Do you tip the barista when they aren’t looking?

Has this happened to you?

You place your coffee order and by the time you find a buck or two for the tip, the barista has their back to you. You look at the hand-decorated, ornamented tip jar and pause. Do you drop in the tip while no one is looking, or do you wait to get “credit”– a “thank you” for your “thank you.”

What did you do?

Does a tip fall into a jar if there is no one in the cafe to see it? Does it count? Of course it is counted at the end of the day. But in that moment, it’s not counted as your act of gratitude.

But are we tipping to enhance our own status or tipping to support someone else? Is tipping about us or about them?

In WHERE AM I GIVING I have a few Giving Rules (which are really just suggestions and sometimes contradict one another) that apply to this scenario.

Giving Rules: A gift should be given without expectation.

Giving Rules: Giving isn’t about you.

Each of these points support dropping in the tip while no one is looking.

I’m a bit of a boy scout, literally, and like to think that my altruism is internally motivated. Although, I’m afraid I have a bit too much self-pride in this regard. I’ve dropped the tip in while no one was looking, but not before reminding myself that I’m the kind of person who does acts of good and doesn’t need recognition. But I feel like having this thought makes it no less of an act of ego-driven altruism than waiting to be seen tipping.

However, there is another Giving Rule that supports waiting.

Giving Rules: Giving should connect you.

Your $1 may mean less to the barista than the in-person appreciation of the work they do.

I relied on tips when I was a SCUBA instructor and dive master in Key West. I received a $100 tip for finding a diver’s underwater camera that floated away and a $0 tip from a man whose life I saved. So I recognize there are a lot of awkward thoughts, feelings, and philosophies around tipping.

So, do you tip when no one is looking?


Let your voice be heard!