Northwest Coffee Roasting Company

Northwest Coffee Roasting Company

We are an artisan coffee roaster serving the Saint Louis community. We embody the legacy of coffee by unifying communities, stimulating dialogue, and providing hand roasted and brewed full city coffee.

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Tipping Baristas? A conversation between bloggers

Recently, I read an article on about how Square has changed tipping in our country. You can read the original article here. The author, Rachel Levin, brings up interesting points about how Square is changing the face of tipping. However, it was the first paragraph of the article that I couldn’t quite get past:

“I’m greeted most weekday mornings with a smile. Often by name. Sometimes my low-fat double latte in a small cup is already made before I’ve even paid. And still, when the smiley guy behind the counter swivels that damn Square screen toward me, I survey the options: 15%, 20%, 25% … and I admit it: Four days out of five, I sheepishly press that other option. You know the one: NO TIP.”

It’s not so much that I expect every customer that comes into a coffeeshop to tip, but when she is receiving this good of service? I had to reply. Below, you can read my email to Rachel, and her reply. ended up publishing my email here.

The email:

“This is in regards to Rachel Levin’s article, Turned Off by Tipping. I am a barista, living in St. Louis, Missouri. In Missouri, minimum wage is still $7.35/hour. I have friends who work at several coffeeshops around town, and wages for baristas in St. Louis vary from $6/hour to $9/hour. Generally, coffeeshops keep baristas’ hours to 35 a week, so we cannot be full time, and do not have to be offered health benefits. For example, a wage of $7.50/hour at 35 hours a week is $13,125 annually, before taxes. This is at about 116% of the federal poverty level for a 1 person household.

Additionally, this is a skilled job. Many shops require employees to work for months before they are allowed to make espresso drinks. There are competitions surrounding the making of lattes. It’s a job where your boss often expects dedication and passion for the art and world of coffee, though they do not pay you a living wage. It’s a job with strange hours, in some stores, you could be leaving the shop at 11pm and getting back to open the store at 6 am. It’s a job where you are a cashier, server, cook, barista, and janitor. Many stores require employees to work alone for the closing shift – for my roommate, this means that she is alone in a shop that serves espresso drinks, food, and beer from 4-10pm, on a street with a lot of traffic. She has been harassed many times. However, despite all of this, the job also has little upward mobility.

Why, I ask you, do “Waiters. Bartenders. Bell staff. Hotel housekeeping. Cabbies. Pedicurists. Curbside bag checkers.” all deserve tips, but baristas do not? You say yourself that you receive impeccable service, “greeted most weekday mornings with a smile. Often by name. Sometimes my low-fat double latte in a small cup is already made before I’ve even paid.” 

I agree with many of the commenters on the article – if you come in to get a cup of drip coffee, go ahead and forgo the tip. But if you come in every day, order a drink specially made for you, by hand, by people who know your name and order, by people who make minimum wage, and don’t you live in San Francisco which has the highest cost of living in the US while minimum wage is still $8.00/hour ($14,000 annually)… what was your reasoning for not tipping?

Please let me know if you have any questions, clarifications, or would like to continue the discussion. Thanks!”

Rachel’s Reply:

Hi Katie,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. We’d love to run it on the site– would you be okay with that? Please let me know.

As for my reasons… briefly, traditionally, technically over-the-counter transactions have not been considered as jobs where customers are expected to tip. however, as coffee has become highly personalized, that may be changing. and in my defense, i did say 4 days out of 5, which i meant to imply that usually one day a week  i do  tip — just not everyday. but you raise great pts, ones i do think about as i go about my day as a customer and consumer.



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