Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Friday, March 21, 2008
  A local angle on the $100M Starbucks decision
This ruling against Starbucks for paying supervisors and managers out of the tip pool is similar to several huge cases that have been won by waiters, bus boys and bartenders in the last few years. I have no sympathy, none whatsoever, for the large corporations that pay their lowest rungs of management so poorly by illegally taking tips from the hourly workers and shifting them up the restaurant food chain.

As of a year ago, there were very similar cases against Cranwell and Canyon Ranch. I assume those stories made the papers when the plaintiff's attorneys fed the info to the press. Since there has been absolutely no follow up, I can only assume that they settled. Lawyers love to play the press.

Is there an enterprising local reporter who can pull up the paper's archives and make a couple of calls to give us the local angle on the "great management tip scam." Just because the parties to the suit are quiet doesn't mean that it is no longer news.
I agree that the supervisors, who in theory get paid more, should not have their hands in the tip jar. I feel equally as strong that, unless the "baristas" are paid a waitstaff wage (lower than minimum wage) that there shouldn't be a tip jar in sight.

Tips, in my opinion, shouldn't be under the control of management at all. I'm firm believer that a server should get the tips, and only the tips, that were left by customers they served.

I once worked in a place that required wait staff to share tips with the line cooks. Their thinking was that part of the tip was generated due to the quality of the meal served. Although I agree with the reasoning, I disagree with the practice and always gave my share back. I was well compensated for my work, and more importantly was still compensated whether we had a full house or not. If a manager or owner wants to show their appreciation for the kitchen staff, they should do so out of their own pocket.

Of course I never turned down tips that came directly from the customer to me in gratitude for going above and beyond in preparing a special meal for a customer.
Some states have tip wages and others do not. In my opinion that's a whole other ball of wax. Heck, Former Senator Santorum (R- asshole) submitted legislation allowing waitstaff to work for free in exchange for tips. Fortunately that went nowhere.

We had a similar discussion before discussing the "unofficial" tipping policies of places designed to depress paid wages and skirt withholding taxes.

When states pass tip laws defining who is entitled to a tip and whether a waiter can be forced to give tips to other workers the equation is usually very clear. Places like Canyon Ranch have been accused of tacking on "service fees" to the bill and then telling the guest that gratuities are already taken care of, but then not giving the service staff any of the fee. That is a clear attempt to get around the law and should be punished accordingly.
In a place with counter service, a joint tip jar, often only 2 or 3 people working, and a "supervisor" who is most of the time doing the same work as the rest of the staff (i.e., serving), it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that the supervisor would share in the tips. (Sometimes the supervisor is working all alone; can he keep tips then?)

That said, Starbucks also ought to be aware of what the law actually is (not just what they might argue it ought to be), and follow such law. This probably would mean slightly higher salaries for supervisors, and slightly lower wages for other workers, than would pertain under a shared tip system.
I don't know California's law, but if it is like other states with similar statutes, there are certainly exception, such as if a member of management is actually working the floor, etc...

The main point of these laws are to prevent forced tipping to non-service and management staff.
Agreed...Management purportedly has a higher wage thus not reliant on tips. Where as the workers, non management workers, are paid less and don''t get the perks that go along with a management position. Thus just composition for work done. It's the greedy managers that are mucking things up. They want the power and the glory.....and also the money!
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