Tipping at Starbucks

Tonight I drove through Starbucks for a cup of green tea.  I stopped at the posted menu and ordered through a speaker.  As I was driving around the corner to pay at the window, I noticed a tip jar on the counter.  “Not another tip jar“, I thought to myself as I drove up to the window. For some reason, the idea of tipping Starbucks employees really bothers me.   In fact, I find it offensive that they are begging for money when I’m already paying a premium for their product.  Shouldn’t the cost of the coffee be enough? Are their employees not paid enough?  Why in the world would I tip a Starbucks employee and not a McDonald’s employee?  What about 7-11 or In-N-Out?  Why not tip the employees at the dry cleaners or Target or Costco?  How about Big Lots, Blockbuster, Jamba Juice, or the gas station?  How about the checker at Ralphs? 

The real question in my mind is why do Starbucks employees think they are deserving of tips.  Do they have better skills?  Are they offering a special service?  Let’s see — I have to wait in line to order (sometimes a long line), pay for a premium product, and then wait again until it’s ready where I finally pick it up myself at a counter.  For this, I should tip?  Maybe it’s because they are making the coffee drink for me … the whole Barista thing.  If so, what about the employee at Golden Spoon or Pink Berry that serves me a frozen yogurt that they made?  Or the Baskin Robins employee that makes me a sundae, or cappuccino blast?   Should I tip them too?  Maybe they all have tip jars … just shoot me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against tipping in situations that make sense — like at a restaurant.  I’ve done plenty of tipping over the years but think that tipping a Starbucks employee is ridiculous!  What do you think?

29 Responses

  1. I think that you’re right. It’s about time someone said something…



  3. I personally don’t mind tipping someone who takes the time to perfect my beverage, put up with all of the bullshit from high maintenance customers and still have the courtesy to smile when they hand me my drink. If you don’t want to tip the kids that are making your coffee/tea, then go home and make it yourself.

    • so then should we tip at mcdonalds too

    • I disagree – do they hand you the drink, or do you go and grab it from the counter. Personally, I get attitude from Baristas if I order something they don’t want to make- Servers are one thing, that is a long service and their service decides the tip, but just because you put out a tip jar doesn’t mean you deserve one, this is being SO abused now, and people like you are only making this problem worse. “If you don’t want to tip the kids that are making your coffee/tea, then go home and make it yourself” WHY ON EARTH would you think that if I do not pay MORE for something, I dont deserve to buy it. Thats just stupid. Bottom line, is companies need to ACTUALLY pay their employees, not customers.

    • Tipping baristas stems from the idea that there is a special art to pulling a good shot of espresso or making perfect foam for a cappuccino. The fact of the matter is that Starbucks has made an assembly line of this process and has removed human mastery from the equation. The result is a cup of coffee that is consistent, but could only be called good, not great. I tip very well at shops who tamp and pull their own shots (and do it well), not at Starbucks where espresso comes from an automated box; whole beans go in, coffee comes out, anyone could do it. Not to mention Starbucks pays reasonable wages for the skill level needed and offers health benefits already, so there is no pity factor.

  4. I totally agree with you. The tip jars are taking over. I don’t have a problem tipping at a restaurant where I’m being waited on, but if I’m standing in line for a coffee, and then standing in line to pick it up, I’m not going to tip you just to do your job. Maybe I should put a tip jar on my desk at work.

  5. It is absolutely RIDICULOUS to have a tip jar at starbucks, and now it got someone killed, I’m Boycotting Starbucks until corporate gets a fu**ing clue. IDIOTS.

  6. If there were a tip jar at Taco Bell, I’d put money into it. Their work conditions are pretty terrible, and at a really busy location they are going to go through just as much crap as your average sit-down restaurant server, who might be making three to five times the money depending on the situation because of tipping norms. Do people think the good Taco Bell employee really doesn’t work hard? That’s confusing. Maybe they’re not going through crap for you exclusively, individually, for an hour, but really it is for each person who walks in the door. And if your food actually is fast, you’ve got at least a couple of hard-working people in there to thank for it.

