I work at Starbucks and the tip screens have changed everything — but I won't hate you if you don't tip

I work at Starbucks and the tip screens have changed everything — but I won't hate you if you don't tip
  • Consumers have been speaking out against tip prompts at businesses.

  • This Starbucks worker says she's uncomfortable using the prompts and asking customers for money.

  • On the other hand, she says her tips have doubled and it might be worth the awkwardness.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a service worker at a Starbucks. They asked not to be named to protect their job, but their employment has been confirmed by Insider. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

When I first started working at Starbucks in October of 2021, tips were either cash or added through the app. Sometimes people would ask to add a tip onto their credit card, but most people didn't. Now, with the introduction of tip screens, everything is different and even though my tips have doubled, I feel really uncomfortable asking customers for more money.

Taking payments can get awkward

I work mostly in the drive-thru and it can get awkward. I have to hold the card reader out through my drive-thru window and into the customer's car. I usually say something like "okay, it's going to ask you a quick question on the screen then you can insert or tap your card."

Sometimes people are busy on their phones or distracted by the radio and don't hear me so they'll just try to tap or insert their card and I have to repeat the directions — I can tell they get annoyed. It feels like the prompts slow things down a little and people might think we're watching them to see if they tip or not.

I don't want to put pressure on customers to tip, but that's what it feels like 

I've had customers apologize for not tipping and I'm like, "no, you're totally fine," but it's so uncomfortable. Especially when their coffee only costs $3 and the lowest pre-set option for a tip is $1 — I'm basically prompting them for a 30% tip on a cup of drip coffee. I've also had customers be kind of rude and say things like "I'm not going to tip you." I just try to react nicely because honestly service workers are used to those kinds of interactions.

I honestly don't really care if people tip or not 

I don't have the kind of job where I'm reliant on tips to make a good living. Starbucks has a nationwide minimum wage of $15 per hour so it's not like I'm a waitress who gets $2/hour and has to make up the rest in tips. That's why it feels so strange to prompt customers for a tip — we're just a coffee shop.

I feel like the tipping question adds stress

People are coming to Starbucks for a small treat in their day and I feel like the tipping question adds stress to what should be a moment of calm. When we used to just have the tip jar out, I feel like that was much less pressure. People were able to just drop change into the jar instead of being asked directly to tip.

On the other hand, we get a lot of tips now so maybe it's worth the awkwardness for both the customer and the workers. To customers I'd say: I'm sorry you feel pressured to tip and I won't hate you if you don't.

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