The Starbuck Stops Here

by admin on October 30, 2014

A Florida man put an end to another “pay it forward” streak at a local Starbucks because he said he thinks people were participating out of “guilt,” not “generosity.”

Peter Schorsch, a blogger, drove to the Starbucks drive-thru in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Thursday after hearing about the pay it forward phenomenon there that ended with customer No. 458, a woman, the day before. After he ordered two Venti Mocha Frappuccinos, the barista told him his first drink had been paid for by the previous customer and asked if he would like to pay for the next customer.

“I told him no,” Schorsch, of St. Petersburg, told ABC News. “When the barista asks you to pay it forward, it is no longer spontaneous.”

Though Schorsch didn’t pay for the next customer at the drive-thru, he said he tipped the barista $100.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

I think Mr. Schorsch make several good points for why he declined to pay for the next customer’s drink.   I had not realized when this phenomena first appeared in the news that the baristas were asking customers if they wanted to pay for the next client’s drink.  I had this assumption that customers were being told their drink had been paid for and on their own initiative were choosing to “pay it forward” to the next person in line. This does remove the element of spontaneous generosity if people must be prompted to give.  If I were a recipient of a free drink courtesy of the person in front of me and I was aware that this came about due to the person being asked to donate, it would certainly take the “magic” out of the experience.

So, Mr. Schorsch puts a stop to the hours-long donation chain and instead redirects his spontaneous generosity to the barista in the form of a $100 tip who, I am sure, was not expecting it.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

MPW October 31, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I was with everyone here until I saw the phrase “tip jar”. I loathe this concept and find it to be a fraudulent and high-pressure compulsion to tip servers regardless of their quality of service.

I don’t want to get into a debate over the relative merits and pitfalls of a “tipping system” vs. “service included”, but the tip jar for counter-service is relatively new, historically, and it presents a lot of challenges to customers. Not leaving a tip is very obvious, as opposed to just being a discrete transaction between yourself and the server – this is the high pressure which is unfair to the customer. Some people feel ashamed to not leave a tip, even if they cannot afford it or don’t believe it was deserved.

As for “deserved”, let’s look at it this way. For a traditional “tipped” service – like a table-service meal, haircut, taxi ride, or even having your luggage brought to your hotel room – the tip comes after the service. For counter-service meals, you often pay before you get your meal. Should I always tip and believe that my order will be deserving of that tip? Think of this in a place like Starbucks – you order and pay, then wait for your drink to be prepared. I never see people throw their tip in after they get their drink – they are always doing it when they pay. That’s not right. If the drink isn’t made correctly, do you get your tip back? What if they forget your order and you wait a long time? What if they are rude? The expectation to tip before the service is really unreasonable.

Think about the tip jar in a place like Subway. The “Sandwich Artist” takes your order and prepares your sandwich to that order. That is what you are paying for, and that is their job. If you ask for “no tomatoes” or “extra mayo”, and the “Sandwich Artist” complies, they don’t deserve a tip. They are just doing their job. They aren’t doing you any favors, and a “made to order” sandwich is what you are buying and paying for – how is that deserving of a tip? This is their basic service – it might not be rocket science, but it is what you are paying for.

Part of this comes from what I believe is a concerted effort to increase the perceived value of service performed by giving people fancy job titles. Calling a person a “barista” or a “sandwich artist” doesn’t change the fact that they are performing a very low-skilled job which just about anyone can do. Combine that with putting up a tip jar – and there is a real lack of honesty here. If the people deserve a higher salary, charge more for the product and pay them accordingly, but don’t try to package it with dishonesty.

As for the OP, well, that $100 would do more good as five $20 tips to five different deserving people. Spread the wealth and the good fortune.

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just4kicks November 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm

@MPW: re: tip jars….we noticed on vacation at the Jersey shore this year that the usual “college student working summer to pay for college” jars have been replaced with (ok, not All of them, but a good amount), “tips for beer are greatly welcomed!” And “tips so we can get WASTED after work tonight…Thanks!”. I kid you not. One of those was in an ICE CREAM SHOP. I was speechless. Now, I drink occasionally and so does my husband….but, I thought that really in poor taste. The little kid in front of us with his mom said “Momma? What does w-a-s-t-e-d mean???” Everyone in line kinda stood there with a “can’t wait to hear THIS!!!” look. The mom, to her credit, said to the young man scooping out the kids cone, “my child wants to know what ‘wasted’ means….” The kid turned around laughing to the (I assume) owner/manager and yelled “hey! Jamie! That’s another wasted….to you!” For the duration of our vacation, we went somewhere else for ice cream.
And yes….freedom of speech, and all that….my hubby and I spend the year preaching the evils of drinking/drugs/underage sex all year….I don’t want to deal with that on the maybe five days a year we just all hang as a family having fun.

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iwadasn November 1, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I don’t see how giving me a drink at the Starbucks counter is any different from giving me a burger at the McDonalds counter. Nobody thinks tipping fast food workers is necessary, so why is there suddenly a push to tip workers who do the same thing, but with coffee? If there’s no table service, there’s no need for a tip.

