Tipping- Not Just For Cows

by Tiger Lilly

As a barista, I feel that it is part of my duty to make sure that the public is informed about tipping. I know that many people are in tough straits money-wise, and that’s why this is merely a guide (and also my own personal opinion). You don’t have to follow it. Really.

I’ll just glare subtly as I whip up your extra-tall raspberry peppermint mocha skim no-whip extra shot latte. And then spit in it.

Okay, so I wouldn’t spit in it.


1. You should almost always tip.

Unless the service is exceptionally poor. Baristas aren’t paid on commission, and some don’t even make minimum wage (same goes for waiters).

2. If the coffee shop is busy and you’ve had to wait in line at least two people, tip.

Please. Maybe this doesn’t go for places like Starbucks or Caribou or shops that get a lot of customers, but I work in a small shop. Less than a hundred people stop in every day. But sometimes, we get those 10+ lunch delivery orders, meanwhile we have three people waiting to be served in the shop, and two at the drive-through, and then there are those caffeine-deprived assassins we have to fight off. I, for one, am someone who is easily stressed. It is not fun to be a stressed barista. We forget things, or miss things, and agility just goes down the drain.

So if we’re balancing all of that, and then don’t get a tip, it makes us very sad.

3. (Related to 2) If it looks like the shop is understaffed, tip.

Oftentimes I am left alone in the shop right before lunch rush while the previous people finishes their shift and the next person has yet to arrive. It is almost inevitable that right away a couple people will come in with large to-go orders.

4. If you need something made in a rush, tip.

Seriously. I did not just make you that mocha, sandwich, and bowl of soup in under five minutes (which is quite a feat when you’re working by yourself) just for you to complain and walk out the door.

Now that we’ve finished that part, time to move on to:

How much to tip.

In restaurants, the general rule of thumb is to tip 15%. If your drink order is $3.03, the tip would be $.46. This is a tip I enjoy getting. I practically dance when I see people put a dollar in the tip jar.

I work in an establishment where there are two people on staff, and they have to split tips. It’s fine because there are only two, but if you walk into a coffee shop where there are four people working and only one tip jar, please tip a little extra if it’s at all viable.

Then there are those people who just drop the coins from their change into the jar. I both love and dislike these people. Sometimes it’s $.92, sometimes it’s $.08. Sometimes people are good about pulling out some more coins from their pockets, but don’t be the person who puts 2 cents in the jar. It’s practically an insult.

Moving on to:

When not to tip.

Amazingly, there are times when you should not tip (or at least tip less).

1. When the server is very obviously in a bad mood, and is letting it affect his or her work.

I once went into a bakery/coffee shop where the server was slamming things around, got angry when I didn’t hear what he said (he was mumbling), and when I asked if I could lower one of the window shades (the sun was in a nasty position at the time), he simply muttered, “Go for it.” Upon trying to lower the shade I promptly found that it had been made in such a way that it could not be lowered further than it was. It was a stupid design, but the server could have warned me before I tried the others.

As a barista, I find it very unprofessional to let your bad moods affect what you are doing when you serve people. People have their own problems, and don’t really need yours projected onto their coffee.

2. Don’t tip when the barista performs the least amount he or she can.

If they only hand you a scone, you don’t need to tip.

Situations where we love you if you tip, but it’s understandable if you don’t:

If the coffee shop is out of something. Sometimes this isn’t our fault- for me, the delivery person is usually late, and it bothers me a lot. I get stressed when we’re out of things. However, it is still the shop’s fault, and we understand if you don’t tip.

If the kitchen messes up your order. This is completely our fault, and we apologize. I smack myself mentally (and repeatedly) every time I mess something up.

If the coffee is luke-warm, the scones are cold, etc. Sometimes equipment malfunctions or strange things happen, but hey, that’s not your problem, its ours. (That was meant in a completely non passive-aggressive way, I swear.)

Someone drops something that you just bought. Speaks for itself.

We love you if you still tip in those situations.

Well, there we have it. My guide to tipping. If you have anything else to add, please tell me! I’d love to hear your own thoughts on tipping do’s and don’t’s.

Remember, barista is Italian for bartender. And you always tip your bartender.

Ciao for now!

5 thoughts on “Tipping- Not Just For Cows

  1. Tough financial times or not, if a person can afford to buy their coffee and baked goodies from a coffee shop they can afford to leave a tip. The fact that some workers are not paid minimum wage (or lower than their non-tip earning peers) means that their financial situation is somewhat dependent upon customer generosity: A gamble, at best. Considering the nonsense that waitstaff must put up with from the less than kind members of our society, I’m impressed that they are still able to serve us with the grace and professionalism that they do. So, let’s all do them a solid and give that 15%. Believe me, it won’t hurt that much.

  2. Lines I especially loved:

    “People have their own problems, and don’t need yours projected onto their coffee.”
    “I smack myself mentally (and repeatedly) every time I mess something up.”

    Thank you for this, it was actually pretty helpful to me. Now could you please rush me a med white choc. mocha, 2% or whole, extra whip? I’ll give you a dollar.

  3. Barista is not French, you Philistine! Anyways, I usually tip. However, I declined to tip the other day when I got two cranberry orange muffins. The change was only four cents. Insulty? Mos’ def. So I stiffed ’em.

  4. i’m with Troy. i you can pay 3-4 bucks for 20 cents worth of coffee, you should be leaving a nice tip.

    my daughter currently barristas in a building full of boeing managers and other aerospace cubicle dwellers. she says the tips are better than she’s ever seen before.

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