By Kyle Meadors
I am a senior audio production major at the Webster Groves campus, and I recently bought a scone and a chai latte at the Kaldi’s cafe in the library. This is my first year off the meal plan, so when I pulled out my wallet and prepared to dump my change into the tip jar, I was quite surprised to see no tip jar.
When I asked if the baristas had forgotten to put it out, they said they were ordered to take it down. They said it was because students feel pressured to leave a tip, and since the burden of student expenses are strenuous enough, that pressure should be removed. When I expressed my confusion, one of the employees patiently explained that having the jar there was like “asking for money.”
As someone who also works in a coffee shop, I know I can get by on tips between paychecks. Some people do not tip, and I do not begrudge them. Other people just leave their extra change, and it does add up quickly. I am so grateful for the extra support from the customers, and it seems that they are grateful to us at the café as well.
Taking away the tip jar not only hurts the hard-working food service workers on campus, it also makes subtle implications about students: we are not responsible adults. What I learned at the café is that I am highly impressionable and subject to being swindled out of my money by beguiling baristas. Because they have asked for tips, I am of course incapable of saying no.
However, I reject that notion. I am a responsible adult, and I reserve the right to spend my money as I see fit.
Perhaps I misunderstand the clichés about community, staff-student relationships and experiential learning, but this seems counter intuitive for an institution meant to prepare its students for the “real world.” It seems like the tip jar presents an opportunity to support Kaldi’s, build a relationship with someone and learn the value of money. At the very least, we could get some practice before confronted by the ominous tip jars of the real world.
To rest my case, I want to point out something important: is it wrong to ask for help? When the patient Kaldi’s employee explained to me that the tip jar made it seem like they were asking for money, I simply could not agree with this policy because it is rooted in the assumption that to ask someone else for help is wrong. It is not wrong to ask for help, and it is not wrong to help someone who asks for it.