Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What Were They Thinking?

PR nightmare.

Starbucks may say on its website that it is committed to "putting people before products," but that hasn't stopped a former barista at a Chestnut Hill store from accusing the coffee giant of shortchanging him of tips left by caffeine-craving customers.

In a class-action suit filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, Hernan Matamoros says Starbucks routinely violated Massachusetts law by requiring baristas to share money left in tip jars with shift supervisors, who perform similar duties but typically earn more and have managerial responsibilities.

Placing the little cup by the register certainly opens a giant bag of worms - who should be getting the tips? Anyone who serves costumers or just non-managerial staff? And, with so many managers - many of whom barely scrape a living themselves - how are the distinctions supposed to be drawn? Most importantly, wouldn't most of these problems be solved if we, as a country, demanded a living wage?

I can say that there are far worse offenders than Starbucks - a distant cousin used to work in a coffee shop/bakery in Salem and didn't get any of the tips left at the register. At the end of the month, some of "tips" would be divied up and be given out as a bonus, but the rest went to the owners (I kid not). Needless to say, even though I found out about it when I was around 12, I haven't eaten or gone there since. Are tip jars a systemic problem? Are there laws not being enforced, or a need for new legislation?

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