June 7, 2012

Tip Drill

At the best of times, money feels somewhat beside the point. The craft of making drinks is satisfying, and so is the conversation. The hands of the clock spin like a Kenyan on the track, and before you know it, the shift is over.

But of course, love neither pays the bills nor buys new shoes. And perhaps since my Saucony's now have two holes in the upper, not to mention an imprint of my foot pressed in to the midsole, I'm inclined to think about cash just a bit more than usual.

But this isn't about my shoes, or running in general. It's not about my business, or the business either. This is about that great supplement to barista incomes, that glorious boost to our (less-than-gaudy) hourly earnings. I'm talking, of course, about tips. More specifically even than that, I'm talking about regular tips, from regular tippers. That dollar that you can count on, those collective coins that buy your potatoes and peanut butter.

Tips are, without any real hyperbole, the reason we can choose to work in coffee and make it work. So the tips are appreciated, as are the tippers. (This isn't to say that those who don't tip are uniformly hated. If you're nice to me, I like you. If you compliment my drink, I like you more. I'm really not that hard to win over.)

But, lovely as the tips are, there is a very specific feeling of awkwardness that comes with them. The tips, mostly, come from usual tippers. These are people I see most days, and who I generally like. I speak with most of them, and at this point, I know them better than some people I'd call friends. In this era of social media, these are real people I really know. Sappy as it may sound, there are very real rewards to that genuine interaction. I'd value it without the cash.

Still, there is the cash. To be clear, I am very glad for it, and very grateful that those who give it choose to do so. I don't have a ritzy clientele, so their dollars mean that much more. All of this is to say, I really do appreciate it.


But, well, it's difficult to elucidate. It's a funny thing, complaining about getting free money, and so I'm trying not to do that. Neither do I want to sound ungrateful. So I'm trying to find a way to say this while avoiding those traps.


But, well, it's just weird. It's not bad, and I don't want it to stop. But it's weird. It just is. These are people who I like. I like seeing them, talking to them, and making their coffee. I like that, because of their business, I get to have a job I look forward to. And I like, circuitously, that they are a big reason I like it so much.


But, well, I kind of feel a bit like a whore. I mean, I think I really like them. I think I'm being nice, and that I really appreciate them, this, and everything. But there's money. And I do need that, and hell, I do like it. I can't say it's not a factor, and that, ultimately, our interactions are transactions, ultimately about an exchange of goods for currency.


But, well, I want it to be more than that. I need it to be more than that. And, perhaps for those reasons, I truly believe that it is about more than that. Their dollar is their vote, their polite and tangible way of saying that they want me around. Maybe. Hopefully. Hopefully, because I plan on staying.


But? But, well, I don't know exactly how I'm supposed to feel about this. But I do know that, as problems go, people giving you money isn't a bad one.


  1. This is great. I struggle so much trying to reach the appropriate balance between being grateful, but not desperate. On one hand, I want to say, "oh no, you don't have to do that. seriously, here, take your money back. that's not necessary. Really." While inside I'm thinking, "OH GOD THANK YOU! I need these dollars so fucking much it hurts. You have no idea, do you have another you can spare?!" But usually, I try to give a focused, reserved, but polite, thank you. That's all.

    1. I think that's the right way to play it. But clearly, you get it. It's just... yeah. Funny how conflicted a dollar can make one feel.

  2. I appreciated this one a lot, as being the customer I am kind of in my own scenario of 'But.', when it comes to tipping.

    I tend to get iced drinks, and having been a barista I know as well as anyone whose watching that that consists of pouring, no milk steaming. So its really not an intensive drink to make, a monkey could do it. But, I go to these places all the time and enjoy all the baristas, so I want to tip them. But the awkwardness is when I don't tip, or can't tip. I feel like it effects the conversations a little, and the immediate interaction.

    Bleh. Awkwardness isn't so much fun when I'm in the throes of it. :/

    - J