tipping culture

So fairly recently I became a barista again. As if I hadn’t already learned my lesson with the woes and mistreatment that baristas face daily from undercaffeinated customers, I also work in a suburban area now instead of in the city. The major difference that I’ve noticed so far is the attitude of tipping – I barely make 1/3 of what I used to in tips on a good day. It’s honestly depressing and makes my job suck slightly more. And since I work in coffee again, I am again faced with the question – Why don’t people tip their baristas?

When I worked in coffee previously for 2.5 years, I wondered the same thing. I would have some people be faithful with tipping, say $1 or $0.50 with a plain coffee. But then I would have people order $15-$20 worth of coffee and bakery items and not tip at all. I know there’s no real reason why people do/don’t tip, but it still baffles me. Say one person buys a latte every day, that’s maybe $5/day or $25/week. In my mind, if you can afford to drink a latte daily, you can afford to tip on top of that. Baristas are like bartenders – we make your drink to order and put in effort to crafting it.

On a related note, if your drink is overly complicated, please tip. Like seriously. I have had customers request their latte be steamed to a certain temperature, or even one who requested exactly 1/4 cup of 2% milk with their iced espresso. If you’re creating extra work for the barista (esp. during a rush), tipping is appreciated. I also guarantee that if you’re rude and have a complicated drink order, you’re not doing any favors with your baristas. We may give you decaf if we feel petty enough.

Working a tipping job also gives me interesting conversations with friends who don’t work service jobs. Most times when I vent about customers not tipping, friends will sometimes say “I don’t tip because of (generic excuse)” and then expect me to forgive them of their sins of not tipping. “I don’t carry cash on me so I can’t tip” is fair, but in my mind if you know you’re going to a coffee shop to order something more than brewed coffee, you should try to scrounge up a dollar or $0.50 to tip. “I always forget to tip” is a phrase I hate hearing. People don’t forget to tip their waiters/waitresses or their bartenders. But their baristas? All the time. I suppose we’re just above fast food workers in most people’s minds, so therefore we don’t need tips. But like I’ve said, people will say this to me and I feel like I’m expected for forgive them for it. Newsflash: I don’t really and I still secretly judge you for it.

Then there are some people who just don’t believe in tipping. They may argue that we should just pay service workers higher wages, make the products more expensive, etc. or just rehash the arguments that an Adam Ruins Everything video made a few years back. I agree with them to be honest. I think service workers should be paid a living wage and that it’s not the customer’s problem to make sure their server makes enough money. However, until our restaurants and cafes and laws change to reflect that, until that’s a reality for all service workers, you better still tip.

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