Some Tips to Coffee Shop Patrons: Reader Response

This article is in response to an article that appeared on Thought Catalog last Friday called “Some Tips to Coffee Shop Patrons”, by Ashley Parsons.

People wonder why baristas so frequently come off as haughty, snotty and holier-than-thou. Well, they have a reason – it’s because they’re taking more social liberties than their positions afford. Why? Let me tell you why – I was a barista for about a year, and I worked in the food service industry for upwards of 7 years, so I feel that I can give an apt explanation to this ultimately simple phenomenon. Baristas come off as haughty, snotty and holier than thou because they don’t like their jobs. There are, of course, many qualifiers here – unreasonable customers do exist, people can be rude, people can treat you as just another mechanical part of their morning routine on the way to work, etc. But all of these aspects of being a barista come with the territory of working a food service job. After all, what food service employee doesn’t expect to get a bad customer every once in a while? What barista expects every customer to be versed in the Italian names for different combinations of milk and espresso? And so the simple fact is that when you get a pissed off barista, s/he is pissed because s/he doesn’t like thier job. That said, I’d like to offer – in the vein of the original article – Some Tips To Coffee Shop Baristas.


1. Do not think I am a shitty person for not tipping you. Dude, sorry, but I don’t owe you anything other than the money for the overpriced latte you just sold me, and I’m not going to feel guilty if I don’t drop my change in your tip jar. Please don’t try to dictate how I spend my money. If you think it’s a social obligation, fine. You should definitely tip, then. Just don’t assume we share the same values, and don’t proceed to think I’m a bad person if I don’t believe the same thing as you. (Who does that sound like? Oh yeah… Hitler). If your logic is that you “deserve” tips because your boss doesn’t pay you enough, well then – that sucks, and your boss truly does suck if s/he expects the customers to make up for how much you “should” be getting paid. Why should your pay rate be the customers’ responsibility? Why should we have to make up for the fact that your boss doesn’t pay you what you think you should be paid? Shouldn’t that be dealt with by… your boss? I tip most of the time, and when I do, it’s because I want to, not because I feel guilty for exploiting a suffering human being. Give me a break. If that’s the logic, we should be tipping migrant farm hands and sweatshop workers. We should be tipping McDonalds employees and the people that work in CAFOs.

2. Do not think I am a shitty person for leaving a paper cup on a table. I always bus my table when I leave a coffee shop, but expecting me to bus my own table is something you can’t do, because I’m not employed by your coffee shop. I am the customer. You, as the barista, are the one whose responsibility it is to maintain the cleanliness standards of your fine establishment. If you feel like some sort of slave to customers because you have to clean up after them – well, that seems like your problem, and an unreasonable one at that, because your job description most likely includes “bussing tables that were not bussed by customers.” If you detest people who don’t bus their own tables, I think you just shouldn’t be a barista, because you obviously just don’t like your job. Honestly – you’d be a lot less stressed out, because there will ALWAYS be people that don’t bus their tables. Or, rather than quit, you could just accept the fact that some people are not going to bus their tables as an inevitability, do the job for which you’re being paid, try to stay positive, and take a less black/white stance on good and evil in regards to human behavior in coffee shops.

3. Please don’t act like I’m bothering you when I ask about the currently nonfunctioning wireless internet that you advertise with that large sticker on your door. Look – I know you know a lot about pouring milk in fancy ways to create floral patterns in coffee drinks, and it’s really special that you’ve mastered the art of mixing espresso and milk together. I know you want to think that that’s your only job – the Stoic Elitist Barista Who Knows The Right Way To Make a Macchiato – but the fact is that you have a WiFi sign on your glass door, which implies that when one pays for a coffee, the purchase also carries with it use of your wireless internet. But your WiFi isn’t working! And I came here because you’re the closest coffee shop that has WiFi, and I like, really need to do work that requires the internet. But I just bought a coffee and you’re giving me the “Uh, seriously? Are you seriously asking me this? God customers are so stupid” look. Why? Now I’m stuck here, four dollars in the hole, and I’m really regretting having tipped you. Please take mercy on me and go reset the router.


