Rant about our current situation as Baristas in the US

I love what I do, and thats why I do it. However, in the world we live in, I'm starting to think things are a little off kilter.

In every cafe I've worked, tips are split equally at the end of a shift. If I understand the laws correctly, tips must be reported. This is unfortunate, in my opinion, if you fall into a certian tax brackets... Essentially because of where I am in life (not married, not in school, no dependents...) I get taxed $.90 for every dollar I get tiped. So if I make $20 in tips in a shift, 18 will be withdrawn from my check, leaving me with 2 dollars.

2 dollars is better than no dollars, but if your depending on these tips to live, things get a little rough.

I know what we do (at least here in the states) is not always seen as a respectable job. Although I have dedicated the last 4 years of my life to this industry, I still seem to come out under the gun. I have done extensive cupping training, trained baristas, visited orgin and worked on a farm, roasted, and taught classes, and I still make less than a brand new SBUX employee. I'm not saying this in any offense to shop owners or managers who must make certian sacrafices to greater benifit the company, because I have been in your shoes where the bottom line must be met.

I realize that the money is simply not there to go around, but how about some respect? I get so much effing shi* every day for being an unproductive member of society, a "college dropout", but ask me how Rui Rui 11 has economically failed Kenya or why the trade situation in El Salvador has benifited from COE competitons and I'll tell you straight. I'll even write you a report.

Here I must say that I greatly respect the farmers who continue to bless us with amazing coffee each year, even when the economy isn't in their favor.

Where do you draw the line between what you love and how you live? If any other Baristas have felt this, speak up!

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Agreed. The money situation is difficult. Maybe impossible? It seems to be much like the life of a professional artist or musician... but without too much prospect to balance income on a regular basis by teaching. It sucks, and the industry will continue to suffer as long as this persists.

The respect thing is strange. I do have a theory about this. This may or may not apply to your situation, Matthew, we've never met so I don't know. But I do feel that it applies to quite a few that will read this thread, so will post it here. Please everyone, no offense intended, I'd like to help.

An aspect that many skilled baristas miss is their own presentation. Regardless of a baristas knowledge, dedication to craft, or skill, if you look like a homeless college dropout that just rolled out of bed or act like a high school kid behind the bar, that's how many people will treat you. If you decide to be a coffee professional, dress like a coffee professional, and act like a coffee professional, this will not go unnoticed. This may sound like bullshit, but I think its a piece of the puzzle that too many baristas miss. This sounds harsh, and I'll happily accept disagreements with this idea... but I think many of us can benefit from taking a look at what we are presenting to the world as a whole.

Looking forward to a good discussion on this.
Brady, I could not agree with you more. I, like most baristas, started this as a high school/college job and realized a few months into it that this is what I want my profession to be. As soon as that realization hit, one has to approach it from that stand point. It is a profession, so treat it as one. This does not involve only being extremely knowledgeable and performing to a high standard, but looking and acting the part as well. The coffee industry is a business, and as such, certain protocol and expectations are present. Does this mean that you have to wear a suit and tie and be a stick up the ass fuddy dud, but decorum is required. We live in a world of high priced coffee, and most of the clientele that we have who can afford to enjoy this luxury item we sell expects an image and a level of service that most baristas (professional or not) don't quite understand.

Not only does this apply to our clientele, but to other business opportunities that present themselves. How would you dress to go and apply for a loan at a bank? How would you act when applying for a job? How would you present yourself, and convey the importance that you believe your chosen profession and craft deserves, to anyone?

If you want people to respect baristas, and you, you have to show them that you are something worth respecting . . . and as of right now, pouring a sick ass rosetta or pulling a god shot only works in certain and very small circles. Know your audience. Period.
Matthew,

I could not agree less with the Tools R Us crowd that just reported in. It is all about serving the best coffee to my customers and showing them respect. People respect quality and manners, if someone judges you by your appearance, f*** them. I bite me lip regularly, but for the most part my customers treat me respect because I am passionate about serving them great coffee and providing them with great service. I'm 45 years old with a mohawk and two sick coffee tattoos on my forearms, yet I am the President of my local business association and sit on three other local boards. It is really time in America in 2008, almost 2009, to stop judging people by their appearance, or accepting those who do.

