Starbucks ready to unveil mobile tipping option

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Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 12:00 am

NEW YORK (AP) — Starbucks will soon let customers leave tips with its mobile payment app, which begs the question — how often do people tip their baristas?

The coffee chain said the mobile tipping option, which it announced more than a year ago, will be available on its updated app for iPhones starting Wednesday. The rollout comes as the company’s app has surged in popularity, with roughly one out of every 10 purchases now made with a mobile device.

After paying with the app, Starbucks said, customers will be able to leave a tip of 50 cents, $1 or $2 anytime within two hours of the transaction. The tipping option will be available only at the 7,000 of the roughly 11,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S. that are owned by the company.

The move puts a spotlight on what can be a sensitive topic for customers, workers and even Starbucks, which has faced lawsuits over how it divvies up the contents of tip jars among workers. Some customers are happy to tip for friendly service, knowing that baristas don’t earn that much. Others say that they already fork over enough money and shouldn’t be made to feel like they should throw money into a tip jar as well.

Starbucks said the addition of the mobile tipping option is a response to demand from customers, many of whom no longer carry around much cash.

“We asked our customers what they thought would be easiest and best,” Adam Brotman, chief digital officer for Starbucks, said.

Exactly how Starbucks divides up the tip jars varies. Shannon Liss Riordan, an attorney who represented baristas in lawsuits saying shift supervisors shouldn’t share in tips, said the cash is typically distributed on a weekly basis.

“They keep it in a safe and dole it out to employees ... based on the number of hours worked,” she said.

Starbucks said the mobile tips will be paid out to workers in cash in line with however they receive their regular tips.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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