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Corporate Fingers in the Workers’ Tipping Jar

March 21st, 2008 · No Comments

With the level of ferocity that only a former waiter forced by management to pool tips can feel, I had mixed emotions reading the LA Times account of a class action suit brought and won by a single Starbucks barista. The story is here: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-starbucks21mar21,0,50639.story

Starbucks has indicated their determination to appeal “in the interests of shift supervisors,” now forced to strip themselves, figuratively, of their share of tips collected and redistributed by the company from tip jars at the point of sale. This comes on the heels of Howard Schultz’s express determination to return Starbucks “to its roots,” which was reported earlier this week in all the national dailies. I guess Starbucks roots include raping the help, figuratively (that is, to say, financially) speaking of course.

The tips collected in the past were put in a company safe in each store and distributed at the end of the week to all baristas on duty according to the number of hours they were clocked in on time cards, and including a cut (an equal cut) to the shift supervisors, i.e., “management.” Distribution was on the basis of simple mathematical division of the total by the number of cumulative hours of all employees so rewarded. The average, according to the LA Times was $1.71 in tips per hour—those California latte drinkers are clearly big spenders.

So now we must add to our sense of the roots of Starbucks (even in the week that one of the leading candidates for President of the U.S., took a backward look, with regard to racism in America, tracing his roots in the process, and reminding us that we are not perfect, but we can act as if perfectible) a notion of their fundamental paternalistic corporate rapaciousness. Hence the decision to spend corporate bucks to appeal.

Inferior beans. Overroasted to somewhere just south of burnt. And poorly ground, brewed, and served by underpaid drones, whose sole dignity is the bestowal of a job title, “barista,” more appropriately (and properly) applied to individuals in Italy who actually consider what they do a profession, hence a career, and perform it accordingly. And incidentally, as is the custom in “old Europe,” that woebegone and backward part of the world where a U.S. dollar currently will not get you the price of a cup of coffee, they do it, those pro baristas, without the prospect of a tip—unlike the baristas manqués of Starbucks, who see the tip, as do all Americans, as the slippery and uncertain means of supplementing what is laughingly called a living.

Great roots.

P.S. Morbius, thanks for the link to the LA Times piece.

Tags: Culture · News

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