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December 06, 2009


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From a corporate perspective, if Laura would have chased him and say he turned on her and stabbed or shot her, Starbucks would have a lot of accountability and a lot to answer for. Starbucks makes it very clear during training how these types of situations are to be handled, and she directly went against that protocol, hence her own accountability here.

However, I also understand for a lot of our baristas in particular, your tips can make up 1/6 or maybe even 1/5 of what you earn. That's pretty significant. Considering the state of our economy and the low pay scale for baristas, I totally get why she did what she did. As a store manager I would've followed protocol. But as a barista, to know that money was gas, groceries, etc. I would've chased him too.

My only reprimand if I was Laura's SM would be concern for her safety. I'll take a paid out from the register to cover lost tips rather than have a barista risk his/her life to save tips. However, there's definitely a part of me that applauds Laura for not taking shit from some cheap piece of crap. I hope she got a few shots of her own in and taught him a lesson.

some guy...

i chased a tip thief four blocks at full speed...he darted into oncoming traffic to lose me...little did he know im from NYC where darting through traffic is how we cross streets...i grabbed him by the neck and gave him a dressing down in front of onlookers and took my tip jar back. In hindsight i should have mugged him for everything in his pockets.

At no point was i worried for my safety...im a big goon shaped guy and he was a mousy thieving prick.

Steal a mug, steal a pound of coffee, whatever...take money from me and my co-workers? you will piss yourself (which he did)

Dobre Svetlik

I have chased and caught thieves before. +1 to above post!
Too many pussys out there. And you wonder why thieves are so bold!


I'm glad she went after him...good for her. Like others have said, stealing a pound of coffee is one thing, but this is practically stealing money out of employees' mouths. If I were in her shoes I would have gone after him, too.


I'd lose my job before I suffered the indignity of letting a tip thief run off. That's my money.

I once chased a crackhead 4 blocks, and flagged down other cars to help me. A few good samaritans helped me out and I got my tips back.

Stores here in Houston can make 3-4 dollars an hour in tips. That's big money that they rely on. Other stores make .75 cents in tips an hour, so when they lose a 20 dollar jar, that's big money, too.

Tip thieves should be beaten to within an inch of their lives, and cops should look the other way :)

Tiredof this

I understand how important tips are to hourly employees, but they are hardly worth this person's safety. That said, I can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing in her shoes. I just see that her manager had no choice in this matter.


My store had this situation and our ASM went after them. Fortunatly she was able to get them back for our store but not the others which they had hit before ours.
I cant trust anyone anymore so I bundle the bills together, throw them in a tip bag, and toss them in a drawer under the register until close.
We also have our tip jars velcroed to the counter so you can hear when someone moves the tip jars!


Why not just do a tip drop every hour or so like my store? It works great and our tips have increased because of it (not really sure why though).

-Like others have said, stealing a pound of coffee is one thing, but this is practically stealing money out of employees' mouths.

Posted by: Al | December 06, 2009 at 06:00 PM-

Really, you don't think that stealing a pound is like taking from employees? Think about that the next time your DM calls your SM to ask why the coffee count doesn't mesh with what you've sold, then they get a write up. That that SM's review down the toilet (ie less money for them). What about our stock?? I mean really, every pound really does count and must be accounted for. Some people actually care about the profitability of this company you know.


We have an older gal that works front register in our store. She has chased many tip thieves with a broom. Mostly they're kids, so it's comical. I doubt she'd chase a man who might be able to do anything to her... but she might give him a good holler.

Barista Ben

I can see both sides. On the one hand, if they die, starbucks is in a bad bad position and its just a terrible thing. It has happened, too.

On the other hand, if you grab my tip jar I might just pull out a knife and cut your hand off.

know what I'm sayin'?


To be honest, if somebody took my tip jar, I'd be super pissed, grab the large serated knife for pastries and chase after them. That's my and my co-worker's money.

If you have to go as low as stealing other people's tips, then well...go get a job, then maybe you wouldn't need to.

But yes, I do understand what Starbucks policy is saying. Obviously, the thief could have a hidden gun or whatever. But tips are my gas money, and gas is freakin' expensive.

Pat Nerr

this is a "feel good" thread all around...


You better believe that I'd go running after a tip thief like I had never ran before. That money belongs to *my coworkers* and *I*. It fills my gas tank and buys me some of my groceries.

North Star Barista

I've only run after them once, my SM wouldn't even call the cops. Now I just yell things that no one expects out of my mouth or something like I know who you are, just to give them a scare.

Or course now that the local police visit 4 out of 7 nights a week things have gotten much better. Plus the cops now drive by as we are opening in the morning. I tell them thank you every time they come in.


