If you use your credit card for coffee, you’re a douche-bag.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Aug 26, 2012
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How to be a Conscious Consumer on your daily Coffee run.

If you use your credit card at a local, indie cafe for a purchase under $5, you’re a douche-bag like many of us. Here’s some info about what happens when we use our credit cards for small purchases.

This blog comes out of a dialogue with a local barista who’s really worked up about a subject that most of us don’t think about at all. So hopefully, if we read, and share this post, and add ideas in comments, we can help to fix this blind spot.

1. When people use credit cards, according to our cafe source, people tip less—generally baristas make $20-40 less per shift than they used to when credit cards weren’t allowed.

2. When we use our credit cards, we’re giving a cut of our purchase to support multinational corporations (not all are bad, but Visa, Mastercard are all making money off of us all day already, thank you. And the huge banks were, remember, involved in our last economic downfall) instead of our independent, character-full local businesses.

3. Remember: the café has to pay not only a credit card fee, but a fee to a middleman credit card transactions processing company.

4. We’re not keeping our money local. Why’s that matter, beyond guilt and fear? It’s in our own self-interest to support our community, jobs. The more money kept locally the more businesses can support our tax base, which equals parks, safe streets etc. for us. More taxes from business theoretically equals fewer increases in property taxes. More, better independent, shops have more character and keep more jobs locally—making for communities we want to live in and enjoy.

5. Independent shops have a reputation for being pricier. Many cafés will have to raise prices to make up for losses, instead of keeping prices low.

Protip: Get cash back at the grocery, or pick up enough cash at your bank.


And here’s our solution—I thought about this without any help from Jeanne.

If your concern is getting points or miles, encourage your favorite café to offer a Loyal Patron Card for Cash Users: buy 10 cups with cash, get your 11th free. This will help the cafe attract and keep more loyal patrons and give said patrons an incentive, beyond typical liberal guilt or fear-mongering.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom


88 Responses to “If you use your credit card for coffee, you’re a douche-bag.”

  1. Tamara says:

    I tip a buck a cup and i use my card. Thmpff! 😉

  2. While I agree with the sentiments of the article, can Elephant shy away from judgment and using words like douche-bag to do so? Informing is empowering, but name calling is not. Thanks.

  3. pushbuttonkitty says:

    the thing is, to get cash back you'd have to be using a debit card. i use my credit card because i don't have cash available in my bank account, and i'm not taking out a loan from my credit card company just so i can pay in cash when i buy coffee. but i always, always tip, probably more when i use plastic than when i use cash. if i only have a loose one dollar bill leftover for a tip that's what they're going to get. if i'm using plastic, i have more leeway to tip more.

  4. deleted3199113 says:

    Does the barista who inspired this article use equipment made from organic cotton grown in his/her back yard?

    What? No?

    So it is ok to use equipment made by a corporation, serving people who mostly earn their livings directly or indirectly from corporations after said barrista commuted to work in/on a vehicle manufactured by a corporation?

    I've noticed that the lens used by Waylon to view an issue often times is extremely selective. The more Waylon makes these silly posts the more I come to believe this conscious consumerism label is just self aggrandizement.

    Maybe instead of all the equipment EJ uses to publish these articles, equipment made by corporations, EJ should plant a forest of organically grown trees to use as fuel for smokes signals in order to disseminate these messages.

    But what do I know? Waylon probably thinks of me as a douchebag anyway.

  5. Andy says:

    Give me a break. This is a douchey article. We're becoming a paperless society, have been for a while. The tip % thing is pure speculation. Little coffee shops need to get with the program.

  6. Jean Hehn says:

    Yeah…. I’m not liking the name calling….

  7. GKGK says:

    I'm still stuck on being called a douchebag for using my credit card to buy coffee at an independent shop. Seriously? If a place doesn't take a card I just won't go there. I am not going to carry cash just in case I want a coffee. I have a small retail shop and not accepting credit cards or asking people to pay cash is asinine. All your article did was place independent retailers in a poor light, implying that we may even think for one millisecond that credit card users are douchebags. People can use any credit card they want in my shop. I pay the fees because it means that they are buying something from me and not from someone else.
    Oh, and if your only aim with this article was to stir up commentary and controversy it's even more lame that I thought.

  8. Bobby says:

    Whoever wrote this sounds like a total douche.

  9. thoreau2 says:

    1. I don't tip. Let the coffee shop owner charge a fair price and pay a living wage.

    2. So it's ok to have money in the bank, just not use a bank card?

    3. But the coffee shop saves on time to make deposits, roll change, count cash, and loses less money is incorrect change given.