    But to focus on barista’s more specifically, I think of it this way: “Tip your bartenders” is as common and acceptable etiquette as tipping your waiter or waitress. Why shouldn’t it be? I’ve never worked at a Starbucks, but I’ve worked at other coffee houses and bars and the work can be very similar. Nobody expects the five to ten dollars you would give a waitperson at a restaurant, but fifty cents or even a whole buck if you’re really feeling grateful really means a lot to people whose jobs it largely is to get shat on by demanding, rude people all day. It’s about respecting the fact that someone is in a position of servitude to you. They have literally submitted themselves to your service. And if they’re doing a terrible job, fine. But I’m weird, I tip waiters and waitresses even if they messed something up because I know that it’s very likely they’ve just had a bad day, maybe something in their personal life just got messed up, who knows. At most chains, they’re not allowed to have tip jars, but if they were, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to show the people behind the counter some gratitude. Many of them might have families they are trying to support, or some difficulties getting other, better work. “Get a better job” isn’t something you can just go out and do at the snap of a finger, and it’s especially hard to find a job when you have one. I’m not saying cry for the Starbucks employee, but I am saying that most food service workers of any type have willingly put themselves at the beck and call of consumers on a fairly even playing field. If you have chosen to accept the servitude of another human being and you don’t believe that this is worth a little tangible gratitude, then you and I simply come from very different worlds.

  7. Well said.

  8. I tip waitresses and waiters at restaurants because it is customary. In most cases, where tip credit is recognized, restaurants can pay their waiters and waitresses less than the federal minimum wage, and they do. So it is different their, ’cause Starbucks employees get the same starting pay (based on the actual minimum wage), in some cases, they start their employees higher, as the other retail workers.

    • I totally agree. Waiters and waitresses are paid less than minimum wage and therefore rely on tips to make up for it. Starbucks workers are making AT Least minimum wage and so I do not feel it is necessary to tip. Where is the logic? If Starbucks workers can put out a tip jar and expect tips, then anyone at any job should be able to do so. I’m a nurse. If I give someone exceptionally great care, should I be able to walk around with a tip jar and expect tips for doing my job? This makes no sense.

      • I understand in China people have to give bribes to doctors to get seen. This is where this country is headed. Wage and salaries will stagnate or get lower and business owners see they can transfer the some of the burden of compensating their employees onto the customer. In the future, in order to get anything done at any level, customers will have to apply some “grease.”

  9. Maybe you should consider moving to New Zealand ;) Here we have the convenience of a 1st world society, supposedly free health care and education AND we have never taken to the idea of giving tips. Tipping is very rare and only really embraced by tourists. Minimum wages are supposed to cover all the employees needs (its about $12 (nzd) an hour or something and that includes youth (<18) rates). If you don’t want to move here at least visit, its actually a very nice place. ;)

  10. Absolutely ridiculous. I shouldn’t pay $4 for a cup of cofee and expected to tip another 25%. ($1 tip from $4 coffee). That makes my grand total $5 for a little caffeine. I can buy a can of Folger’s that’ll last me a month with that!

  11. Tip jars are the worst form of extortion. Why don’t we just decide what the real price is to provide good service. Then just charge me that price up front.

  12. Tipping for a cup of coffee at Starbucks or Peet’s is absurd. I do not know where this concept came from – but it too, shall pass.

  13. I went to subway the other day and they had a tip jar too. while i was paying one of the employees grabbed it to see how much was in it and another saw it and said “damn we only have 3 lousy bucks in there. Since when did it become customary to tip for fast food, and by fast food I mean anything you stand in line to order and normally pick up yourself. this is craziness.

  14. I’m so pissed about this as well. So happy to find others that feel the same as I do. (actually bored at work and arguing with a friend on this topic).

    I’m a marketing guy and this whole tipping thing from a large corporate entity is just crazy. Starbucks of all companies knows about the “customer experience”. For me the feeling of guilt, aniexty (tip or not.. and if so how much), is all too stressful during the purchasing experience and adds to a negative overall experience before taking that first sip (tasty).

    Starbucks, please remove your stupid tipping jar and relieve everyone (including your workers) of the anxiety for additional nickels, dimes, and quarters. It really creates a bad/poor customer experience!

