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 So if I make $20 in tips in a shift, 18 will be withdrawn from my check, leaving me with 2 dollars.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!

Views: 179

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I've had to take short breaks from the coffee industry here and there to make enough money to provide for my wife and kids until another good paying job as a barista came around. My family and their well-being was that line for me, otherwise I would have worked for crappy money just to be around coffee.
Thanks for chiming in everybody. I'm glad i'm not the only one in these shoes, and your opinions mean alot to me.
Glad you're finding this discussion helpful, Matthew. I definitely agree with previous posters about having that much of your tips withheld - something is very wrong there. I'm no CPA, but to my knowledge, as far as the IRS is concerned income is income. You should definitely get (more than half) of that 90% back when you file. Perhaps you should discuss the situation with your store's owner and get a detailed breakdown of why this much is being withheld?

To the group - regarding my other comments... OK, I sounded like a tool. What some others have said here is absolutely right - doing your job well and treating your coffee and customers with respect is the most important thing you can do. That's all that should matter. If I'm your customer and you make me a killer capp, or give me the impression that you take coffee seriously, you have my respect. I'll come back. I guess I figured if you belong to this community and are reading this thread you DO take your coffee and profession seriously... so that was kind of given.

I was just pointing out the sort of prejudgment that does happen (by the way, this took my wife a long time to drill through my skull... I spent years complaining about being treated like I didn't exist). All I meant was that we should be aware of how we are perceived so that we put out the message we intend to. Whatever that message is. Anyone that doesn't like that message can... well, you know. And you can dismiss them as irrelevant, cause you're doing the stuff that really matters right.
I'm not certain that appearance is the only reason for the disrespect paid to baristas. Some customers just think that because they have what they consider to be a "real" job, that they are better than someone who work as a barista. My coffee shop is located between Keystone ski resort and Vail and I have lost track of the number of people who come in and treat my employees and myself as if we are dirt because we "just" work in a coffee shop. We are a family owned and operated coffee shop. Everyone who works here is a member of the family and part owner. We choose this because we love it. My husband and I have both worked the high paying, high pressure jobs, we own a coffee shop now because we want to. That doesn't make us any less than anyone else. Customers just don't seem to realize that being a barista is hard work and takes skill. Plus we have to put up with customers, their attitudes and there silly questions and do it with a smile. That's my rant for the day. Thanks for listening!!
Interesting discussion and I can see both sides. I love Troy's badass look and props to you man for pulling in off past your 20's (and 30's!). Sometimes wish I could pull off an alternative, funky-haired, tat laden, casual look because I feel that vibe in me, but I'd come across like a total moron. Regardless of what we think on bx though, you have to remember that the majority of our customers may not think or look like us. Many of them (at least in my area) are fairly conservative, older, and professionals. So, whether people SHOULD or SHOULDN'T judge competence based on appearance, many will. And I don't even think it's a matter of judging others all the time...if there's a bunch of freaky baristas, which oftentimes attracts a similar crowd of customers, those older professional folk may not go there because they feel out of place. I'll confess this is true based on my own experience. Like I said, regardless of how I feel inside, my outward appearance is somewhat reserved, and if given a choice between a funky youthful cafe and one w/ a more traditional atmosphere, I'll pick the latter ever time because it's less intimidating. People want to go where they feel a sense of comfort & community...that's what coffee's all about.

Give it some thought because not only might you be feeling a lack of respect; if all the baristas at your shop look & act like they're from another planet, you might be losing some people that could be part of your customer base. Now I realize you can't be all things to all people; every place has its niche. But if the goal is to serve as much coffee as possible and have a successful business, I think appearance has to be a consideration.

In Europe, where baristas are generally more respected as professionals in a legitimate career path, the baristas I've seen present themselves very differently. Many are middle aged men, and often they are wearing very dapper get up, some even bow ties. So, ask yourself honestly who gets more credibility from the general population right off the bat...the frumpy 20 something with facial piercings and purple hair, or the handsome middle aged guy in the bow tie.