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Anonymous November 1, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Yes, this. I run into the same issue at the pita place I go to occasionally, but I don’t tip, because it’s counter service, and it’s set up so that you pay (and tip if you want) before service. I don’t want to do that, because, as someone upthread said, what if you tip, and then they mess up your order?

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MPW November 2, 2014 at 2:35 pm

McDonald’s doesn’t put a fancy title to their employees since their existence predates such nonsense. They are not “Sandwich Artists” or “baristas” – they are simply “workers”. I somehow expect that this has some basis in social studies on job titles and self-esteem, and that by giving employees a fancy title in lieu of paying them more, the employees will be happier and more productive.

Which would you prefer – a sandwich made by a “worker”, or an “artist”? Would you rather be served by a “worker” or “customer care representative”? These magic words elevate the work being done and it is all part of a big scam designed to separate we consumers from our money, all while feeling good about it. I’m not fooled, and I don’t subscribe to this notion that the title makes the employee care more about their work, or even improve the quality. Consider that the typical Starbucks employee prepares even some of their more fancy drinks by pressing a button on a machine. They do not select the beans, sort them, roast or grind them – and in the essence of service and efficiency, the company wants that process to be as quick and easy as possible, thus maximizing speed, consistency, number of customers served, a constantly high level of quality, and profit.

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Corrina November 2, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I worked for Starbucks for 7 years and want to say there is a lot more to it than just pushing buttons. Yes, there are things that have been automated to (in theory) provide faster service but there are still many quality issues that could arise should a barista decide not to care about the way the drinks are going out. Not saying it’s the hardest job ever but a lot of people think it’s “just making coffee” and that it’s an easy job. It’s not.

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iwadasn November 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm

But as multiple people have pointed out already, you wouldn’t find out whether your coffee was made by an employee who cared or not (and that’s assuming you could even tell the difference from the taste of the drink, which I doubt) until after you had tipped. There is no reason to tip for counter service, and there’s absolutely no need to tip before you get a chance to find out what kind of service you’re tipping for.

NostalgicGal November 3, 2014 at 1:20 am

If my favorite is in my reuseable cup the way I like it, I will circle back and gift the jar. Appreciation that someone took the effort to do it right. There ARE many ways it can go not right.

just4kicks November 3, 2014 at 3:39 am

@Corrina: I could never work at a Starbucks after I’ve seen what the workers go through. I worked in a Target that had a Starbucks inside, and got to be friendly with a college girl who was training to work there. She was in tears alot, it really is a mountain of info they have to know. It’s not like a diner where you just pour someone a fresh cup. Especially when you have know it all customers ordering more than one drink at a time. Trying to remember “a venti, half caf, sugar free syrup, upside down, cream on bottom, etc ect”…”No, no, no! I said THREE shots, not two!” I would explode. I give all baristas credit, I wouldn’t have the patience in a million years to put up with that.

MPW November 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Not easy? How much education, training, and professional certification is required to be a “barista”? How many years of work are required before a person is considered an “expert” in that field? How is it that the managers – the “experts” and “gatekeepers” are frequently below 25?

If that’s not an “easy” job, I really don’t know what is.

Pouring coffee, making sandwiches, sweeping streets or mopping floors – they aren’t fun or fulfilling and they require constant attention to detail. They are easy to learn, but they are indeed hard work. The fact remains that just about anyone can be trained to do that work, and if supervised properly, they can get good at it. There should be no misunderstanding on how there there are constant openings in positions like that because almost any living, breathing human is a potential replacement. That’s not true of skilled jobs, professions, “crafts” which require experience and judgment, and so on.

I may not want a job at Starbucks, but I’m 110% sure that I could master it.

CW November 2, 2014 at 11:43 am

There’s a very simple solution to your “problem”. Don’t put money in a tip jar if you don’t feel inclined to do so. It doesn’t say, “You must put money in the jar or someone will spit in your drink.” If you feel judged or embarrassed for not tipping, that’s your conscious, not anyone in line with you or the person taking your order.

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MPW November 3, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Have you never heard of customers and staff publicly berating those who are not leaving tips? They may not be able to spit in your drink, but they often do their best to make people feel inadequate for not leaving a tip. Not being a coffee drinker, and not frequenting those places, I didn’t experience this much, but I did have a cashier at Subway throw my change into the tip jar without asking me first. Sure, they could root around in there and give you back that change, but it makes you look petty and selfish to the others. This was in Canada too, so the “change” can include $1 and $2 coins.

Have you never seen a bumper sticker which reads “Tip 18% or Stay Home”? Have you not noticed that the “tip guidelines” on receipts start at 15%, and often go up as high as 25%?

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CW November 3, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I have never had anyone (customer or employee) comment on whether or not I throw money in a tip jar. Unless, of course, you count Coldstone Creamery where they sing if you tip or at a Renaissance Fair where they ring a bell and yell, “Huzzah!” I’ve never had a barista give me the stinkeye for not throwing change in the jar. I have never been made to feel guilty or inadequate if I don’t tip for counter service. I pay with a card 90% of the time since I don’t carry cash. I’ve never seen a bumper sticker regarding how to tip and quite honestly, I appreciate tip lists on restaurant bills because it’s less math I have to worry about.