Coming from a fellow barista and veteran of the food service industry (I’ve worked as a line cook, in fast food, as a server, as a busser, catered banquets, etc.), I can tell you, baristas, that if you just take these tips into consideration, your life is much less likely to contain emotions such as “butthurt,” “frustrated,” and “silently raging about inevitabilities.” And, hey – if cleaning up after people isn’t your thing, just quit. Of course – it’s not that easy, but you can definitely start looking for something else, and eventually, through persistence, you may find a position that you won’t bitch about so much. TC mark

image – Petteri Sulonen


More From Thought Catalog

  • weeblackskelf

    Much better.

  • Jody Fossler

    Jesus. Do you also not tip at restaurants?

    • sally

      read the article, bro.

      'I tip most of the time, and when I do, it’s because I want to, not because I feel guilty for exploiting a suffering human being.'

    • a waitress

      making someone an overpriced coffee-like drink is not the same thing as waiting on someone in a restaurant for an extended period of time, making sure the right kind of cheese is on their cheeseburger or whatever. the former doesn't deserve a tip; the latter definitely does.

  • Melissa

    Lovis. I'm a server in a restaurant and I don't bitch when I have to flip table after table if the bussers are busy, or if customers make me run back and forth. It's my job. Same for baristas, only they get to hang out behind their counter flipping switches, with only maybe 15 small tables to worry about cleaning. I don't know. Not trying to sound all high and mighty here, but if you have to clean a few tables in a small coffee shop, bite your tongue and pick up the rag. Those are the breaks!

    As for tip, yeah you kind of deserve it. I always drop a few coins in the ol' tip jar, but that's for good karma.

  • sally

    so glad this got posted

  • Lea

    This, this, and a thousand times, this.

  • Shantel Z

    Cool read, but I didn't know tossing a paper cup out was the hardest decision to ever cross any human beings mind.

  • Megan

    the statement on tipping is oddly reminiscent of steve buscemi's speech at the beginning of “reservoir dogs.”

  • Evica.Liuc

    I agree with everything minus the tipping part. Servers in restaurants are paid minimum wage or less because of the logic that they will make it up in tips. That same logic should apply to baristas. If you expect someone to make your coffee quickly and correctly then there has to be the incentive of being tipped. Just like if you expect your drinks, salads, entrees and deserts to be delivered in a timely manner at a restaurant. But baristas, if you want tips don't forget to smile and be pleasant. That's how us servers get by.

    • Lindsey-lu

      waiters in my state make server minimum wage – $2.13/hr, baristas make regular minimum wage – $7something/hr. the tip thing is built into the server minimum wage, bot the other one. that's how i decide who must be tipped and who i can decide to tip if i want to.

      • Lea

        I feel bad for you guys :(
        Minimum wage in Ontario is $10/hr

      • Erintx17

        Are you factoring in the exchange rate?

      • idk

        idk if you're just kidding, but the canadian & us dollar are about the same. i think canada is higher right now.

      • Evica.Liuc

        In Minnesota the server wage is $7.25 per hour. It differs state to state. Personally I always tip out of solidarity to a fellow food service worker, but that's just me–unless they are rude or incompetent.

    • Bellabella1028

      wait – “if you expect someone to make your coffee quickly and correctly then there has to be the incentive of being tipped”?? what the fuck are they being paid to be there for? their job is to make the drinks you ordered. and to make them right. thats not too much to ask for. thats what you give them your business in the first place for. plus – the tip jar is typically by the register, which typically happens before you get your drink anyway. i dont know what is tip-worthy at a coffee shop – if my job was to make coffee/drinks, run the register, and occasionally walk the floor to pick up trash left by customers (which i think is sortof assey, picking up small coffee-shop trash after yourself IS just polite) – i would know thats what i signed up for, and i would do it. big fucking deal, get over it. its your job. and thats not an insult – its the truth.

    • sally

      a tip is reserved for service that was better than average. in my opinion, average service at a coffee shop is getting my drink quickly and correctly. if the barista is smiling, talkative, whatever, i will be more likely to tip because they added a little extra something to make my day easier. however, doing the 'base job' they are given should not be considered tip-worthy.

  • Björn

    This is a great article.

  • Lindsay

    Agree with you for the most part. The only one I disagree with is the bussing your own table. How hard would it be for you to throw your paper cup away? Oh, that's right: NOT HARD AT ALL. Didn't your mother teach you how to clean up after yourself?

  • wackomet
    • Mr. White

      First thing that came to mind.

