WTF is giong on?
February 24, 2009 10:14 PM   Subscribe

I work part time for a coffee franchise. About a month ago a rumor started that we would no longer be getting tips. We found out the the rumor was true. Sucks for us but the reasons why are not clear and I don't know what to tell my customers when they ask why they can not leave tips.

The manager told us that the company was suspending the tips and we would be getting raises to compensate. We were told that any tips left by the customers would go to charitable organizations. We were told that this was a state wide regulation and that all the stores in our company were doing the same thing.

Problem is that this is not true. I had a customer (one of my regulars) come in last week and when she tried to leave a tip I told her that we could not accept it. I told her about the new regulation. She wanted to know what charities we were donating to and I told her she would have to come back and speak to the manager about that because I did not have that information. When she returned that next day she said she went to two different locations to ask about this and they had no idea what she was talking about. They never heard about any state regulation and they were still receiving tips. One of my coworkers has a sister who works for the same company (different store) and the store she works in is also still receiving tips. So I am assuming it is not a state wide thing involving all the stores in our company it is only our franchise...but why would they lie to us? Why would they tell us the tips would be donated but not to accept them? What the hell is going on?
posted by SheMulp AKA Plus 1 to Work & Money (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
So...what state are you in? May not matter, but useful for ruling out truth-telling.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 10:33 PM on February 24, 2009

Franchises pull this bullshit all the time. I can't explain why they do it, but I can tell you that every time I've been in this situation, I've just gone ahead and quietly, discreetly accepted tips from customers and life's gone on swimmingly.

I would recommend a little espionage, however. You can get your district manager's number w/o your boss knowing, right? If that customer of yours went to other locations in town, they're probably under the same DM's jurisdiction. And if they're still letting customers tip servers w/o interfering, then there's something rotten in the state of Denmark.

So, get that number, adopt the persona of a confused customer who wants to show her favorite barista her appreciation, but is damned confused by this new tip policy. You'll either get an explanation, or you'll be talking to DM who's a flummoxed as you ... and about to make a call to your manager to straighten things out.

When do you get this raise, exactly, btw?
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:38 PM on February 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

Alternatively, sleuth a bit on your own. Go to another franchise, try to tip. See what happens.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:13 PM on February 24, 2009

If you are being paid less than minimum, and the tips aren't enough to bring you up above minimum, then your restaurant employer is obliged to make up the difference. Is it possible that this is the case at your cafe - that tips plus wages up until now has not been high enough?
posted by zippy at 11:38 PM on February 24, 2009

Agree with EatTheWeek, but I'd go one farther. Any way you could tell your boss that you'd really like to promote the charity that the tips are going to? Put a little sign up over the tips jar, saying "proudly supporting Save The Mongoose" or something like that? If the money IS actually going somewhere, you'd have an immediate opportunity to see just how much bullshit is involved.

Bet you that they're either tithing the money to their church, or they're using the tips to offset your pay rise. Which should be retroactive, by the way, to the point at which they stopped allowing you to take tips (but kept you at your tip-friendly wage)
posted by Grrlscout at 12:40 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

And extending Grrlscout's idea of asking to promote the charity, be sure to ask for the receipts/certificates acknowledging donations that many charities send out, so you can demonstrate to customers where the tips are going.
posted by biffa at 1:53 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

So...what state are you in? May not matter, but useful for ruling out truth-telling.

The OP is apparently in Rhode Island
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:26 AM on February 25, 2009

I've got a good line for you: once at an airport Starbucks (they had no tip jar, I assume because of some kind of airport-Starbucks regulation) I asked the woman behind the counter Where do the tips go? She opened her hand and said Right here.
posted by originalname37 at 6:10 AM on February 25, 2009

Fishy. I'm gonna guess it is the manager with his hand in the till. Call corporate human resources and explain about the tips and ask about how mch your raise is going to be.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:16 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, absolutely go to your district manager or whoever is the next step above your store manager, if you can't get a straight answer from the store manager.
posted by Quidam at 9:08 AM on February 25, 2009

In Rhodey it must be a Dunkin' Donuts. (Honey Dew stores, in my experience, will cheerully ignore stupid rules like the above and just let their staff collect the lucre.) I recall seeing a note like this last time I picked up a cup of coffee -- last weekend, in Cumberland. Let me see what I can find, since I am in downtown Providence right now and thus within a couple blocks of, uh, three different DD sites.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:57 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that this is the case at your cafe - that tips plus wages up until now has not been high enough?

