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The Big 2011 Compensation Question - Are the Starbucks Baristas Getting Screwed by a Cash-Free Society?

You think I'm joking but I'm not...

Has there ever been a bigger employee relations nightmare related to compensation than what's happened at Starbucks over the last three years?

What's happened you ask?  No one is using cash anymore.  Everyone's swiping a card.  That means the Barista you don't look at $.50 in your hand and dump it into the tip jar.

Tipping's a pack activity at a place like Starbucks.  You get some change back, note that the person helping you is pretty nice (airport Starbucks don't qualify), see the full tip jar and... bam... moment of weakness, peer pressure and a need to feel classy, you dump a 25% tip into the jar.

For coffee.  Your great grandparents are cursing at you from the clouds.  They didn't fight through Ellis Island for you to be dumping cold hard cash at a coffee store, much less tipping at one.  You're soft.  Doughy even...

But I digress.  Tips are gone at Starbucks.  The tip jar, if it's out at all, is a lonely place.  You hand your card and the barista (I'm calling the person at the register that, I'm assuming they rotate) POLITELY says the following:

"You need a receipt today?"

TRANSLATION: I know you don't want a receipt, and it's a hassle for me.

TRANSLATION #2:  I'm forgoing any opportunity for tip compensation by not giving you a receipt (if Starbucks would even have that functionality turned on as a part of the receipt.  Never got a receipt, so I don't know).

The bottom line?  Someone's paying for the lost compensation opportunity at Starbucks related to tips.  Either the baristas are taking it on the chin and don't seem to care, or Starbucks made them whole as suburban America suddenly developed an inability to carry and use cash.

To the credit of Starbucks, I haven't noticed a drop in the experience at most Starbucks.  That says a lot about how they hire, or how they were proactive about this compensation issue, depending on what the reality is.

Starbucks associates or parents of Starbucks associates - educate us on the reality.  

And no, I don't need a receipt.



Here here from the mother of a barista with 5 years at Starbucks. The comp plan was simple. All tips pool in giant tip bowl, distributed by percentage of hours worked in the tip period. So if you worked 20 hours, you got x, 40 hours, y. Every other Monday (alternating with bi-weekly payroll) she was eager to pick up that envelope of cash. Usually enough for a tank of gas at minimum. During the holidays, her tips were almost equal to her checks, she worked at the highest volume store in the city.

Yes, her "pocket money" has diminished considerably over time, and I think about that when I breezily hand my debit card to the barista handling the register and walk away cash-free, leaving her cash-less.

(And it is a rotation, but you can usually tell who the best baristas are by whoever is behind the bar when there's a line out the door.)

Dorie Morgan

I was a barista at Starbucks and several other coffee companies for years. A cashless society screws over the baristas hardcore. Its a big reason why I left the company. In 2005, my old location averaged $3.50 an hour in tips. I recently asked a friend who is still working there and she tells me its around $1.25 an hour. This is in a very affluent area so I'd hate to think of the tips have been reduced to in areas that are a lower income region.

Jason Whitaker

I see your point. I was considering working for SB over the holiday for some extra income. So I started to notice the tip jar. It's pretty full. I didn't know how the break down works, but I've seen the manager put everything in a huge baggie and cart it off to the back. How does the push to use your Starbucks reward card play into this? I've been a fan for Starbucks for about a year and have never used by debit card there at all. I've always used a gift/rewards card. I've also seen some very full tip jars, because in my area a lot of people still use cold hard cash.

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