Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Starbucks Sued

So Starbucks is getting sued for pooling tips and distributing them evenly between workers and managers. It would seem to me workers need the tips more than managers, but I have no idea how much they are all paid to begin with.

But what I really want to know is - when did it become the customers responsibility to pay their workers salaries anyway? I remember a day when I just bought a coffee and that was it. I didn't need to tip the person that made it, and it wasn't expected that I did.

Why can't these companies (whoever they are), just pay their people enough of a salary that they don't need the tips? I mean after spending $4 on a coffee, I am also expected to leave additional tip? Not to say that I never have left one - because I have when I've gotten great service and I always do for traditional services that require tipping - but when did we start tipping for everything? Shouldn't the cost of each coffee and the volume in which they sell them cover the salaries of the workers?

We now tip the barista, we tip the person scooping ice cream, and so on. It used to be you tipped for a haircut, a manicure, a restaurant, now it seems people are tipping for everything. Should we start tipping the cashier at supermarkets simply for ringing us in? The dry cleaner who hands us our cleaned clothes after I already paid $6 for one shirt to be cleaned? No one tips the workers at - let's say - the Burlington Mall food court for putting their order together. Aren't they doing basically the same thing as a barista? Just putting a drink together and maybe putting food in a bag and handing it to the customer? So why is the barista getting tipped and not the guy in the food court (who probably also makes less than the barista too)?

The reason I thought people tipped waiters was because they were literally coming over, taking your order, checking on you, taking another drink order, bringing out one or more course - they are truly serving the customer multiple times in the course of a meal. And waiters make below minimum wage - so they really need the tips (although I personally think restaurants should pay these workers better - they are surviving on tips alone - putting it in the customer's hands - who may not tip very well). Last time I checked waiters made about $3 an hour - so they really need the tips, while baristas make more than $8 an hour (according to's article) and perform less service per customer (they don't have to come over to my table and refill my coffee for me, or see how my pastry was, or clean up my dishes after me). Plus my guess is percentage wise the waiters still get screwed in this scenario. Let's say I buy a $4 coffee and give $1 tip that is more than a 20% tip! Now if I go to a restaurant I always tip 20% or slightly more (I've done less when I've gotten really bad service). But my guess is most people tip 15-20% which is then LESS percentage than the barista for performing more of a service to the customer. Which brings me back to why are tips needed/expected when I'm buying coffee?

I worked at a super market as a cashier in high school - it was a horrible job. People are brutal. So I feel for the folks in the service industry, but at the same time it's their job to do these things. They know they are working in the service industry - why is it the customer's responsibility to pick up the slack of these companies and help pay their employees? I don't get a tip from my boss when I finish a project early, or do any other thing that is part of my basic job function. I may get a 'hey good work' but that's about it.

Shouldn't these companies just pay their employees what they are worth and be done with it? Perhaps then the price of an order goes up slightly, but wouldn't that make it easier on everyone?I would be fine if my coffee was $4.50 which then meant the workers no longer needed/expected tips. Wouldn't the employees be happy with a fair salary, and customers happy they don't have to try to calculate tip, or feel like they are getting a dirty look if they don't tip?

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