I handed the barista a $20 bill because I wanted to break it and leave her a tip.
“Thank you so much,” she said, “but we can’t accept tips.”
The Starbucks was co-located inside an elaborate new grocery store in my neighborhood. I gestured to my surroundings.
“Because you’re in here?” I said.
“Feel free to not answer this question, but are you financially compensated for your inability to accept tips?” I said.
Without turning around, a second Starbucks barista behind her said: “No. No, we’re not.”
“So let me get this straight: The new Starbucks across the street has a bunch of workers in it and they all split the tips. You guys also work at Starbucks maybe 200 yards away and are paid the same wages, but can’t receive tips?”
“Exactly,” she said.
“Hmm. Sounds like bullshit to me. Thanks so much for the coffee.”
For all of capitalism’s faults, there is something beautiful about the freedom to pursue whatever work you want and for employers to be able to hire anyone they choose and pay them (so long as it’s at least the federally mandated minimum wage) whatever the employee is willing to work for.
Meaning, much of the responsibility lies with the employees who chose to work at a Starbucks where tipping isn’t allowed. They have the freedom to try to get a job at a Starbucks that does allow tipping. And they can get a job in an entirely different line of work if they so choose.
I HATE BAD RULES.
Decision makers sit in board rooms and fancy offices and make decisions. These are presumably the smartest people in a particular company, so I’m always floored by the decisions that seem so poorly conceived.
I’m speaking out of school here about this particular Starbucks co-located inside this particular grocery store. I’m not privy to the legal terms of the two companies’ relationship, nor whether the Starbucks is owned by a franchisee and how that might factor in.
That said, I have a fundamental problem with a Starbucks employee doing the exact same job as another Starbucks employee literally across the street but making less money for it by virtue of a rule preventing that employee from receiving tips in a line of work where tipping is a common and expected practice and income supplement.
I know a guy who goes to school and works part-time at a Starbucks. I have no idea how many hours he works, but it’s not uncommon to earn an extra $50 per week from tips.
Quick and dirty math: If an employee is making $10 per hour and working 20 hours per week part time, they’re earning $200 per week, and $10,400 per year.
An employee earning an additional $50 per week in tips would earn $2,600 more per year than an employee not getting tips.
Thus, the tipped employee doing the same job as the non-tipped employee is earning about 25 percent more. Doing the same job! In the same town! Across the street!
And I don’t get it. And I don’t like it. Because it’s a bad rule.
And bad rules are bullshit.
Anyone With a Job Gets It
And if you don’t, you’re fortunate. Because many companies have bad rules.
For example, I have a job where in addition to my paid time off, I also have a week of unpaid time that I’m allowed to use. BUT. I’m only allowed to use it AFTER I’ve exhausted my paid time off. You know, at the end of the year when you’re spending the most money on gifts and travel and presumably have the least amount of budgetary wiggle room.
What would be the harm in letting employees use their unpaid time whenever they want?
It’s a “Because I said so” rule, and I’m particularly not fond of those sorts of edicts.
How about this one?: Single parent’s child gets sick and is forced to use vacation time to care for the child (and probably also get sick and use EVEN MORE time.)
You know what I do for a living? I write stuff. On the internet. And communicate via email with my co-workers, many of whom are close enough to speak to without moving from my office chair.
Millions of people have jobs exactly like mine.
Tools for the job? Functioning computer. Internet access. Maybe a phone.
If an employee can get her job done despite having a sick child at home (and won’t the proof be in the pudding based on production?), why are we punishing said employee simply because she can’t make it into the office?
Is she competent enough to stay in touch via phone and email and send in her electronic work electronically? I know I am. And I know that my superiors know how much work I typically get done in a day or week, and it would be simple enough to gauge how much work got done when I wasn’t physically present in the office.
I have every confidence that millions and millions of employees globally can do the same thing. Maybe the weather’s severe and driving conditions are dangerous and the kids have a snow day at school. Maybe a million different things that shouldn’t matter so long as the work is getting done at the expected quality.
But in many instances, they are punished for things completely outside their control.
One sick child equals one less vacation day. And for what? So they couldn’t be physically babysat by an adult?
It’s a bad rule.
And it’s bullshit.
We don’t have to tolerate bad rules and policies.
Those are huge things that should not be compared to silly corporate policies, but are great examples of people rising up in opposition to things that don’t make sense.
There is A LOT of gray area in this world. So much that half of all voters in the United States believe something almost completely opposite of the other half about virtually every political topic. They’ll scream at each other and hurl insults in private conversation and on cable news talk shows.
It’s very frustrating sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The open exchange of new and different ideas is how the world becomes better. And how we grow.
But sometimes there really isn’t any gray area.
Sometimes, things are just bullshit and make little sense.
We should do something about those things.