Regulars at a Starbucks in Jackson, Michigan, show their appreciation to their baristas through a collective tip. This year, they gave $1900, along with a rousing rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
The gift has become a Christmastime ritual for an informal group of friends who call themselves the “Jackson Starbucks Board of Directors.” They’ve pooled their money for the last four years to express their appreciation for the welcoming spirit they’ve encountered over the past year.
Their four-year annual ceremony consists of handing over an envelope with a card and cash, and then singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” In 2013, the first year of the yuletide offering, there was $400 in the envelope from four contributors. The next year, eight people put in $100 apiece. Last year, the envelope was packed with $1300. And this year, the tip grew to $1900.
Bill Schlecte, a 69-year-old attorney who participated in the ceremony from the start, said the effort has taken on a life of its own through the years.
“I don’t have to twist anyone’s arm or anything like that,” said Schlecte, who comes in mornings around 7:30 and settles in with his fellow "Board" members at a table in the back. “Most of the people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Bill, we understand you’re doing this thing at Christmastime. Can I get in on the action?’”
All but five of this year’s 19 contributors were present at 8:30 a.m. (on December 21) when a noticeably heavy envelope was handed to Kisha Tyronce, a shift supervisor who has been at the Starbucks® store since it opened nine years ago.
“It was all cash – hundreds and twenties,” said barista Allison Lahrman, who, like Tyronce, teared up at the generosity of the customers. “Also, knowing that our store manager, Leslie Purucket, can’t take tips, they got her gift cards to one of her favorite restaurants in town. Honestly, it’s made everyone at the store feel so valued and so appreciated. We see these people every day, multiple times a day. We know their names. We know their families. They’re like another family that you get to see every day when you come to work.”
Schlecte said his group recognizes the extra gestures the staff makes, whether it’s turning down overhead music to suit their preferences or getting started on their preferred drinks when they see them coming.
“They’re great, great people,” said Schlecte. “Every one of them. You could take every great adjective and apply it to them. They’re friendly, they smile, they work hard. When they’re on a break, we invite them to sit down at the table and have a conversation. They know all of us by name. I’d say every one of the 19 people who contributed this year, they could tell you their first names. We absolutely adore them.”
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