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Forget Tips, This Coffee Shop Pays Its Employees A Living Wage

by Rafi Schwartz

February 6, 2015
image via (cc) flickr user fajalar

Just over the Mississippi River, on the St. Paul side of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, is a block of neighborhood businesses which includes a boutique ice cream parlor, a small bakery, and Kopplin’s Coffee, a high end European-style coffee shop that’s been serving customers for nearly a decade. There, owners recently instituted a new policy that does away with one of the most recognizable coffee shop features – the tip jar. As of this past January, Andrew and wife Amanda Kopplin pay all their employees at least $12.50 an hour, a move designed to introduce a measure of stability in the lives – and paychecks – of those working a job not ordinarily known for its financial perks. 

It’s a change that Kopplin’s employees embraced wholeheartedly. As barista Anna McFall told Minnesota Public Radio, the owners: 

...gave us pie charts and graphs. I think [owner Andrew Kopplin] was pretty nervous about how we would receive it, but everyone at the table was just beaming

The owners were inspired to make the change, in part, after noticing the uneven tips his employees were making, depending on the shifts they’d been assigned to work. Andrew Kopplin told Think Progress

“There’s plenty of work that should be done in the afternoon when not as many people are there. If that doesn’t happen, we’re in trouble. That’s not tipped work normally, but it’s necessary work.”

In making the move toward paying their employees a standard baseline wage that doesn’t necessitate tips, Kopplin’s Coffee has increased their prices by around twenty percent. It’s a change, Andrew explained to Think Progress, he sees as being more “honest,” as now prices more accurately reflect the costs of labor at his shop. As MPR notes, there’s been little criticism from customers. 

Increased prices or not, the shift to a living wage for Kopplan’s employees hasn’t necessarily done away with their customers’ inclination toward leaving a dollar or two for their favorite barista. When given, clandestine tip are all donated to a local food shelf, and customers are instead encouraged to sign a guest book placed where the tip jar had once been. Andrew explains:

“Writing in it can be a sort of replacement for tipping. It's a way to show you're grateful. You can express gratitude without giving money, even in a coffee shop.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that makes a neighborhood coffee shop a neighborhood insitution. 

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Forget Tips, This Coffee Shop Pays Its Employees A Living Wage