Read of the Day: “Tales From Our Baristas”
6:30 pm, June 28th | by Colette McIntyre
For some reason, we can’t stop talking about coffee, so today’s Read of the Day is Craig Cavallo’s Narrative.ly essay about New York City’s “professional coffee connoisseurs.” Want to know what the city’s baristas really think about how poorly you tip after receiving an ornately decorated espresso? Read on.
The service industry brings a constant flow of unpredictable clientele. A rift can grow between barista and customer and it’s always intensified when the customer has no experience with service jobs.
“Sometimes people come in and sit down without ordering anything,” Roth says. “So we’ll ask if they need something. It happened recently with one girl, and when she was asked if she needed anything she got an attitude and said, ‘I was actually in here earlier and I bought a bunch of stuff then.’”
In the past, Roth might have had to shrug it off. “At certain places I’ve worked,” she says, “it was ‘the customer is always right.’ But here, we’re right. So if you’re not buying things, and you’re just being an asshole, you don’t need to be here.”
Having an understanding (or not) of the service industry plays into the way that customers tip. “Tips are always better in smaller neighborhoods where other people also work in service,” Roth says matter-of-factly. “People snatch up shifts at Blue Bottle in Williamsburg for that very reason.”
O’Connell has also found that being a shop owner influences the way people tip. “There have been some people who don’t leave a tip because they know I’m the owner. I’ve overheard people comment on it. One guy actually wouldn’t tip me because of it, so I asked him, ‘When you get your haircut, do you inquire as to whether the person cutting your hair is the owner or not?’”
Richard Nieto, a Queens native, co-owns Sweetleaf Café in Long Island City. The shop has grown to three locations since the original opened in 2009, and the most recent is an espresso/cocktail bar.
“Now that I own a cocktail bar, I see the difference in tips,” Nieto says. “Barista tips are just under 10% and bartender tips are above 20%. For everyone who tips a buck to someone who makes them a latte, that’s a big tip.” He does the math out loud. “That’s 25% on a $4 latte, so for baristas to walk out at the end of the day with less than 10% of sales means that most people didn’t tip. I think that’s something that really should be changing for a specialty shop. There’s a lot of thought, effort and time that goes into preparing drinks consistently. I’m not saying they should be getting tipped more, but they should be getting tipped on par with any other type of server.”
O’Connell doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. “It’s come around a little bit,” he says, “But I don’t think it’ll ever be on the same line or become the same thing as tipping a bartender.”
To read “Tales From Our Baristas” in full, click here.