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 | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


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. elephantjournal says:

    Judgement is healthy, actually. Prejudgement is the problem. And douch-bag is offered with humor (not something positivity types employ). But, thanks, Willow, for your concern.

    Relephant, but not addressed "at" you, this is an ollld blog about prajna, etc: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/11/new-agey-t

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Amen…that's why I also offered "or load up on cash when at the bank." Many of my friends nevvvver use their debit at the grocery, always thinking points or miles, so I tried to address that.

  8. Jean Hehn says:

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

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Wow. You're certainly sounding like one.

    We're all douchebags sometimes. We're all mindful, sometimes. That's the practice. That's the path. None of us are perfect. You clearly don't read elephant, much, if you think this barista has to be perfect to have any insight into anything, or me, or you for that matter. elephant's view, if we have one, is not about being perfect, but about trying to be mindful, with joy. Being mindful or thoughtful, living an examined life, is more fun for all of us, and our planet, than doing otherwise. ~ Waylon Lewis

    PS: Dear anonymous friend: generally, I've appreciated your comments, for what it's worth. Seems you have a low opinion of me…I'll try not to live down to it.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Sorry to have offended, anonymous friend.

    You mean, the mega-corporation program? Be more like Starbucks? Because clearly that's working (for Starbucks).

    ~ Waylon Lewis

  11. Andy says:

    I think even Dot's Diner accepts plastic now. It is the way of the world. Every business, not just mega corps.

  12. Well, I'm definitely not a "positivity type" (as I think you know), and I am certainly not a "new agey" type, even though my birth name might suggest (willow song ~ that's my mom's doing). On the contrary, there are all types of people that read Elephant, including those mentioned above and those that eat meat (myself included), drive cars, don't do yoga and use credit cards to purchase coffee. It is wonderful that there is a forum like this where people can become better informed. But I personally don't see how name-calling in the act of judgment is wisdom in action. Thanks for the deets on Prajna…will have to contemplate this one.

  13. Linda says:

    And I love Sbux too. I go to my local shop as well, wait, sometimes they are closed when I want a caffeinated beverage, and on Sundays. SBUX is a very socially responsible large cap company, don't be so fast to judge them!

    The proprietor can always offer a cash discount. Ask a small business owner: " would they rather have you not buy anything because you don't have cash or do they want you to buy and use plastic?" Studies show, the consumer spends more when using plastic vs cash. Tipping, well that is just a courteous for good and friendly service. We all need to remember, tips are a good part of a barista's wages.

  14. 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.

  15. __MikeG__ says:

    Thanks for making my point for me.

    Does the practice of being mindful also include defensiveness when one is called out on ones bullshit. I notice this silly post is getting quite a bit of blow back.

    Wouldn't it be mindful to examine why this inconsequential post is pissing people off? Wouldn't it be mindful for you to examine the words you write with honesty and a clear eye?

    BTW, you are the one throwing around the word douche bag. Without responding to the argument I or the other posters have made. My opinion of you is informed only by the words you write. Maybe you should be mindful of that.

  16. Bobby says:

    Whoever wrote this sounds like a total douche.

  17. __MikeG__ says:

    Great reply. I am beginning to wonder about Waylon. It seems lately that his posts are along the same lines as this silly little post. Your insight that he maybe be making these ridiculous posts to just stir up controversy makes sense.

    I really hope that is not true. If EJ is to survive in the long term more than just lip service needs to be given to the words "conscious" and ""mindfulness".

    At the very least Waylon would do well to take into account the views of a small business owner such as yourself. He has complained more than once it is hard for him to get sponsors for the site.

  18. elephantjournal says:

    Not talking about whether they accept it…of course just about everywhere does, and ever cafe? Think we're confusing the issue here?

  19. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, lots of things to love about Starbucks over the last few years. Search Starbucks on elephant (search box top left) and you'll find many positive articles written, some by yours truly.

  20. elephantjournal says:

    Nice low blow, anonymous Mike. We get more sponsors than we can handle—of the small, independent variety. We don't have a single ad salesperson, full-time, which is the problem.

    BTW: bye.

  21. elephantjournal says:

    Calling someone using the term "douchebag" humorously, including myself, a douche is irony level 10. Mirrors are cheap.