  • Penny

    i dunno whats up… i work for a non profit coffee shop, we have good quality drinks for incredibly fair prices (starbucks charges just about 6 bucks for a caramel “macchiato” or what Baristas call a upsidedown latte… not a macchiato). but i do get kinda ticked when 17 people order drinks and there isnt a single dollar in my tip jar…if you had a table in which you had a 50 dollar check and didnt get your 15 percent you'd be bitching too.. i mean, yes, it is my job to make “fancy” drinks in a quick and timely manner in order for my customer to get the hell on with whatever important business they are doing but a good shot doesnt come out in 5 seconds or less. steaming milk takes time and practice. ever heard of micro-foam? its a bitch to get with your non fat sugar free triple decaf latte. truth is anyone can pour milk into a cup, or pour a shot and if your a starbucks drinker you wouldnt be able to tell the difference between the good and the bad anyways but its a skill that I took the time to learn and become great at, i make coffee so i can sit and talk with the regulars, i make coffee to be that “captive audience” to the creepy old guy with no friends, i make coffee because i love PEOPLE and i love MY JOB. you wouldnt hire a plumber to fix your car…. well maybe if you're bitching about throwing some pennies in a jar you would.

  • eddyindigo

    “…we should be tipping migrant farm hands and sweatshop workers. We should be tipping McDonalds employees and the people that work in CAFOs.”

    Um, we maybe should?

  • amandasbananas

    I'm happy because this voices some of my sentiments exactly. I'm unhappy because the opening point compares baristas hoping for tips…to Hitler? I'm an avid reader of Thought Catalog, and this is the first time I've seen the site actually verify Godwin's Law. Dear Louisa: any time you stoop to reference Hitler/Nazis other than to make a point about actual Hitler and actual Nazis, you automatically lose the argument.

    • Buckpt

      It was a satirical reference. If you can't notice the different be sincerity and satire, then you're the one automatically losing…at life in general.

      • amandasbananas

        It didn't come off as satirical…it came off as tasteless. Much like your follow-up response.

      • Rob

        BUCKPT wins this arguement because AMANDASBANANAS sucks at life.

      • Rachel Butters Scotch

        As an “avid reader” of TC, I'd think you're be good at picking up satirical references. But maybe not.

      • kaly

        comparing a pissed off barista to a man with the blood of six million on his hands is not now, nor will it ever be satire.

    • Brandon

      eh…that feels like a really minor point. change hitler with “fundamentalist homophobic christians,” the comparison applies, and the weight of whatever argument she's offering stays the same. if one automatically loses an entire argument on such a superficiality, then what's the point of having the argument at all? seems retarded. you can get fussy just because something wasn't politically correct, or because you've perceived a minor yet offensive inaccuracy, but… to say that the entire argument is automatically lost (but to also say that it “voices some of your sentiments exactly”!) because of a comparison which can indeed be said to be accurate (hitler thought people were bad because they didn't share his ideals, some baristas think people are bad because they don't share their ideals) but which is nonetheless a problem of semantics where you, as an intelligent person – i'm assuming – can easily see what the author is trying to say (that we generally, as progressive people, disapprove of not accepting a person because that person has different ideals) seems like an act of posturing, a display simply to show others that you're refined enough to have tastes that can be offended. i don't mean to offend you by that – i just don't really get the motivation for focusing so hard on it other than to posture or draw attention to yourself as on a certain team.

      and yeah, about Godwin's law being realized: so what?

      “The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses.”

      this from the wikipedia entry. so – we're on the internet. the time has come when someone has compared a person that thinks another person is bad because that person does not share his ideals to hitler. this does not seem like a special or extraordinary occurrence to me.

  • typo

    i know some places in SF force the customer to pay into server's health insurance, which i'm totally for. i would also be into a reasonable obligatory tip included in the bill. places in latin america do that, and it's great. in europe servers don't expect tips, and they will give you the same quality of service whether you tip or not, which is great too, but they might get paid better. overall, the problem is gas prices, health insurance premiums, utility bills and rental prices – which are all unreasonable and induce horrible living standards.

  • Michael Koh

    This is great. Thank you very much.

  • Hunter

    god, you sound so cold and self righteous. hopefully you'll change your outlook somewhere down the line.

  • JKH

    “…unreasonable customers do exist, people can be rude, people can treat you as just another mechanical part of their morning routine on the way to work, etc. But all of these aspects of being a barista come with the territory of working a food service job.”