If you work behind a counter, you're getting paid minimum wage or higher to begin with.

Other consequences are the fact that you can't use your starbucks gift cards

I'm pretty sure I've been able to use a Starbucks gift card at airport (HMSHost) locations.
posted by oaf at 10:05 AM on February 25, 2009

might this have anything to do with it?
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 11:49 AM on February 25, 2009

Response by poster: We had a mandatory meeting today at work. I was hoping to get some answers but that did not happen. I asked asked the manager what I should tell the customers if they ask about tips and he said to give them the store number and he will give them that corporate number. To me this makes no sense because we could just cut out the middle man and give the customers the number our selves. I also asked about our raises, he said we did get raises but we have to speak to the district manager about how much.

So to sum up all the info I have so far and to clarify some things, no I don't work for starbucks. Quidam the manager seems to be clueless and following the same orders as we are and the district manager's only comment on the situation was that he is also just following orders from corporate and there is nothing he can do.

wenestvedt I was not sure if I should mention the name of the company but what the hell. I went to the store on the end of Attwells today and they were not accepting tips either but that store is run by the same owner.

odinsdream this is true I did work for a cafe in a hotel once that sold starbucks coffee and products and we were not able to accept gift cards because the register was not compatible with them. The register system was provided by the cafe itself not starbucks.

Grrlscout I asked what charities we would be donating to today at the meeting and the manager said that the money we collected so far is still sitting in the office and he was not informed yet as to where it is going.

This is all such bullshit. Even if they were going to donate the money why would they stop our tips weeks before they knew where to send it. Honestly I'm so pissed off that they are trying to scam my customers out of their money. I like my customers (for the most part, there is always a jerk or two but the regulars make it worth it) and I don't want to be a part of some corporate scam. and to top it off I have to wait till Friday to find out what my raise is because the manager is clueless about that too.
posted by SheMulp AKA Plus 1 at 1:24 PM on February 25, 2009

Best answer: And start shopping for your next job, honestly.
posted by EatTheWeek at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A non-American perspective: The customer tips you, not the store. It's up to you to donate your tips to charity if you want, not for the store to appropriate them as though they are store income and "donate" them on your behalf. I think most customers would take exception to this policy also.

I think the company's lack of transparency is really troubling. If it's "policy", then they should be able to readily tell you why, where the money is going, and exactly how much you will be compensated in lieu.

Is there any kind of tribunal for employees you can consult or complain to? An omudsman? I think if you aggitate, I think they will drop it because it seems to be built around nothing.
posted by lottie at 3:05 PM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

A similar situation occurred in Philadelphia at Arbol Cafe. It caused quite a controversy; the story made the City Paper and The Consumerist. If you're not getting satisfactory answers from your manager, you might try contacting your local newspaper and/or the Consumerist to see what they can do.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:30 AM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: So here is the update : First I would like to thank every one for their comments on this question, but I realize the situation at my job is bigger than the lack of pay. The place has already failed one inspection and is due for another (that I fear it will fail also) and I feel at this point the best course of action is to focus on finding another job. I was already in the process of doing that anyway and I really don't have the energy to chase people for answers that will get me nowhere. I found out thought the grape vine (other employees and managers of other locations) that the reason for the termination of our tips was due to the management not providing the full information about how much we actually made in tips. If we made 10$ per shift the managers were only reporting 3 of those dollars. And to put the icing on the shit sunday that assistant manager was accepting tips as well, and from my understanding about this company that is absolutely not allowed because that assistant managers are paid way more than the regular staff. When corporate found out about this they pulled the tips to stop this. So really there is nothing I nor any of my coworkers can do. Oh and by the way our "raise" was applied (if you can call it that) a whole 35 cents. But again thank you to everyone for the comments and and suggestions.
posted by SheMulp AKA Plus 1 at 8:07 PM on March 15, 2009

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