Tipping at Starbucks Is for Suckers

Why should I throw a buck in the jar at the planet's worst retail establishment?

There’s a labor war brewing at Temple University. No, it’s not the teachers. And it’s not the students. And it’s not the nurses at the hospital. No, according to the Temple News, this labor dispute is at a campus Starbucks, where employees are upset that they are prohibited from accepting tips. But it’s a policy that Starbucks all across the country should have adopted a long, long time ago.

In case you just woke up from a 1970s coma and have never ordered a skinny triple venti, no-whip, iced caramel macchiato, allow me to explain the Starbucks process for you, using the location at 18th and Market streets in Philadelphia as an example:

You walk through the door to find a line that would stretch outside. But since the door is closed, the line instead wraps in front of said door and over to the condiment station. You say “excuse me” to the people standing in front of the door—after all, it’s not their fault—and try to find a position in the middle of the station that won’t upset all the Splenda-pouring secretaries. Within a couple of minutes, you are now the one blocking the door, and people coming in say “excuse me” while you say the same to people trying desperately to get around you to exit.

After a few more moments, while you’re still several customers away from a register, you hear a voice. And though the timbre is decidedly womanly, the pattern is toddler-esque. “Sir… Sir… Sir… Sir… Sir… Sir…” she repeats, over and over again, like a three-year-old trying to get an out-of-reach toy. (“Toy… Toy… Toy… Toy… Toy… Toy… Toy,” in case you are unfamiliar.)

Finally, you realize that she’s been trying to get your attention, as she’s the—get this—the expediter. She takes your order prior to you getting to the register in a feeble attempt to make you think things are running smoothly.

Once you actually get to the register—and remember that you still have to wait for your drink and then proceed to the aforementioned condiment station where you’ll probably find a shortage of whatever it is that you’re looking for, all while dodging incoming customers—you have to repeat your order for the cashier anyway so that they can ring you in, and it’s in this position where you see the front-and-center, wide-mouthed tip jars, filled with a mixture of coins and dollar bills, the occasional five.

Are you #!@% kidding me?

Starbucks has got to be one of the worst retail experiences on the planet, and for the pleasure of shopping there, you’re going to ask me to pony up a buck as a special “thank you,” a token of my appreciation for a job well done? I don’t think so. I’m all for jobs, jobs, jobs, but someone needs to explain to me why they haven’t replaced these shining examples of mediocrity with caffeine-pouring robots and a self-service point-of-sale system.

The management company that runs the Starbucks at Temple’s TECH Center had the right idea when it told employees they couldn’t accept tips. Instead of tips, the company provides bonuses to employees based on a comment-card program. Baristas at Starbucks don’t make the $2.83 an hour that your favorite waiter at the neighborhood mom-and-pop earns in his paycheck. At the Temple outlet, student employees start out at $8.75 an hour while non-student employees earn $10.65 an hour and up. And at most Starbucks locations, employees (even part-timers) get benefits and insurance, something your average waiter can only dream of.

And if you are one of these misguided Starbucks tippers, let me ask you this: Do you also tip at McDonald’s?