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Friday, July 27, 2012

Give a barrista a tip and he'll feed his belly; but give him your cocoa remnant, and he'll attain chocolaty bliss

You may remember Bryan Young as the producer and assistant director of "This Divided State" or the author of these great books. He recently told me a story that I think perfectly illustrates the depth of Brother Mitt's frugal, free market compassion. It's the kind of story that could come straight out of the Book of Proverbs (King James Version, of course): "Give a barrista a tip and he'll feed his belly; but give him your cocoa remnant, and he'll attain chocolaty bliss."

Here's what Bryan had to say:
My little brother, Jason Young, told me a shocking true story about Mitt Romney from a while back that I've been holding on to, and every time I read a story about him being out of touch it reminds me of this ridiculous story.

You see, despite my brother's gift for offensive comedy, he has thus far made a living as a barista.

For a long time he worked as a barista at a Seattle's Best in a Borders Bookstore at the mouth of Provo Canyon, deep in Mitt's third or fourth homestate of Utah. Provo Canyon is the major artery that leads to Robert Redford's Sundance Ski Resort, the film festival, and all of the most posh doings in central Utah. At the mouth is a shopping center for the wealthy, the Riverwoods, and it's a stopping point for anyone heading up the canyon. Larry King was a regular. Lindsay Lohan stopped by while she was in rehab and making locals rich. John C. Reilly was sighted at a nearby liquor store, even.

One day in 2010 the baristas were surprised to see Mitt Romney and his wife come to the counter.

Since they're both Mormon, neither ordered a coffee drink. They each ordered a hot chocolate and took them... without tipping. It seemed odd for someone so wealthy not to tip, but no one thought of it as a big deal. Baristas usually make less than minimum wage and make their living on tips. I understand that it's not worth Bill Gates' time to pick up a hundred dollar bill, but Mr. Millionaire couldn't dump his change in the tip jar?

The man was out of touch...

...only they didn't know just how out of touch he was until later.

Romney spent some time in the coffee shop as his wife browsed through books before they were called to leave.

On their way out, Ann throws away her half-consumed hot chocolate, but Mitt approaches the counter. "I know you guys can't sell this again, but I was wondering if one of you guys wanted the rest of my hot chocolate."

"No thanks," one of the other baristas told him, wondering if this was some sort of bizarre joke.

"I don't want to waste it, there's still plenty left, it's still perfectly good..."

According to my brother, Romney seemed genuinely confused by their refusal. His hot chocolate was so good he didn't want to waste it, but it wasn't so good that it was worth tipping those who made it. "I think the important part of this story isn't the tipping," my brother explained. "It's that he doesn't understand that everyone else is throwing their unused drinks away because they understand that it's against social norms. His germs are on it, but somehow, in his mind, his millionaire saliva is good enough that it shouldn't bother a barista of the serving class."

I know it's a small story and anecdotal, but after reading about how consistently out of touch he is with society, I think it's incredibly telling of him. I heard today that his wife's dressage horse is competing in the Olympics. He's got more off-shore bank accounts than most Americans have dollars saved. He's never had to struggle a day in his life.

And here he is, pitying the poor baristas, (but not with tips), not wanting to waste the rest of his glorious hot chocolate, and since it was his, it was good enough for them. And it's economic policies that he's espousing (and, sure, the upheaval in the publishing industry) that later put that Borders out of business and got my brother laid off.

It makes me wonder how many more stories like this are out there. Have they decreased because he's on the campaign trail? Or does he still act just as clueless? Is this his idea of charity.

I don't know.

What I do know is that offering a stranger the rest of your drink, explaining that "it's still good" is incredibly weird and hilarious. And it was so outrageous that my brother would have come home and told me this story regardless of the identity of the culprit.

If anyone offered me the rest of the hot chocolate I made them, I'd assume they were a lunatic.
Bryan Young is an author and the editor of Big Shiny Robot! You can follow him on twitter @swankmotron Go buy his books, dammit.


  1. Anonymous10:59 PM

    Since when do Batistas get tipped. Last time I checked most get paid minimum wage or higher especially working for a seattles best or Starbucks. Sorry I just don't know if I believe any of this and I don't think I've ever seen anyone really tip when I buy coffee maybe except for the spare change they throw into the tip jar. Come on ..

    1. Anonymous12:35 AM

      Please tell me you're kidding. There are tip jars on the counters filled with change, yes, and dollars. When you order a drink you put your change in the jar. When you order drinks for everyone in the office, you put a five in there. If I don't have enough to put SOMETHING in the tip jar, I won't even get a drink bc I'd be too embarrassed. You ALWAYS tip your servers, no matter what it is that they're serving you. You tip the guy who makes your martini, and you tip the guy who makes your grande 2% caramel macchiato. I'm not looking for any kind of argument here, I'm (hopefully) just telling you something that you somehow didn't know. I don't even know anybody who doesn't tip their barista. I have no idea whether this Romney story is true or not, but I DO know that you always tip your server. Always.

    2. Anonymous8:19 AM

      Mitt Romney's economic policies did not put Borders out of business. People buying fewer paper books put Borders out of business... Though technically, yes, the government could subsidize bookstores. Oh wait, it does...they're called libraries. But yes, strange story; though I could see my (depression-era) grandmother doing the same...

  2. Anonymous10:24 AM

    I always leave a tip of at least $1

  3. Anonymous3:51 PM

    If commenter number one has never seen someone tip their barista, that person is an asshole surrounded by assholes. Do you think those are take a dollar leave a dollar jars? wow.

  4. Anonymous6:44 PM

    I'll believe it when I see it. Plenty of stories about Michelle Obama spending $400+ on lunch with friends and not leaving a tip. I'm sure that story is as true as this one! Sensationalism at it's best...good try fella!

  5. Anonymous3:33 PM

    many dumpster divers would reverse the criticism. yea he could have tipped, but acknowledging the idea of not wasting is something most rich people don't give a shit about. why be so offended he wanted to share? you have never eaten a loaf of bread from a bakery dumpster? now who is out of touch....


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.