    Thank you for allowing me to rant.


  15. You should tip to thank them you lazy ass people. All you who don’t tip are cheap bastards.

    • Once again, does this mean we should tip all fast food workers? They do what any other food service employee does. AND their product is expensive. Don’t get me wrong, Starbucks employees deal with some garbage. But so does every other employee on the face of the earth.

    • I should thank them for doing there job? Well, I do thank them. I say thank you when they hand me my change. I am not a “cheap bastard” as you (sam) have implied. But you can’t single out Starbucks. If you think everyone should tip at Starbucks then by your logic, we should go ahead and tip all fast food workers. What about the workers at Walmart, movie theaters, convenient stores, the guys who balances and rotates my tires? Where would it end?

  16. I have worked for starbucks for a few years now and I can see both sides of the argument. I personally would not tip if I just got a cup of drip coffee. But people need to understand that Starbucks runs the gamut of costumer service. We can provide you with your simple cup of joe or with a very personalized drinks. For example, I have a costumer that comes in every morning at the same times and expects his drink to be ready when he arrives. He is also very picky and if his cap is to dry or too wet he returns it and we remake for him with no questions asked. AND YES I EXPECT HIM TO TIP ONCE IN A WHILE. Im sorry, but no fast food chain is going to provide that kind of service.

  17. I think a lot of people have just gone on auto-pilot when it comes to tipping, and have lost sight of the reason for giving tips in the first place. Tips are supposed to be an indication of appreciation for a good experience with respect to a person performing a service. It would certainly be better all around if workers were simply paid more and took more personal pride in their jobs, thus relegating tipping to the situation in which someone goes above and beyond and delivers really excellent service.

    That being said, given the tipping culture in the United States, I tend to tip much more at places where I am a regular. The regional coffee shop I get my beans from is way cheaper than Starbucks, and the baristas are personable and extremely competent. I drop a generous tip in the jar every once in a while; it reminds them that I appreciate the work they do and all the free punches they put on my frequent buyer card. At the same time, if I leave no tip at the restaurant on the corner, the waiter knows he or she did something wrong.

    But somewhere I haven’t been before, or only visit occasionally, I tip more standard amounts and only in more traditional situations. I definitely agree that the proliferation of tip jars has extended to strange and inappropriate places and with all manner of cutesy signs. The bottom line is that tips should be earned, not expected; unless I’m a long-term customer and receive consistently good service, most quick transactions like a cup of coffee aren’t enough.

  18. I do not tip for ‘service’ at Starbucks since it does not exist. I frequently clean up after other people there so service at Starbucks is frequently a negative.

    I do tip as ‘rent’ for taking up space – sometimes for hours. I also tip as ‘rent’ when I go to a restaurant and order a cup of soup and a soft drink instead of a complete meal with cocktail. I appreciate not feeling required to over eat or over drink so I leave a generous tip in those circumstances. Restaurants and cafes are part food and part entertainment so I pay for my entertainment.

    I am a generous tipper when I receive friendly, competent service and I will tip a penny – and sometimes write management a note – when I receive rude and incompetent service.

    Really, I am not sure if tipping really works that well since I have been tipping everywhere for years and service is still spotty. :)

  19. You don’t even have to tip them a lot. It could be as much as one cent. Its the thought that really counts.

  20. You should infact tip your Starbucks baristas.

  21. This post is ridiculous. Why would you tip your waiter or waitress? Because it encourages them to go above and beyond service standards. If all you expect is a bland stare while you bark out your out your order and your drink to be made without haste then leave no tip. Why the hell are you spending $4 on a cup of coffee if throwing $.25 into the tip jar will break your wallet? Tipping at coffee shops is usually done with pocket change, they don’t expect the same kind of tips. Go to a gas station and get your coffee there then. See what they have to say about your rediculous questions and demands. Or even better make it yourself. Also you CAN tip people a fast food restaurants and gas stations, you could really tip anyone. I often do, and I get people who are eager to provide me service. I can image the dread that washes over service employees when they see you walk in the door. You’ve obviously have never worked in the food service industry.

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