    *Unless the above was a joke, in which case I surrender. Elephant is yours.

  22. elephantjournal says:

    GKGK, I'm calling myself a dbag, too. We're all dbags when we think only of ourselves, and not the good of others or the planet upon which we depend, aren't we?

    If the only aim of my blog was to stir up controversy, I could cover the Kardashians like every other news outlet. This is a tough, little-examined issue…so thanks for responding with kid gloves.

  23. elephantjournal says:

    If you want to measure the success of a blog, you don't look at comment sections. Trolls live under bridges.

    That said, yes, this blog could be a failure. But I tried.

  24. elephantjournal says:

    You bet. It's a delicate thing. In any case, it was and is meant with humor, and applies to myself equally along with anyone else.

  25. elephantjournal says:

    Nice. Me too, when I do. A buck is a great tip on a 3 buck drink!

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. Lauren says:


  29. elephantjournal says:

    Anonymous friend,

    As for local, you're just being argumentative. Obviously coffee doesn't grow in many climes. So, following "the mindful life," we do our best to support those who are making quality, clean, green, fair-labor product. There's nothing better about local than international. We're not anti-foreigners, for example. We're just trying to be mindful, compassionate, thoughtful with our dollars.

    Non-anonymous Waylon Lewis.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. CDR says:

    The tip is also subject to the CC fees we merchants pay. The tip is much appreciated though 🙂

  33. elephantjournal says:

    Okay, upvote for respectful disagreement!

    I don't think we need to worry about the big banks, they don't need help trickling down on us…just like they did last time 'round?

    And the credit card companies care nothing for the status quo: they only care about tranparency: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/07

    Least we can do: leave the big banks, join your local credit union: <a href="http://www.reddit.com/search?q=credit+cards&sort=top&after=t3_rk3uf&count=25&quot; target="_blank"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.reddit.com/search?q=credit+cards&s…” target=”_blank”>;http://www.reddit.com/search?q=credit+cards&shttp://www.reddit.com/r/occupywallstreet/comments/lxllt/just_canceled_my_boa_credit_card_this_was_the/ <a href="http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/for-those-of-you-who-claim-boycotts-dont-work-bank-of-america-drops-5-debit-fee/&quot; target="_blank"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/for-those-…” target=”_blank”>;http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/for-those-http://www.elephantjournal.com/2008/03/where-should-you-put-your-money/

    Bonus: <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/lg5bm/its_now_illegal_for_residents_in_louisiana_to_use/&quot; target="_blank"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/lg5bm…” target=”_blank”>;http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/lg5bm

  34. 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.

  35. Chris Chouinard says:

    Bye as in this person was banned for the comments they made about this article? If so, bye from me as well.

  36. 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?

  37. emer says:

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

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

  40. 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?

  41. 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.

  42. __MikeG__ says:

    What you call a colloquialism is in reality just a schoolyard insult. If I started this post by using some "colloquialism" about you would your opinion of the use of "colloquialisms" change?

    I read comments by two other small business owners who have differing opinions as to the place and the amount of fees charged than you. Doesn't make your statements wrong but it does show that the issue is not as cut and dried as you have made it out to be.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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!

  46. 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.

  47. elephantjournal says:

    We've one a few interesting articles on the health benefits, and side effects, of coffee, that you might find interesting: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/01/coffee-the

  48. elephantjournal says:

    I agree on your first point—in my conversation with the barista I urged him/her to simply institute the common "no credit card below $5" rule. He explained that the ownership was scared to do this financially, didn't want to lose customers. So on that point, it's the ownership's responsibility to navigate the customer's needs. But generally, if we can, below say $3, cash is something to try to use. If we need to use our card, tip reasonably well. Pretty simple.

    And again, the whole douchebag phrase is pretty common among, well, people who don't live in yoga studios. Not addressing this to you, just generally. It was meant (mostly) humorously, and directed equally at myself.

  49. elephantjournal says:

    Mike G, you forgot to troll this positive comment.

  50. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, me too! That was sorta the point—to poke fun and take some blame on ourselves, and mostly to learn about something we may not have thought about. I guess in our entitled, customer-is-always-right culture, that doesn't go over well with all.