Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Do You Tip Counter Staff?

So…I go in to my favorite coffee house to buy a pound of their French roast beans, about the best coffee you can get anywhere.

Walk over to the shelves. Pick up a bag of “The Bold Truth!” (it is!), belly up to the checkout counter, and fork over the Visa card.

The store uses a Square attached to an iPad to run your credit card. So she does this and then she shoves the tablet in my face and says, “How much do you want to leave for a tip?”

Choices are 15%, 20%, or 30%.

I think…

Are you kidding me? I walk into the shop; I walk across to the retail section; I search out, locate, and retrieve a pound of packaged French roast coffee; I carry it over to you and hand it across the counter along with a credit card; you pick up a device and stick my credit card in it. You haven’t moved two feet in this entire transaction!

Trying not to show (too extravagantly) how peeved this makes me, I say, “I should pay a 15% tip on a $15 bag of coffee? I don’t think so.”

Then of course I feel like a bitch. She emphasizes what wonderful coffee it is. I allow as how it’s probably the best coffee in town. But I’m not paying a tip on non-service. Or rather, on service that entails nothing more than collecting my money.

Ten percent of $15 is $1.50 [TYPO in the original post!! eeek…], bringing the total tab (not counting the aggravation cost) to almost $17 for enough coffee to last a week or, at the outside, maybe 10 days. At 20 percent — the amount I normally tip in restaurants, BTW — that bag of coffee would’ve cost me $18!

Well. The Little Guy (as SDXB and I call the proprietor) does sell great coffee. But I can buy a pound of perfectly fine espresso beans for $12 at AJ’s Highly Overpriced Grocery Store. Twelve ounces of Peet’s espresso will set you back $6.64 at Amazon, meaning that  a pound — 16 ounces — would cost you $8.85.


It’s not really the $17 or $18 cost. The coffee is outstanding and undoubtedly worth that much. Even though I’m pinching pennies, I’m willing to pay for an indulgence that makes my life a little better. And morning coffee is a BFD around here. It’s one of the few small pleasures that make my solitary existence tolerable.

And I know that people who wait on counters don’t earn very much, and I know that if I were a decent human being, I would regard it as charity and pony up two or three bucks.

But…I also know that between the two of us, I’m the one who needs the charity. That lady earned noticeably more than I did today. Half my day was spent untangling an academic paper and reading the most brain-banging cant, cliché, and jargon disguised as academic writing…just gawdawful stuff.

At $4 a page, I earned $136 for that exercise in sado-masochism, which will be split 50/50 with my business partner: a net $68 for about eight hours of mildly annoying work (half of yesterday was occupied in preliminary work on the piece). It will be four to six months before we’re paid for the job we’re working on now.

If the coffee-house counter lady earns minimum wage (without tips) and hangs around the place for 8 hours, then she is paid $80 for the same number of hours, approximately, that I put in on the cant, cliché, and jargon. And she didn’t inflict any wear and tear on her own computer equipment to do it.

Think I could get away with asking my clients for a tip?

No. ‘Fraid not. About 90 percent of the time, when I quote our standard rate of about $4 a page to a prospective client, I never hear another word.

So, dear reader…

How do you feel about ponying up a tip to a counter clerk who does nothing more than take your money?

Image: Deposit Photos. © Shaiith79

Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.


  1. Nope. I swipe left and move that dial to $0 and move on. If it’s there in an option, people will do it, but I consider it completely optional and don’t even think twice about not tipping for counter service.

    • Oh…you can swipe it? I’d be afraid to mess with their device…but if one dorked it up, I suppose, you could always say “ooops! Finger slipped!” 😀

  2. This post makes me grateful that I never acquired a “sophisticated taste” for coffee. MAN…$15 a pound for coffee …and they want you to tip on top of that….I feel faint! I have noticed a “movement” here to “drive” people’s tipping. Now on bills at restaurants here they break down 15%-20%-25% of the bill and what that $ amount would/should be…to gently “prod you”. Not a fan….If I have a good experience I’m generous to my server….if I don’t … not so much.
    As for your coffee shop experience with the “tip” for counter service….I’d be looking for a new coffee vendor….

    • Yes, the restaurants around here do the same. You know, you’d be surprised how many people CAN’T FIGURE OUT how much 15% or 20% of the bill is!

      They don’t know how to look at, say, $20.32 and know, off the top of their heads, that 10% of $20.32 is $2.03, and it never occurs to them that 15% of $20.32 is $2.03 + half of $2.03 (i.e., $3.05) or that 20% of $20.32 is twice 10% of it. Once I tried to explain that to an acquaintance who was struggling to figure out a tip, and she just gave me a blank look.

      So I suppose most people are happy to have a rate calculated for them. BUT…presenting you with the possibility that maybe you SHOULD be ponying up 25% is a little much. IMHO. If you want give someone extra for extra-special service, that’s cool, but you shouldn’t be “subtly” urged to do so by the management.

      LOL! the coffee IS an indulgence. But it’s not like I spend that much on myself. I don’t go to movies. I rarely go out to eat. I live in Costco blue jeans. I never travel. So…i figure i get to have one thing that adds some special pleasure to the day.

      • And, hilariously enough, English majors can’t do ‘rithmetic, either. Or at least their fingers can’t: 10% of $15 is $2.50??? 😀 😀 😀

      • When you explained the coffee purchase it brought to mind a statement Donna Freedman made a while back on her blog that made sense to me. Donna stated, ” I save where I can so I can spend where I want”…. I believe her “treat” is Diet Coke….the real stuff….

      • LOL! Notice that the two delicacies have something in common: a stiff jolt of caffeine. 😀

  3. Oh, wow! That was incredibly tacky as well unprofessional behavior from that counter person. I’m a cashier at a bbq place and we do have a “tip jar” on the counter, which most customers ignore. That’s their perogative. If management just THOUGHT that I was thinking about asking for tips, I would probably be fired.
    One thing I’d like to point out is that all of our tips are shared with the entire restaurant crew. We don’t have wait staff, but we all work hard and tips are highly appreciated. ;o)

  4. (Thanks for the shout-out, Jestjack!)

    I’m puzzled by this as well. Someone in the doughnut shop wants a tip for doing his/her job, i.e., handing me a doughut? Just do not understand this.

    Then again, I’m seeing tip jars at little kids’ lemonade stands these days.

  5. agree. It’s ridiculous. We don’t tip doctors or dentists either.

  6. or grocery store cashiers.

    • Hmmm… It’s quite possible that grocery store clerks don’t. Make a living wage, that is. The best we can do is get off our cell phones and speak politely to them, I guess.

  7. How do I feel about it? Mostly I ignore the TipJars, but that clerk was out of line, and you were rightly irritated. As you justified, YOU did all the work! Being ‘waited on’ at a restaurant is where I always Tip, because of the ridiculously low hourly wages they receive. (Unless the service is horrible. That’s when a chat with management happens. Different topic!)

    • Without a doubt, this lady was horribly underpaid, too. On the other hand, what she was doing certainly wasn’t demanding in the way waiting tables is demanding. Taking your money for a product you picked up off the shelf is more like cashiering — and no one expects you to tip the grocery-store cashier or the sales staff at Williams-Sonoma. I also ignore those jars, mostly because I pay electronically and don’t carry cash around…if you were paying with cash dollars, I can see how you might drop your change in one. But still think a business like Starbucks can afford to pay the hired help enough that they don’t have to beg for loose change.