A hypothetical situation: You’re visiting a nice coffee shop in a different city, and you get recognised as a coffee person. You’ve queued up and you’ve got your $3 in hand ready to pay for your coffee. Instead your barista, seeing as you’re industry, gives you the coffee for free. You do what you think is the honourable thing and you put your $3 in the tip jar – you’re trying to be a good person (and you don’t want to look cheap…).
Now imagine a slightly different situation: this time the barista takes your money, but doesn’t ring the drink into the till and when you’re not looking just puts the cash in the tip jar.
The second one of these feels quite explicitly like theft, an employee diverted money from the business into their own pockets. Yet in both situations the business, the barista and the customer are in identical financial positions. You could argue that the intention of the barista wasn’t to pocket the cash when they comped the drink, just to offer some nice hospitality, and I completely side with the baristas that have kindly offered me drinks for free over the years. I just looked at these scenarios and could help but notice that financially the situations are pretty much identical.
The employee’s decision to comp a drink prevented the business from earning money. There is one situation in which this is ok – where there is an explicit and clear policy for comping drinks on a bar, but I don’t think nearly as many businesses have these as they do have staff who give things away.
Let me be absolutely clear: I am not calling baristas who comp drinks thieves. That would be ludicrous. I actually believe this is a flaw in the operations practices of many businesses, and just something I thought would make for a fun discussion. The only ones who deserve any blame are those who fail to set proper policies for this sort of thing within a business.