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CASH MONEY: The Impact Of Credit Card Use On Starbucks Barista Total Comp...

As a long-term Starbucks patron, I've always wondered how bad the kids behind the counter were getting hurt by a cashless society, meaning throwaway change and other types of tips are for the most part a thing of the past, right?  A friend and reader of the Capitalist reports on how you using your #**#*# ****ing Visa for everything, including coffee, is costing a barista near you:

"Here’s the scoop on the impact of cashless society on baristas.

Katie works in a very busy store in downtown _____ (highest revenue in _____) with a line out the door for a few hours each morning. (Not many coffee shop options downtown.) She worked for Starbucks for 5 years from 2004 – 2009 in various stores in _____, the last stint was 2 years at the same store she is back with now, downtown. I asked how tips were now that so many people use cards to pay for everything.

 At daily close, the shift leader dumps the tip jar into a (container?) and puts it in the safe. Every two weeks, on the Friday that isn’t pay day, tips are distributed in cash in envelopes, meted out based on the number of hours each person worked in the two week period. “It’s the only way that makes sense” said wise ______, as opposed to tracking who worked the highest volume shifts and other ways they tricked it up before.

I asked how tips were going now that everyone is using cards for everything. So when she left in 2009, tips averaged about $2/hour extra. So two 32 hour weeks would net her about $128, a big relief between paychecks right? Now, she says, with everyone paying with their damn iPhones it’s maybe $1/hour if that. (Emphasis hers.) So going from about $250 a month to less than half that is significant to our 20somethings who are trying to self-sustain. She added in a fuss about how corporate is even promoting it with their preferred customer cards with perks for frequent customers, who were formerly the best tippers. She said they have a few regulars downtown who throw in a $5 now and then, maybe to make up for all the quarters they used to toss in as though they were more trouble to keep.

Bottom line: A cashless America sucks for baristas. A hundred busy professionals throwing in 50¢ or more every day adds up to a lot of beer money…"

What's also interesting to me on this is that I'm sure baristas saw the trend and some said, "hell, I'm going to make them do the "sign of shame" and make them sign the credit card receipt", forcing a tip.  At some point, Starbucks corporate had to take a stand on that and say all credit cards transactions should be paperless to speed up the total service equation (and save the planet).

And boom.  With that edict, a starbucks barista near you lost $1,500 annually.  

But I do love a paperless credit card transaction.  Maybe I ought to throw some cash in the pot once in awhile.  



I've had that same thought about my local when I actually have some cash on me, regardless of whether I pay electronically, I drop in a little green. But I wonder...did Starbucks corporate consider the affect of this strategy on employees? Did they adjust the comp structure to compensate? If not, is it impacting their recruitment/retention efforts? Ijs...



You just reminded me I need to take care of the great lady at the Burger King on the way to work. She brings it every day.

After basic necessities, we all choose what portion of our income goes to other things. I have a soft spot for the hourly worker busting his/her tail to make my day a little happier.

Logistically, I like it when I pay by card and they have a little touch screen where I can just click on $1, $2, 15%, 20%, or Other. It's still fast. Love it when hotels and airports have vending machines that take credit cards.

Jason Whitaker

I do my best to share with my peeps when I go to SB. I know they work hard and often don't get what they might deserve. Besides they take good care of my and family when we stop by and the least I can do is share the love.


I pay sometimes with cash and sometimes with credit. Whenever I pay with credit i always apologize for not having a tip. Now I try to have a stash of singles or tons of quarters available for the times I have to pay with a card so I still can tip. I know what it's like to have to live off of tips and they deserve the extra.


Starbucks should add an option to allow the customer to round up their bill to the next whole dollar, leaving the difference as a tip.

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