    4. Local? How local are those coffee beans used to make that cup of joe?

    5. Let them raise their prices. My home brew cost less than 60 cents per cup.

  10. Lauren says:

    Oh, people. Accept a joking prod for what it's worth, and move on. I, too, have been a douchebag.
    The real point, though, is that your money goes to your card company and the I termediary processing company when you use it – when you use cash, it all goes to your local shop.

  11. Denise says:

    Why do I have to be judgemental in that it is 'best' that my money goes to my 'local' shop rather than a card company. There are also some humans working in the card company who have lives and kids and using my card will help in the sustenance of their lives. So I don't complicate life by trying to fall into a 'righteous' category, every action done with unattachment to what is right and wrong serves a purpose. And if on a certain day I use my card then so be it, I will be helping in that instant to keep that company afloat and pay the wages of some human souls. That's ok with me.

  12. Andy A. says:

    I'm liking the technique of using a strong term to get my attention, then making a good point about where my and a local shop's money is going when using plastic for small purchases. Not getting distracted by the methods of seducing readers (which are hilarious and necessary), the point of the article and what it catalyzes in thought and action is the main point here.

  13. Your Aunty says:

    I don't mind being a douche bag. Whenever there's a tip jar, I use it. My tips are very generous. Basically, that's the only thing I carry cash for anymore.

  14. monika says:

    …or instead of fighting against the tidal wave of personal digital preferences… wishing for the old way back…(atm visits and paper money–no thanks) the productive emphasis could be on the next step to do better…. i.e. bitcoin?

  15. emer says:

    What is a ‘douchebag’? We don’t have them in Ireland or maybe we call them something else. Tobye – any thoughts?

  16. bikesandmath says:

    Interesting, I didn't find this article offensive at all. In fact, I agree totally with it. Both my parents have small businesses and credit card fees are quit high. The tip thing also makes sense as I don't always tip as much when I do use my credit card. I always assumed most people felt bad on days they didn't have enough cash for a $3.25 cup of coffee! I always feel like a douche when I do it!

  17. Douche-bag debate aside, this is really a big deal. I can take credit cards as an independent massage therapist, but I don't like to see that much of my fee chewed up going to the credit card companies. Same with local businesses & vendors at the farmers' market–I have huge respect for some of our local restaurants that still only take cash. It's a given these days that you can and should use your credit card/debit card for everything. Most people don't consider how much it costs small businesses. Even some larger local businesses can't afford to accept AMEX because their fees are insane!

    Whether you want to say douche-bag, or jerk, or skip name-calling and just inform people, it's important to be mindful about how you can keep money in your local economy and support small businesses.

  18. MamaT says:


    Every single one of you that are flapping about the word douchebag…..

    You’ve never, EVER, used a colloquialism that may or may not be appropriate?

    And have any of you owned and/or operated a small business? Have you watched in fright as the small amount of income gets chipped away as banks and credit card companies along with the million and 7 processing “people” place a greedy palm into the meager compensation you’ve earned? That compensation, which at the end of the day is divided by 24 actual hours of work, only to add up to an hourly wage that no person should legally be allowed to attempt to survive on?

    Trust this:

    Those who say the tiny business should get with the times and just accept credit cards? We have no choice in this matter if we want to be able to pay te business bills. Not our personal bills…just cover expenses of the business. Who among you have been an actual small business and cringed and fist pumped all at the same time seeing that brightly colored piece of plastic come across the counter as form of payment for your hard work?

    Now tell me who among you haven’t muttered under your breath…or out loud even….something that is less than “yogic”? In response to any situation. Not just this particular scenario.

    I stand behind every letter of this blog post. And as a yogi, a female, a small business owner, I think this message should be shouted from the rooftop.

    Waylon, keep doing what you do. You’re fighting the good fight. People will hate because they have nothing better to do. What ever happened to the idea that if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your douchebag mouth shut?

  19. snowy1 says:

    What about the social etiquette and the time it takes for you to purse fumble for your credit card, enter your PIN, wait for the store-copy receipt and sign. It's just rude from a "you're-wasting-everyone's-time-here-move-on!". I know what my coffee is going to cost before I get there and typically have the *exact* change (+ tip, if applicable) counted out. I don't think it's asking much to have $2-4 on you for coffee and to KEEP THE LINE MOVING! people need to get back to their offices and on with their lives. I wonder how many people standing in those jammed up coffee lines think about the next guy and try and show some courtesy.

  20. Jn says:

    Um, if card based payment is worse than cash for the business, then the business owner should make that call. He or she is in the best position to make the trade off, not some person walking in to buy a cup of coffee.

    Also, if you really want me to pay cash, then please don’t charge a price that, when taxes, means I either need to carry around a change purse or get a pocketful of dirty coins back. Coffee shops are the worst at this.

