Customers can no longer tip at UC Santa Barbara’s campus cafes following a decision by Campus Dining as of Spring Quarter 2023.
UCSB has seven campus-centric eateries: the Arbor, Coral Tree Cafe, The Corner Store, Courtyard Cafe, The Store at Buchanan, Summit Café and Tenaya Market & Eatery. The majority of the workers at these cafes are students at UCSB.
In an interview with the Nexus, campus workers expressed grievances on the financial impact of tips being no longer included in their pay.
“Our manager sent a group message and said, ‘They are not allowing tips anymore. They took it away from all the coffee shops,’” UCSB undergraduate student and campus eatery worker who requested to remain anonymous said.
Prior to the implementation of the policy in spring quarter, tip jars were put out at the front during business hours in which customers could leave change and dollar bills as tips for the workers. The collected cash and change would be split during the day’s closing shift among the scheduled workers based on the number of hours they worked that day.
UCSB spokesperson Kiki Reyes said in a statement to the Nexus that the tip jars were out of compliance with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations in recording taxable income.
“The tip jars were out of compliance with IRS regulations for recording such taxable income,” the statement read.
Campus cafes have electronic payment options via keypad, but the devices currently do not have a tipping option installed.
Fourth-year English major and Coral Tree Cafe supervisor Jackie Bangle described her initial reaction to the policy change, expressing confusion to the news.
“I remember my housemate who helped me get the job here was like, ‘They’re gonna take away our tips,”’ Bangle said. “They said we can’t track the tips, although I feel like you could easily solve that if you wanted to.”
“There’s so many places everywhere that take tips,” she continued. “So obviously, there’s methods of tracking it.”
Bangle said her and other campus workers attempted to question the department on this decision through emails, which were met with little response and later discouraged by those of higher authority.
“We were told we could reach out if we had any questions, but when we did start reaching out with questions, we were told to stop sending emails, which was a little frustrating because it was like they were trying to silence us,” she said. “The emails that we did get back were all the same generic responses to shut us up.”
Reyes said in the statement that the campus dining staff wage — $15.50 for associates and $15.75 for supervisors — is “levels above the minimum wage.”
Bangle disagreed with this sentiment, saying she gets paid an extra quarter as a supervisor and the associates get paid just at or slightly above the minimum wage set by the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan.
“As a supervisor, we get a quarter more, and that’s definitely not what I would consider levels above minimum wage,” she said. “Even if you’re not a supervisor, you’re just making minimum wage.”
Bangle and the UCSB undergraduate student said customers noticed the tip jar no longer sitting on the counter and also expressed confusion as to the new policy.
“I’ve been told by my co-workers who work the front more often that people would come up and be like, ‘Where’s your tip jar,’ and say it doesn’t really make sense, especially because it helps build that community with the coffee shops,” Bangle said.
The UCSB student said the tipping jar was a frequent part of payment for many regular customers.
“Our customers were very upset about it because almost every transaction, they would throw in some change or a $1,” they said. “We had customers last year who were like, ‘Where’s your tip jar? I want to tip you guys,’ but we couldn’t accept tips over the counter or we’d get in trouble.”
The UCSB student said although the change in policy may not seem to be impactful to the university, it impacts their day-to-day life as a financially independent college student.
“I support myself fully through college, and [the tips] honestly help, even if it was only $40 a quarter,” they said. “It did impact me, and it felt like the dining services were not appreciating us as workers.”
The UCSB student expressed disappointment that tips were taken away without providing pay raises for workers, saying it is reflective of university priorities.
“They want their students and employees to feel respected, and to give that respect, they should not take away our option to have that financial help,” they said. “I find it very disappointing that they thought that was okay without pay raises.”
Bangle echoed the sentiment, saying she hopes there will be an alternative form of tipping — like electronically — to ensure it’s tracked and eatery workers get tipped.
“They could go into any establishment that deals with tips and talk to them about the procedure,” she said. “People appreciate the service and paying is one thing, but a tip is just showing that extra appreciation.”
The university did not mention potential alternative methods for campus cafe customers to pay gratuity that would comply with IRS regulations.
“It just creates that divide of, ‘We are above you, and we’re going to make these decisions without considering the effects that it will have on you,’” Bangle said.
“We’re the ones running this cafe. It shows that they don’t really care for the welfare of the students.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Oct. 26, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.