by Al Sacco

Why Your Coffee Server Hates Dunkin’, Starbucks Mobile Apps

Aug 30, 20123 mins
MobileSmall and Medium BusinessSmartphones

You love the Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts mobile payment apps that let you pay for breakfast with your smartphone. But your coffee server, or barista, probably feels very differently. Here's why.

Every day, on my way to work, I stop at my local Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks for some java. I mix it up a bit; I’m no coffee loyalist, and sometimes I feel like Dunkin’, sometimes I feel like ‘Bucks.

Whenever I go to Starbucks, I pay using the company’s mobile app. Early this month, Dunkin’ Donuts released its own mobile app, so now I use my phone to pay at both stores.


But I’ve noticed an interesting trend: I enjoy using the cards to pay for breakfast. Part of it is just the novelty of using my phone, but it’s also easier for me to use than cash because I’m already reading e-mail or checking Twitter on my phone as I wait in line. However, the coffee servers, ahem, baristas at Starbucks, very often feel differently. In fact, some of them clearly dislike the apps—I’m looking at you, disheveled-and-very-likely-hungover Dunkin’ lady with the star tattoos on your hand. And I think I know why they feel that way.

The Dunkin’ and Starbucks apps make it quicker and easier for people to pay for their coffee, assuming they know how to use them and don’t fumble with their phones for five minutes every time they try to pay. But the cards also do away with the change customers receive after paying. In other words, the mobile payment apps drastically reduce the tips coffee servers receive. And when you’re making minimum wage, or close to it, tips make a difference.

Of course, the same holds true if you pay with a credit card or other plastic loyalty card, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Dunkin’ or Starbucks to build some feature into their apps that lets customers quickly, or automatically, add on a small tip. The servers could keep some sort of digital record for their tips and then “cash it in” at the end of the day.

I’ll still leave some change for my server if I have it in my pocket, but I rarely do. Call me cheap, but I don’t want to leave a dollar on a $2 coffee purchase, even if I have single bills.

The moral of this post: Don’t forget the folks who make your commute to work, and your morning, less painful. I’m making a point to bring some change from my car when I buy coffee using my phone, or to at least pay with cash every once in a while. You should too.

Just because they serve you doesn’t mean they have to dislike you.