  21. bobcat says:

    Coffee makes us productive but the accumulative side effects are harming. I like going to a coffee shop because it's my local hangout. I tip well because I sit there, read newspaper or a book and talk to people (but I rarely drink coffee). Those baristas definitely deserve some tips. They meet, greet, smile, remember my name and create a friendly atmosphere. Some of them remember my usual non-coffee drink. If I don't have cash that day I come back and tip them double the next. At the end of the day (and life) it's not about who make how much money but how we touch each other. If a dollar tip shows my appreciation for my fellow human I have no problem troubling myself carrying cash.

  22. Karen says:

    Well done for raising the thought in people’s minds of the small but significant effect of using credit cards instead of cash. As a small business owner myself I see the bank’s take add up over time. I don’t penalise people for using credit. We’re trying to make it easy for you the customer to buy from us. So pay us anyway you want … cash, card, small children, but on the days it makes no difference to you convenience wise, we appreciate the cash!

  23. Kathy says:

    Chastising Waylon for letting the barista use the word "douchebag" is childish. What happened to Free Speech? Second, as a previous owner of a coffee shop for 7 years, tips are "appreciated" NOT "expected". If the owner paid the barista a fair wage, increased prices to cover such increase and put up a sign saying "We do not accept tips, have a nice day", I think everyone would come out ahead. I have had to manage folks that complain that they didn't get the good tip shifts and they won't work as hard or be in as good a mood on that "bad" tip shift. My advice to any barista who likes to complain about not getting good tips is to be appreciative that you have a job or go start your own coffee shop and see how hard it is to make EVERYONE happy all the time. In the meantime, do the best you can to support local business no matter how you pay.

  24. LynnBonelli says:

    I understand and appreciate the information being presented about simply staying informed with regards to what happens when you use your credit card (and I suppose you mean debit card as well since I think that's what many of us are doing). However, I don't understand why it's okay to use it at the grocery store to get cash back but not at Starbucks (or whatever coffee shop you choose to buy from). Doesn't the same thing happen at the grocery store? Especially if one buys from a local grocer? I would highly recommend that places like Bux start printing their cc receipts the same way that restaurants do…with a tip line included so the consumer at least has the option of stiffing the barista or not. And while I know that this is an article to support consciousness of our actions, IF I happen to be on the road, and all the cash I have on me is $5 to pay the bridge toll AND I could really use a coffee to make it home, I'm going to use my debit card. I will not drive around burning fossil fuels to find an ATM that won't charge me $2.00 in fees so I can buy a $5 coffee.

  25. LynnBonelli says:

    BTW, as a former waitress I can empathize with the baristas who rely on their tips (although I know Bux employees make more per hour than waitresses) but I tip on the quailty of service given…which really seems to be lacking at many establishments lately. Also, when I have to stand in line, order my drink, stand in another line to pick it up it's a far cry from being 'waited on'. I don't tip the guy at the deli counter who takes my order, slices some cheese for me and tells me to 'have a nice day…

  26. Olive Tree says:

    I agree with some of the other posters here: did we really need to be insulted to learn about the downside of using a credit card? Sometimes that's all I've got in my wallet when I go in for a coffee. What's better? Buying something from my local coffee house or skipping it because I'm short the cash.

  27. jcn says:

    I am very grateful for this post.

    I own a small retail establishment with 26 employees. Each year we spend over $50,000 in credit card fees. This amount would allow us to provide one or more jobs with benefits to local workers, or it would give us more money to reinvest in our community – we normally give about $10,000 to local non-profits per year. Instead the money goes to big banks, who have us all wrapped around their fingers.

    Why are we so accepting of the world "going paperless" with the costs going into raising retail prices to consumers and even more profits to corporations? Why aren't more people resisting the credit card industry and sticking with cash or barter or local currencies? Yet one more place where we screw ourselves over for the sake of convenience. And those cards with "points" are the worst, as they cost the most to retail stores, so basically the places you shop will raise their prices and you will spend more to get "rewards", when the real rewards go to the credit card companies.

  28. Martin Murphy says:

    The challenge here is that the monetary system as is, is the actual challenge. Whether it be CC's, money in major banks. The sentiment is to get local. We are in a transition phase of human evolution where we are the ones who have to adapt. Certain areas in the UK are experimenting and using community money. If you want to keep money local move away from corprotocracy of any kind. Also, don't be pointing fingers, be the change. As Buckminster Fuller epsoused, 'Don't fight the existing reality, create a new one that makes the old one obselete.' …Perhaps? :)

  29. Ann says:

    My neighborhood snowcone vendor (small business) accepts only cash. If a small business does not want to incur the cost of processing credit/debit card transactions, then they should not. Thereby the credit/debit card industry would be duly pressured to make their service more affordable to small businesses. Many businesses set a minimum purchase for card payments. Small businesses just like consumers can vote with their dollars. I know I still go for snowcones knowing that I’ve got to have cash on hand, but when I forget my neighborhood small business just says, pay me next time. :)

  30. @chrishough says:

    How about having them change their old POS Systems to use Square. They would have an immediate savings + the streamlined tip interface would yield more tips overall.

