibility where it correctly likes--on the employer, not the customer!!
May 11, 2011 4:43PM
avatar're supposed to tip if you go through the drive-thru?  Hell, I only tip a barista if they go well above and beyond making my drink - which I think has been a grand total of three times in my life.  I'd never tip at the drive-thru - why the hell would you?


Next you'll be telling me to tip the Burger King cashier or the pizza guy that hands me the order through the drive-up window.


You get a tip if you:

- Come to where I'm sitting and take my order

- Get the order right

- Do it without being grumpy/rude

- Refill my drink in a timely manner or at least ask if I want another drink

You need to do those 4 things to get 15%.  Anything else positive adds to the 15%.  I've only had to do a 0-tip once to a working waitress who clearly hated her job.


I always thought it was weird to tip barbers/stylists, too - don't the independent ones set their own prices?  However, that's the way I was always told to do it, so I guess a few extra bucks isn't going to kill me once every few months.

May 11, 2011 4:37PM
I refuse to go to starbucks, my husband bought me an espresso machine for my birthday it's awesome and it finally made me realize starbucks coffee actually sucks.  Sorry all of you starbucks lovers out there.  If i didn't have my own machine I would rather go to a smaller coffee shop not a chain at least their coffee is fresh and I am supporting local businesses :) 
May 11, 2011 4:28PM
why on earth would you tip someone for doing their job
May 11, 2011 9:33PM
If I call in an order for "pick-up" to any food facility, why should I tip them for handing it to me and taking my money ? I don't tip at MacDonalds, why should I tip at Starbucks ? This is way beyond tipping for "service" IMO.
May 11, 2011 6:24PM
I worked just as hard at McDonald's and Long John Silvers when I was younger, and at lower wages and with less respect and we didn't get tips.  Get over it. 
May 11, 2011 6:01PM

Their drinks are over-priced. McDons sells 32 oz cokes and sweet tea for $1 and don't expect tips. They don't even have a tip jar out. Neither do the other drive thru's.


The baristas work hard for their money, but so does everyone else. They get fair wages. I see shell and other food mart stations with tip jars. What for? Ringing up my snacks?


I just serviced your car. Where's my tip? I just sold you a tv, where's my tip? I just taught your kids .... where's my tip? Crazy

May 11, 2011 4:54PM

They are already expensive enough, let alone a tip!   Why would I tip them for getting me a cup of coffee?  If I am sitting inside eating and they bring me my food I understand!  But too me it is no different then going to McDonalds drive thru, you don't tip employees there!   Beside's that the baristas make a lot more on the hour then a server!!

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