Agree with above posters, if you are truly paying 90% tax then something is wrong. It may be you are exaggerating for dramatic effect but if you weren't, please review your W4 on file with your employer and check what is on there. If your employer is withholding too much that needs to be corrected and if not promptly handled speak with your local IRS office and alert them.
This post was supposed to stay dead.

I figured out the tax situation, and am thankfully receiving a large return. That was not the origional intention of the post, however, just an example I was using. Sorry if I made anybody upset.

Thanks Troy, Brady, January, and everybody else who voiced an opinion, even if you were exaggerating for some "dramatic effect".

...keep pullin
My hope is that as consumers are educated about coffee, seek out better coffee, pay more for better coffee, etc., then high quality cafes and baristas will earn what they're worth.
Matthew, I feel for your plight, and anyone who has been in a job that has been taken advantage of. It does happen all too often, especially in societies who value money more than they do humanity. However, we need to help create our own destiny by doing everything we can to improve our own situation.

One way is to introspect the reasons for our plight. Are we contributing to the cause that can create negative reactions? Of course one of the things that we could do is to find another similiar job, and if the plight does not follow us, then we removed ourselves from the problem.

Barista jobs are similiar to sales jobs in this respect, both are in abundance, and most employers will go out of their way to hire a very good one. On average, only about ten to twenty percent of us are capable of being at the top of our profession ladder. So we must ask ourselves where we fit in! Do we just talk the talk, or do we walk the walk by contributing to raising the bar of professionilism in our industry.

As a barista, do we focus on the customer and the reason that makes a customer happy and return as a regular, or do we focus on ourselves and how much a bad ass shot we can pull? Do we make immediate eye contact with the customers, smile, and take a sincere effort to remember them and their drink? Or do we miss the customer all together and let the cashier do the smiling 8-) My point is, what are we doing to put ourselves in a good position to be treated the way we would like? Ony a self introspection will answer that question.

Behind the bar, our goal should be to pull the best shot and beverage that we can. But it should not be our only goal. Let's not forget the courtesy, the excellent service, and to make sure that the customer's experience is a socially enjoyable one. Give off good karma, because whatever karma is given, will be returned ;-) Good or Bad!
teresa said:

In Europe, where baristas are generally more respected as professionals in a legitimate career path, the baristas I've seen present themselves very differently. Many are middle aged men, and often they are wearing very dapper get up, some even bow ties. So, ask yourself honestly who gets more credibility from the general population right off the bat...the frumpy 20 something with facial piercings and purple hair, or the handsome middle aged guy in the bow tie.

I'm not a twenty or even thirty or forty but fifty something barista, shop owner and roaster but I wouldn't be caught dead wearing a bow-tie! I do of course get your point. And compromise from my long ago totally long hair rebellion followed by years of Corporate American and short hair respectablilty and now wear my hair short yet long, kept short front top and above the ears yet long and getting longer in the back, sides above the ears yet over the collar in the back. And got a coffee bean pierced earring for Christmas. No tats yet, but some coffee ink likely in the future. But will be in a reserved way.
Respect yourself, respect your customers, and they will respect you. Two new customers commented to me today a gentleman told them how much he appreciated how we treat him so they stopped by to check up out. He's not a corporate big wig or anything but rather a local homeless guy I and my staff treat and talk to with respect as a fellow human being.
Number one: good baristi should be tipped like bartenders...period. When I put my soul into crafting a fine espresso beverage then you'd best well pay me for it, 'cause it's a lot more difficult than what most bartenders do anyway.
Two: I've heard of some people doing this, a practice which I do not condone in any way, shape, or form. A good barista friend of mine has never reported his tips. I'm sure he's a horrible citizen, but at least he pays taxes on the rest of his income. So yeah, there's also that option.
"dreams they seem to cost money / but money costs some dreams."
hey sapphire - the hold steady

Reply to Discussion


Barista Exchange Partners

Barista Exchange Friends

Keep Barista Exchange Free

Are you enjoying Barista Exchange? Is it helping you promote your business and helping you network in this great industry? Donate today to keep it free to all members. Supporters can join the "Supporters Group" with a donation. Thanks!

Clicky Web Analytics

© 2024   Created by Matt Milletto.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service