    Ok, but just because we, as baristas can expect rude behavior, does not excuse it. Does customer service, or any service for that matter, mean that common courtesy goes out the window? I don't believe so. We live with the mentality that if we can think of it, we can get it. From this frame of thought comes the rude customers, the demanding customers, the complainers. To me, this article came off as speaking from this particular viewpoint
    On the flip side, baristas can become so jaded by these customers, they come to expect rude behavior from everyone, and therefore are always hyper-defensive. Those baristas come off as “haughty, snotty and holier-than-thou.” I'm truly sorry if I have ever made a customer feel unwelcome, or unsatisfied. A person can only take so much bitching.

    Regardless of whether you tip or not, the wi-fi, the barista's attitude, the cup you leave on the table, it's all petty bullshit. We are both human. Just because I'm behind the counter and you're buying coffee doesn't change that. Let's not take ourselves so seriously. The fact that you can go to a coffee shop and pay for someone to make you a drink is a privilege, not an entitlement.

  • derpalerp

    Totally with you! I read that original article and it was so pissy, this is great. Not so keen on the Hitler crack though

  • Joe

    I really do wonder why the barista who wrote the original article hadn't already built up a wall against poor customers. After a year working in food service, I was basically immune (emotionally shut down) to anything thrown my way, from awful messes left behind on tables to the rudest, most childish behavior ever emitted by full grown adults in a public setting. Once you realize you will be on the clock for the exact same amount of time regardless of how smoothly the work day went, you stop caring what happens and proceed working calmly. Crappy customers are universal and permanent. It's just how some people view their rights when purchasing your products.

  • TheOnlySearose

    I work in a yogurt shop and an ice cream shop (hint: one has the words “Cold” and “Stone”) and I basically have to prostitute myself for tips at both jobs. I do believe you are a shitty person if you order 12 ice creams with 8 mix-ins each and don't tip. I do wish that a flock of birds takes a shit on your car when you don't clean up after your kid spills his entire ice cream on the table, or when you just leave your trash on the table because you can't seem to take the time to find the trash can. And by the way, the wireless internet works freaking perfectly (I'm currently using it to blast the music that you hear drowning out your kid's loud ass screaming). Chances are, you're just too stupid to figure out how to access it (hint: the network name might be THE NAME OF THE STORE!).

    I'm sorry, but working two food-service jobs for 60 hours each week kind of exposes me to the dark side of people. Like a lot of people have said, it doesn't take much to simply be respectful of us. We suffer, we work hard, we bleed (yes, cutting fruit isn't easy), and we hurt for very little money every two weeks. Sometimes, our tips are how we eat every night, or how we put gas in our car or pay the train fare to get to work the next day. We may be angry and most of us hate our lives, but we hide it to try to get through another day. It really brightens our days when someone is genuinely nice to us. It makes me smile when someone smiles back at me, thanks me for making their ice cream/yogurt/smoothie/shake, and leaves me a small tip.

    Please just have some respect for someone who may not be in as good a position as you are. You may have chosen to go and work for some corporation somewhere, doing god knows what, hating your life while you're at it. We in food service, generally, have chosen a different path. We work these jobs because being full-time writers, photographers, and/or artists doesn't cover the bills immediately. We take the jobs as a means of income, but that doesn't give you the right to be a pompous ass to us. Please, just respect us.

    And who knows, you might just get better service ;)


  • Waicool

    most young people do not understand the free market; however, they think they do and they project their youthful idealism on it.

    • TheOnlySearose

      Most older people don't understand the idea of privilege, and yet they use it to write idiotic comments like the one above.

      The free market is not a blanket excuse for being a privileged asshole, nor has it or will it ever be such. Asking someone not to be a jackass customer isn't idealist. It's not that outlandish of a request, because it's very easy to be nice. Apparently, you don't get that.

  • J in DC

    Good article. Now, where's my #@^@! coffee?!? :-)

  • fakes & ladders


  • Kyle Angeletti

    i love my local coffee shop. i go there every morning, and tip when my favourite employees are working (i.e the ones who engage and are pleasant). i'm cordial with them and they already know what i want.

    then i enjoy the coffee and get on with my fucking life. that's about as much thought as i'm willing to put into it.

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