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Omnivore - The tip thing...again

Why do some get tipped and others don't?

Image I might as well move into the back of some store at Ansley Mall. My gym — the LA Fitness with no air conditioning in the locker room — is there. I do a lot of my writing at Starbucks. And lately when I want a cookie or a salad, I grab something at the new Panera Bread there.

Tipping at Starbucks can be difficult for regulars. Yes, there's a tip jar, but I use their "gold card" whose frequent use earns me free drinks, but there's no convenient way to tip with it. Ditto for credit and debit cards. Unlike restaurants, the receipts include no place to add a tip. I rarely carry cash, so I feel constantly guilty.

Panera is even worse. There's not even a tip jar there. I asked an employee working the register a few days ago what the deal was. She explained that they are not allowed to accept tips. "It's corporate policy," she said. What bullshit. Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt Panera is paying its employees very well. And there is a jar by the cash register for contributions to a charitable cause.

I suppose this is par for the fast-food course and, as always, some will argue that Panera employees don't provide "real" table service. But neither does the staff at, say, Eats. Nor is there table service at Starbucks. What makes the difference?