Tipping culture in the United States is something that confuses a lot of foreigners — and even those born and raised in America as well. Restaurant owners often shove off paying their workers a living wage by putting the burden of their paycheck on customers tipping. There are some restaurants that don’t require or expect tipping, which is predominately taken up by fast food chains. (With the exception of delivery drivers. Always tip your delivery drivers!)

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This difference has led to complications for companies like Starbucks, which as a big chain can be seen by some customers as a “fast food” (fast drink?) service, and therefore not beholden to tipping culture. Except for the fact that cafes also have tipping culture, in which $1 per drink is the usual standard. 

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Back in December 2022, Starbucks seemed to settle the debate internally about if customers were expected to tip or not by including a “tipping prompt” on their card readers after customers swipe their cards. This is fairly common in a lot of places that have customer-facing card readers, where prompts can be percentages of the total or dollar amounts, depending on the establishment. There is also “no tip” option on the machines.

This move by the coffee chain has led to some heated rants on TikTok. Meghan Elinor (@meghanelinor) was adamant in her viral video that she would never tip her Starbucks barista.


“No ma’am, no ma’am, we are not tipping at the Starbucks drive-thru. [Hell] no,” she said. “I am exceptionally passionate about this because I worked in the service industry serving my ass off for the first 10 years of my life from the time I was legally able to work at the age… I think in Maryland, it was like 14-and-a-half or 15 or some bullsh-t like that… 15 until I was 24, 25, so about 9, 10 years.”

“I love y’all, I do, but I’m not gonna [freaking] tip you when all you’re doing is taking a cup and handing it to somebody outside the window,” Meghan continued. “That sh-t, that sh-t is hard. Being a server, being a busser, being a runner, like that sh-t is real difficult. So yes, I will 100% tip you 20, 30, 40% every single day of the week. But Starbucks workers, listen. And I understand this is controversial. I’m sorry, not sorry.”

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Responses to the video were mixed, with some siding with the TikToker while others explained just how hard baristas work and that they deserve to be tipped for their service just like restaurant servers do. 

“If they can charge us $8 for one large drink, and $30 for a cup, they can pay their employees a living wage w/o tips,” said one woman who agreed with the TikToker.

“Very narrow minded view of life if you think your drinks is getting made by itself and a barista is just a handler at the window,” one person commented.

Another TikToker stated, “just hit no thank you? don’t downplay their job, it is a very stressful industry job. they are always so busy + their customers are crazy.”

“as a former starbucks worker, and former server,, they deserve tips😭😭😭 its probs the hardest “entry” job ive had,, tipping is an option but they do,” said a third who just couldn’t see eye-to-eye with Meghan.

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*First Published: February 7, 2023, 6:35 am