Still the solution is very simple. If you don’t want to tip, don’t tip.

I also imagine Corrina is not simply suggesting that job functions are difficult. Along with making endless combinations of coffee/tea/frozen whatevers, there’s the customer service aspect. Anyone who has never worked in a service industry will tell you how easy it is until they try to do it. Let me know how easy it is to make that coffee when you have 5 customers screaming at you for various (and usually unnecessary) reasons, a boss telling you you’re too slow and a line backed up out the door. I’ve never worked in a coffee shop and I have no desire to. 10 years of retail was plenty for me, thanks. (Another mindless job that anyone can do, right? Until you throw them in the trenches during the Christmas season and they panic and quit.). In addition to that anyone can learn a “craft”. I’m not a mechanic, but I bet someone could teach me to be.

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MPW November 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Anyone can learn a craft? Despite an advanced degree and working as an engineer for 20 years, I am certain that there are plenty of jobs which I cannot do. Not that I don’t want to do them, but that I lack the natural ability to do them. If my job was to build models for a living, I’d last a few hours before gluing my fingers together. I lack the manual dexterity for such fine work, and I could never be a dentist, sculptor, calligrapher, graphic designer, and so on, because of that physical requirement. I’m not disabled – just clumsy. For that matter, if my job as a barista involved very fancy “foam art”, I wouldn’t be able to do that either. But the rest of those tasks for a typical barista are just reinforced by repetition and do not require judgement or experience. A lot of manual tasks are like that – just about anyone can hammer nails, but it takes practice and a certain level of skill to be a framing carpenter.

But pouring coffee and making a sandwich is like sweeping a floor. It’s not special. It may suit everyone from their emotional and intellectual needs, but basic IQ tests (invented for the military to determine if a person has the minimum intellect to follow the most basic of instructions) will determine that just about anyone can pour coffee. Consider how even national chains are employing mentally disabled people for such tasks. Don’t confuse the intellectual and personality aspects of the job with its difficulty. For some people, simply interacting with others is too high on the stress level for them to do a good job. A professional accountant may feel so uncomfortable with people that they could not be a cashier – despite the fact that the latter is so much lower in required skill level and training.

Being a mechanic requires some of this physical skill – to a lesser extent – but because metal isn’t transparent, it requires a person to be able to visualize what is happening, especially when moving parts actually move. Not everyone has that foresight, and this is what will distinguish a mechanic from a mere “parts replacer”.

NostalgicGal November 5, 2014 at 9:58 am

What frosts me is places that helpfully print ‘tip amount guidelines’ on the printed ‘you owe’ ticket and the the amounts are inflated for the tip (says 15% and they give say 23% amount for that, 20% is 31% and the 25% is 40%…. and thus gouge you for the amount of the tip. I’ve seen proof of this posted).

Toss my change in without at least asking? Manager now, please. Yes I will make a polite about I want my change so I can decide how much I want to tip. I *might* have tipped more, but now I want my change back, PLEASE.

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imc November 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I agree that the way PIF seems to work at Starbucks, it makes little sense.
I also think that if Mr. Schorsch was so averse to the system, it would have been much more honest to just tell the barista “no, thanks: I’d rather pay for my own drink”, with or without the extra tip. Sure, he wouldn’t have broken the chain nor made the news (as I would expect that in that case the PIF would just move to the next person in line), but he wouldn’t have taken advantage of the supposedly forced generosity of the person in front of him either.

All in all, I like the “suspended coffees” much better than the Starbucks PIF. But Starbucks could make the whole thing a little more interesting by having willing customers pay for specific coffee orders. That way, I won’t simply pay for the person behind me, but leave the exact amount for, say, a tall mocha Frap, or a Chai Latte, or even just a daily roast, and the offer goes to the next person who orders exactly that drink (or food item, even), with no (implied) obligation for the recipient to keep the streak going.

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Enna November 3, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I am a bit dubious of strangers buying me drinks – if my firends are buying rounds I like buying a round for my friends. I do agree with the blogger about people feeling guility or obligated to continue and he does make a good point that people could end up out of pocket.

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Sharon November 13, 2014 at 10:19 pm

He was a buzz-kill to a bus that needed to be killed. And, I agree… giving the barista that tip was classy. He does lose a few points for not doing it anonymously, but… I think he was the better man.

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Sara December 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I had a funny experience at a Starbucks drive-thru recently… I ordered a latte for myself and when it came time to pay the barista told me the person ahead of me had paid for my drink… so I told him to give my drink’s cost to the next person… the barista proceeded to state, “well that person ordered 4 drinks, it comes to $20 something.” I again said to apply my payment towards their bill and he then said “It really doesn;t work like that, you kind of pay the whole order or not at all” Um excuse me? I chose not at all and drove on.

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