Unless the thief was really scary, I'd chase him. Not because of the money. I just don't want to be a victim. Thanks to the above post, I know to take a broom.

me myself and I

At my store we were just told by the SM to give cops their coffee for free. He hopes to get more cops coming in this way, scaring the thugs away. We'll see if it helps. It's not the tip jar it's the coffee beans and the via disappearing a lot in my store (apparently we don't sell a lot of via, but still get through a lot). I guess we can conclude: thugs like via. :-)


I have never worked at Starbucks, but I did stick my leg out and trip a guy who was stealing the tip jar.



I'm not a lawyer, so I've no idea, but from a legal perspective, doesn't Starbucks require a bunch of signatures when hiring a barista. Couldn't one of those be a waiver of liability if procedure is disregarded?

Baristas are adults (most of them), and adults should have the freedom to choose whether or not to take a risk, if the risk is only to themselves.

I've had tips stolen from my shift (employee's) at one point (which still goes on) as well as customers...I've even had a lady try to pay me for her drink from my tip jar...People think it's take a dollar leave a dollar and they can help themselves to it as they please...causes a lot more drama then it should and needs to be regulated better. As for me, I'll just catch up to you and mace (military issued) you until your eyes burn out and continuously beat your @$$ til the police arrive to save your life... "Who put their hand in the cookie jar"...?

Laura Palawski you did the right thing. It's just to bad your SM has no NADS and won't stand up to corp. for one of their "partners"...SM', ASM's are useless mules and you need to be commended for your actions...keep up the great work!


Laura's SM has the largest NADS of any SM I've ever known. I don't think Kat had a choice...and I think she would like to keep her job. Maybe you should STFU before you talk about people you don't know. Allow me to add...the DM in this situation is phenomenal. I'm sure this came from higher up. Outstanding :/


It's texas, why didn't she just pull out her piece?



Just because Lilith thinks highly of her peers or a DM does not make her a useless slave. I have a friend who works in that district that loves their DM. We all have to do things we don't like at our jobs, it does not make us all tools for coming to work.


If the partner was hurt..it would be a different story...lawsuit...money is not worth your life i agree with the documentation....if you are a worker at 711 and you fight off a robber you are immediatly fired...she should of let him run...your life for 20 bucks.i dont think so

Acacia Regular

I know a Partner who got into his personal vehicle and chased a Tip Jar Thief across the city in a high speed pursuit. His gf barista went with him.

I was truly shocked he wasnt reprimanded and is still working there. Oh well.


>your life for 20 bucks.i dont think so

No kidding. A loss of a *full* tip jar would only be a loss of about $.30/hour tip rate. Endanger yourself or your coworkers for that? Uh no. I understand if this partner did what she did because of the adrenalin of the moment, that kind of thing. Kudos to her for not allowing herself to be a victim. But if someone tried to take a tip jar from me, I'd let them run out the door and pick up the phone, and wouldn't think any less of myself. My life is worth more than a pile of quarters.


If tip thieves were really willing to kill, wouldn't they be robbing outright, not ripping and running?

These tip thieves are scumbags, and they won't hurt you. Chase away.


Unfortunately we've already seen that's not true.


me myself and I

Trouble is they might not have planned to hurt you, but if you are one of those guys taking pride in beating the thief until the police saves his life, the thief might get a bit self defensive. They might not really think clear. They react, often overreact. Not seldom they are under the influence of some more or less legal drugs. And this can lead to such sad stories as mentioned by J.

@Laura Palawski-NEWS

Here's a tip, Starbucks: Praise a courageous employee
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
My latest hero? Laura Palawski, 24, who works at the Starbucks at Sixth Street and Congress Avenue.

On Dec. 1, Palawski chased a guy down the street who she said had stolen the store's tip jar money off the counter. It was the entire day's tip collection for the staff, no small item in this economy.

Even though Palawski didn't get the money back yet because the police are holding it as evidence, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell should declare a Laura Palawski Day.

Of course, Starbucks didn't see it that way. For her efforts, the company reprimanded her for breaking store policy. No good deed goes unpunished. Starbucks should give her a raise and a plaque.

This sort of reaction on Starbucks' part is part of the wimpification of America. We've become so enamored with being safe in this country that companies set up policies that bust employees for chasing thieves.

Here's how it went down. Some guy came into the Starbucks, stuck his hand in the tip jar and grabbed the bills. The guy ran out of the shop, and Palawski took off after him. She and the guy got in a shoving match. She says the guy didn't seem that threatening.

Of course he didn't seem that threatening. He was in Starbucks. How many Bandidos hang out at Starbucks drinking lattes?

"That's our grocery money, our gas money; we need that money," Palawski explained.

She followed the guy to the bus and then up the street toward the Paramount Theatre. She flagged down a police officer, who arrested Michael Ray Woods, 19, who was charged with robbery by assault.

Good for Laura.

But Starbucks didn't see it that way.

"The safety of our customers and partners (employees) is our highest priority, " a company rep responded.

Palawski says she was written up. Well, she's getting written up again — by me. Way to go, Laura.

