Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Coffee Barista Tipping

I don't buy coffee often. I consider myself a social drinker – I will drink coffee to blend into a crowd, but I am not much of a coffee drinker. It is not really that I don't like coffee, just that I don't have the time and energy to devote to figuring out how to drink coffee. You know, the blends, the sizes, the chants you have to use in order to make a good pot of coffee. You get the idea.

When I go to a Starbucks (or any coffeehouse), I generally order what the person in front of me orders. Again, I don't have the skills and knowledge to order a cup of coffee.

I can't believe I don't have the necessary skills/knowledge to order coffee.

The world has just gotten so complicated. I think coffee used to be "regular" or "decaf". Now not so simple.

Anyway, when I am paying for my coffee, I notice a tip jar. Barista's seem to expect tips. This confuses me.

When I am at a restaurant, I understand tipping. The server provides a service, the restaurant pays part of his/her wages, and restaurant patrons make up the difference. I get it. Pay for performance and all.

I go to the mall and order an Orange Julius, the person prepares the drink and I pay the exact amount. No tip requested or necessary.

I go to the mall and order a fancy cookie, the person selects and hands me the cookie and I pay the exact amount. No tip requested or necessary.

I go to the mall and order a coffee, the person pours or prepares the coffee and I pay the exact amount. And I see the tip jar; the barista expects a tip.

I like patterns in my life, and tipping of baristas doesn't seem to fit my pattern.

Now, I don't know if baristas deserve tips or should have tips, but here is a common-sense approach to the problem.

If I visit a barista every day, I am tipping that barista (considering he/she knows my coffee wants/needs). And here is why: I don't know exactly how I would most like my coffee, but I am fairly sure that I would most like my coffee without saliva in it. If you go to someone often and there is a tipping situation, it makes sense to tip. You will more likely be rewarded for tipping well and punished for tipping poorly.

If you visit a barista only once or very infrequently, tip if it makes you feel guilty, and don't tip if it doesn't (and you are opposed to tipping for the barista). Me, I feel guilty and it is better for me to tip, because the dollar infrequently makes me feel happier. But if you take some philosophical stance against it, perhaps you just like patterns. See above.


Grant said...

I've seen the tip cup go up in other places, like the local Subway. The worst case I've seen was for the cashiers in our company cafeteria. Instead of tips for people handing you food, they actually expected a tip for taking your money. I support this rampant system of greed. And now that I've commented, you owe me a dollar.

Tim said...

Whew Leesa.... Were you drinking alot of coffee today??? Lol... fun post. I order the same thing everytime, a large (or whatever they call it) Americano. Basically a double espresso that is watered down. Gives a little added kick in the morning. What I don't understand is why they always look at me and say "room"? I usually say "no thanks, I'm married"... have a fantasti day.

Xmichra said...

mmmm.. i <3 starbucks :)
lately it's been a tall non-fat vanilla latte half foam.. yum :)

I tip the barista because it is time consuming to make all these drinks, and there is an art to it. sorta like a bartender, but wih coffee.

Plus, i have enough words to say ordering my coffee. I don't need to add 'no spit' to it. ;)

Leesa said...

Grant: That $1 I owe sounds like a new type of reverse tipping fee.

Tim: I liked it, but I was surprised so many others did not.

Xmichra: Love the "no spit" comment. Clever.

david mcmahon said...

I'm not the best maker of coffee, but as a Darjeeling boy, I do make great cups of tea!

Gnightgirl said...

I have "my" favorite coffee shop, a bit of a sanctuary, where I hole up with a book, laptop, a pad of paper. The barista's that work there deal with students ordering one cup of tea and staying and studying for hours, asking only for hot water refills (which are free). They deal with downtown "crazies," and late-night drunks (they serve wine, also).

On top of that, the coffee & tea clientele are finicky, sugar free syrup and skim milk, and just a little honey, and extra room, etc. etc.

As Xmichra noted, if I walk up to a bar and order a drink, I leave the bartender a buck. I do the same thing for barristas. It is a little different than some kid hitting the button on a soda fountain for you at McDonalds.