— Food For Thought

Baristas reveal how they really feel when you don't tip for coffee

Getty Images/Hinterhaus Productions

At a time when the very idea of tipping has been brought into question, the debate surrounding how much you should tip at coffee shops remains confusing. Should tipping for a two-dollar drip coffee be the norm, or is that extra dollar only called for when you’ve ordered something complicated, like an extra-foam soy chai latte with sugar-free hazelnut syrup? The questions don’t stop there. Is dropping your fifty-cent change into the tip bucket basically an insult? And: Are baristas mad when you don’t tip at all?

We spoke to a handful of current and former baristas about how they feel about tipping—and whether they notice when you don’t tip. (They do.)

The general consensus seemed to be that while baristas almost always make a mental note of whether you tipped or didn’t, they’re only really bothered by a lack of tip when the order is complicated, and they had to go above and beyond.

Related article: Chefs, bartenders, and baristas reveal their every day carries

“I always notice,” a barista in an East Williamsburg café told me. “I’m not usually irritated unless the order is really big, like five or six drinks, and the person doesn’t tip me anything. I just put all this effort into this with this huge line of people, and there was nothing extra that I got out of it.”

She added that tips are appreciated for small orders, too.

“If someone gets just a small coffee, I definitely still notice when they don’t tip,” she said. “When people tip I’ll go out of my way to do stuff for them. There are some regulars who never tip, and I’m just like, ‘Why?’”

Many people have philosophical qualms with tipping, rooted in their feeling that wages should be high enough that tipping isn’t needed to ensure the employee is making a livable wage. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality at most coffee shops.

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