I can understand the company's position. There's always the lawyer thing. What if the worker chases down the wrong guy, punches him out and Starbucks gets sued? And what if the guy is armed and somebody gets shot?

But this time, it all went pretty smoothly. Shouldn't the company at least give Palawski a thank-you for her courage and her initiative?

I think if Starbucks is going to have a policy like that, they should also have a policy like this: The company and the workers figure out how much money they collect in the tip jar in an average work shift. The company keeps the no-chasing-thieves policy. And when the workers lose the tips to a thief, Starbucks automatically reimburses the workers for their loss.

Then we could call it even.

John Kelso's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 445-3606 or jkelso@statesman.com.

P.S.- @ MM&I

I promise the US Military haven't sent me to IRAQ to lose hand to hand combat to a druggie stealng my tip jar from my other job, no worries my friend! CHEERS ;)


If Starbucks took responsibility for themselves, this might not have had to happen. In most states (like Minnesota, as reinforced by the recent court ruling posted a while ago here) tips are in fact the personal property of those who receive them. BUT, Starbucks does not treat them as such. Are we allowed to put them in our pocket where it would be nearly impossible to just snatch them like in this case? No. Starbucks FORCES us to let them retain physical possession of them until tip day. Yet, when they are stolen, does Starbucks reimburse any of it? NO. Not in my experience.

Of course someone has already predictably said, "well just drop them more often". Would Starbucks like to drop them every single time that someone leaves something? That is the only way that nothing will ever be stolen. NO. Of course they do not want that. That would greatly detract from customer service. So Starbucks SHOULD tell us EXACTLY up to what amount it will reimburse. Then we will know exactly how often we need to drop tips in order to balance customer service, and the danger of us losing some of OUR PERSONAL PROPERTY.


".30/hour tip" J, I don't know what store you work in but your tips suck. I never made less than a dollar an hour in tips and losing an eighth of my take home pay is a big chunk. Perhaps you have other sources of income or live with your parents but and additional 30-60 dollars a paycheck might mean the difference between ramen and decent food for alot of people

Starbucks tells me not to protect it's money...thats fine, it's the companies' money and it has every right to decide what to do with it. Tips are MY money, much like the money in my wallet is my money and until Starbucks declares itself responsible for that lost money, I will do what I have to do to make certain it stays my money.


@Christina27 It is Texas & yes there are lots of people walking around with guns. Ur comment made me smile that others in the US think all Texans carry guns like it is the old west. In fact the amount of guns on the street definitely relates to the crime in this country. Thieves are going to target the places where the $$$ is.
I am surprized that she got a write up and not just fired on the spot. I wonder how the company is handling the employee relations at the store in Mexico where the "protected witness" was shot while waiting in line? Do you think they care about menials or their issues? Corporate America, where the poor get poorer and the rich laugh from a $45 million dollar jet.
I don't even think calling the police would be in my mind set, just let them walk away with tips from employees as long as it doesn't involve store money then who is really going to care but the ones it was stolen from. It's gone & no one is going to replace it so why bother the police.


deusx, I said that a loss of a full tip jar would only be a *loss* of about $.30/hour from the total. A few weeks ago a customer tipped us $100. Our tip rate only went up from about $2.20 to $2.50 for the week.

I don't live with my parents, actually. I'm fully self-supportive and my tips are pretty much my only spending money that I have for a week. My paycheck goes almost completely to my rent and utilities. If someone stole a tip jar, you'd probably only personally be out about twelve bucks max, and that's if you worked 40 hours that week. Twelve bux out of about $60 - 70 is not enough for me to put my life, and other's lives, on the line. Because lets face it, some people are CRAZY and would kill you for a tip jar. It's just a sad fact.


You know it's not an anonymous internet forum if a troll doesn't show up eventually. Christ.


At one store I worked at, we popped the bottom of the tip jar out, so it was just the 4 walls sitting on the counter. When someone grabs the tip box, coins and bills go flying everywhere! Then to do a tip drop, you just slide the box to the edge of the counter where you have your bag waiting.



As I understand it, the location at 6th and Congress does not have a bottom to their tip plexi, because it's been a recurring problem. This particular customer reached in to grab money, rather than grabbing the jar.

I know the SM personally, and know that she is very supportive of her partners. Given its location, her store is probably the toughest to run in Austin, and she does a great job.


Of course u were reprimanded!...Your GM doesnt see ANY of the tips, so he/she couldnt give a shit about what happens to you. Laura, you r my hero! People @ my store will hear about this.


I totally understand the policies on safety and security of the partners and customers;however, if someone tried to steal our tip jar all of my baristas and customers would be chasing them. To be completely honest I would be right with them. As others have said that money is important to us...but it is not just the money, it is the principle. I know being a shift supervisor I should be going directly by the book, which I do with most things, but when you mess with our tips it gets personal.

Then, of course, after an incident like this my manager would have to give me the "what, what, why". Then in turn I would have to give my baristas the "what, what, why".

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