As for compensation, margins are very tight for retail coffee businesses, but it doesn't seem right for you to be taxed so much on tips. I don't enforce my baristas reporting tips, but we only accept tips in cash, to avoid a necessity to report them. It sounds like you are doing a great job, as long as you focus on quality and customer service, respect and eventually compensation should follow. Good luck.
Yea but all of you have this job and you can do this what you really like
I´m living in the north-west Spain (Galicia) and here you have none real coffee-shop
everywhere you can get just a pice of ..... and thats all.
When i´ve been living in Poland i could work for this industry and fel in love in coffee
The only one place where can i get a good cup of coffee is at my home or during my hollidays
when im coming back to Poland or London(monmounth rostery!!!) and i even dont want to start
to think about working as a barista. They even dont have any idea who is a barista!!!
Personality in your appearance is one thing, plain laziness is another. I don't care what or how people cut their hair. Tattoos and piercings are their choice and who am I to judge. But when I walk into a shop and the barista on shift looks like they had a hard night of drinking the night before and decided to roll on in with the same clothes on I don't care how good the coffee is. You disrespected the profession. Just treat the job like an interview and your employer is your customer. That's who you are selling yourself too. Be who you are. Don't sell out. But Respect.


Troy Reynard said:
Matthew,

I could not agree less with the Tools R Us crowd that just reported in. It is all about serving the best coffee to my customers and showing them respect. People respect quality and manners, if someone judges you by your appearance, f*** them. I bite me lip regularly, but for the most part my customers treat me respect because I am passionate about serving them great coffee and providing them with great service. I'm 45 years old with a mohawk and two sick coffee tattoos on my forearms, yet I am the President of my local business association and sit on three other local boards. It is really time in America in 2008, almost 2009, to stop judging people by their appearance, or accepting those who do.

As for compensation, margins are very tight for retail coffee businesses, but it doesn't seem right for you to be taxed so much on tips. I don't enforce my baristas reporting tips, but we only accept tips in cash, to avoid a necessity to report them. It sounds like you are doing a great job, as long as you focus on quality and customer service, respect and eventually compensation should follow. Good luck.
This is why I have stated in the past that I don't like the tip jar. I would rather pay my employees as much as I can so that they don't have to deal with it.
This is also why I support Mike Huckabees Fair tax proposal.
Mathew,

You're more well respected than you believe. Most people are terrified to follow their own hearts. You've chosen to be a barista and you're damned good at it. I can respect you for that alone. Nope, there's not a whole lot of money involved -- and yeah, the social pecking order isn't necessarily in our favor. But for the most part, people will behold you in whatever light you reveal to them.

And for the record.. I don't care what my barista looks like. It IS bull. I'm not apt to walk across the street to Starbucks because all of those green aprons look sharp against a white collar shirt. I'm not going to assume you believe I'm less capable of making a beverage based on whether or not I shaved today or not. And if this is your reality, the way you view life, I'm not going to care.
I'm certainly not trying to advocate slobbery, not at all. I only meant to agree with Troy when it comes down to judging people by appearance.
FWIW, you are legally required to report your tips as part of your income, and the amount is taxed according to your tax bracket. In some states they actually can pay less than minimum wage to tipped employees because tips do in fact count towards your calculated rate of pay. I know of bartenders in Florida that made like $3/hr + tips. The tax rate for tips is the same as the rest of your paycheck, no more, no less. Which for most of us is <25%.
If you had won the money (lottery, casino, regis and kelly), it would be subject to a special tax that can be up to 40%, but there is no situation where a 90% income tax exists in this country.
If you have actually been getting deducted that absurd amount, any excess will be returned to you when you file for your return, if that's of any comfort...

PS. I'm not a CPA, these are merely my observations and should not be taken as tax advice.
I do feel appearance is important, I feel at some level we judge everyone by the way they look, that said I feel you can have a personal style and be professional at the same time. You can have tats, piercings. but be clean and professional . No matter what the Barista is wearing if he/she looks like they don’t care you’ll taste that in your drink. the bottom line is if you care it will show.
I agree with JW. If you're being taxed at 90%, there is something wrong.
That is it! Exactly man, your style has nothing to do with your professionalism. If you respect your job and do it well you can go to work dressed as Godzilla and it won't matter.

eric said:
I do feel appearance is important, I feel at some level we judge everyone by the way they look, that said I feel you can have a personal style and be professional at the same time. You can have tats, piercings. but be clean and professional . No matter what the Barista is wearing if he/she looks like they don’t care you’ll taste that in your drink. the bottom line is if you care it will show.

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