  31. […] that wasn’t the Universe talking to me? I can go on with my life enjoying my morning coffee, or I can recognize that I’m part of that conversation and sit with that biker’s […]

  32. Vanessa says:

    I, for one, welcome your use of douchebag. For the past year I've seen far too much of you …traipsing about in your underwear, squatting on a rock looking vaguely pouty, and way to many times looking ironically lost. Your words never cease and obviously you don't edit your own work well. So yes, by all means call me a douchebag. I feel exactly the same way about you. Grow up Waylon, you're always trolling for hits and a provocative title will certainly generate hits. But there is no there there.

  33. […] first one isn’t engaging in comment wars on the internet. It probably has more to do with letting go of anger. Or being grateful. Or being compassionate to […]

  34. Angie says:

    Dear Barista person who inspired this article:
    I am 98.6% sure who you are, and I would like to help you in case enough people don't switch back to cash in the meantime.
    Tips on getting tips:
    1. Smiles. Genuine smiles. If you can't be genuine, learn now to fake it or learn it and really feel it.
    2. Gratitude even before gratuity. Shed some of that anger. I think it'll feel better overall. I personally have a resistance to tipping you – ever – after the lecture I got once. But, I probably will at some point for the sake of personal growth.
    3. Stop giving the lecture on how much it costs per cup of coffee to use your credit card. It just makes people feel bad and doesn't promote good feelings which promote TIPS! And, I'm curious about the integrity of your info.
    4. Talk to the owner about having people sign their credit card slips. This is HUGE! It feels really awkward for most to speak how much they want to tip as you're ringing them up.
    5. Maybe consider another line of work or use this problem to create an opportunity for you. How else can you solve it? Could you educate people even more or in a more constructive way? Like – get the real facts and post it places. I am sure you have some good ideas.
    6. Good luck.
    Speaking of real facts – does anyone have them? I want to know if business at small businesses increases with the use of cards, stays the same, or decreases. And – what's up with the $5 minimum? I was under the impression that you pay a percentage of sales.

  35. ann says:

    read through a fraction of these comments until i just couldn't take it anymore…for crying out loud! this is a thoughtful article with well-made points across the board. i've worked in coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, and i assure you, if people don't carry cash, they tip less. and whether we like it or not, the united states functions for the most part as a service-oriented society – ergo, we tip. we tip cabbies, hair stylists, even the guy who carries our luggage to our room. it's how it works. we get all our lovely cheap commodities, employers pay crap to their employees, who in turn continue to provide service with a smile because maybe they can compensate for their sorry wages with our tips. try buying a beer in paris or zurich and see how cheap it is. no – they don't tip – because employers pay their staff more, so they charge more. different economic system. guess what? the staff don't smile as much either, and the customer is most certainly NOT always right. and those banks making billions off of us every year are spending a good portion of that money on things many of us most certainly do not support (think small arms trade, for example). what a lot of hate for a piece that actually gave a lot of good info…please keep 'em coming, waylon.

  36. Natali_78 says:

    Totally agree. Consumer debt is just huge because people use credit cards everywhere. Paying for coffee with a credit card is a strange thing. I would allow that only if I had absolutely no cash in my wallet and paying with a card would be the last resort. Paying for coffee can not be serious reson to make a debt, it's better to use card for more important and expensive purchases. But there are people who even apply for immediate loans till payday to go to restaurant to get a few drinks. As for the tips, when you pay with card you leave people lesser tips. So I think that it's not worth to use credit cards in some occasions. Financial products like credit cards are intended for more important occasions.

  37. This website really has all the info I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  38. strangegrapes says:

    I suspect your friend's real issue is that she would rather have the higher tips from people paying cash. This is fine but the owner has deemed it a good trade off to accept credit cards which brings in more people and helps keep the place open. And really, the rest of the stuff about credit cards is rather silly. See, when a business provides a service they don't do it just out of the goodness of their heart–not the bank, not the credit card processor, and not the shop owner. If there wasn't a bit of profit somewhere, the service would go away. Further, the money really does not leave the local economy just because it isn't physical bits of paper and metal being handed over (provided this is a locally owned shop), it's just moved around electronically with the bulk of it going back to the shop owner who then pays expenses and whatnot. Yes, there is a much more involved explanation but this is wordy enough.

    On a side note, I would hope the owner is setting prices according to what it really costs to provide the service. I think most people will happily support a somewhat more expensive local business rather than a corporation, provided it is for a quality product and nice people who aren't shooting them dirty looks for pulling out plastic.

    Btw, I don't really care if you use the term douche-bag (my 2 cents on that bit of silliness).

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