Why you should care

Because, says one hardworking barista making minimum wage, “We deserve tips too.”

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 $7.35/hour. I have friends who work at several coffee shops around town, and wages for baristas in St. Louis vary from $6/hour to $9/hour. Generally coffee shops keep baristas’ hours to 35 a week, so we cannot be full-time. And we do not have to be offered health benefits.

OZY said America’s high-tech tipping has become a free-for-all. This reader begged to differ.

A wage of $7.50/hour at 35 hours a week is $13,125 annually, before taxes. This is at about 116 percent of the federal poverty level for a one-person household.

Additionally, a barista 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 11 p.m. and getting back to open the store at 6 a.m. It’s a job where you are a cashier, a server, a cook, a barista and a 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 to 10 p.m., 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 U.S., while minimum wage is still $8/hour ($14,000 annually)? — why wouldn’t you tip?

[Eds.: Minimum wage in San Francisco is $10.74/hour.]

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