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@@ “Seminary Students are Self Absorbed Pricks” @@

Ok … so I just got back from a coffee shop.  The guy working was telling me he had a bad day, so I asked why.  He began to tell me about a large group of seminary students who came into the coffee shop and hung out for several hours and ordered several drinks.  He complained that, as usual, they didn’t leave a tip.  He went on to say that when he was hired, he was told not to expect tips from seminary students.  In addition to already having a bad reputation for not tipping well in restaurants, Seminary Students, in his opinion, are also the most notorious of all subgroups in America for never tipping in coffee shops.  

So … he concluded, and I quote, “Seminary students are a bunch of self-absorbed pricks.”  What do you think?



  1. Bill says:

    Let’s be honest… some seminary students lack social and common graces because some humans lack social and common graces… I hope as they grow in the Lord they will recognize that the world doesn’t owe them anything and they should never ask for the pastoral discount from a store… if anything, they should exemplify overtipping as a sign of God’s abundant grace toward us.

  2. […] “Are seminary students self-absorbed pr**ks?’ December 17, 2008 More evidence that Christians (especially learned ones!) are bad tippers, who make a bad impression publicly, from Theophilogue. […]

  3. […] like the perspective of an outsider to give us pause.  Over at Theophilogue, Brad reports an encounter with a coffee shop […]

  4. They also tend to be impoverished — although, in that case, why don’t they make their own coffee?

  5. Mike says:

    oh man, that breaks my heart. i’m a phd student at university and all the divinity school students on campus absolutely hate the students at the neighboring sbc seminary. it’s taken me all semester to get some of them to even chat with me because i’m southern baptist. i finally asked one of my friends what the problem was with students at the seminary and he said something like, “well, for starters, they don’t care about any dialogue whatsoever. they just want to argue or try to save us so they can get quotas for their apologetics and evangelism classes.” others have told me that every conversation with them quickly heads toward a heated argument.

    dude, i can’t afford to tip right now, so i don’t go to places where a tip is appropriate. i guess that’s just me.

    i can say, however, that midwestern baptist seminary students have a great reputation in kansas city. many of their kids go to a neighboring elementary school, and seminary students are very active volunteers there (including me and my wife when were in k.c.!). plus, some of the local companies give preference to hiring mbts students because they have the best attitudes and work ethics. very different than other evangelical schools!

  6. Jason says:

    Mike, how many seminary students has your friend tried to dialogue with? There are lots of us! It is sad, however, that the divinity students there hate us. Hate is a strong word, and if it is a true description, I’m not sure what kind of dialog your friend is expecting.


  7. Jason says:

    Oops! Wrong city and seminary! Thought you were referring to the one I attend. However, the main point still holds true. 🙂

  8. Brian says:

    As a Christian and a seminary student this story makes me sad… but does not surprise me.

    As an undergrad student I interned at a church and worked at a restaurant. As I worked at that restaurant I was shocked to see how many Christians treated the wait staff. Many of my co-workers dreaded Sunday afternoons when all the Christians would come after church. I observed along with them that many Christians were more demanding, less courteous and BAD tippers… a number of my coworkers received tracts that looked like money as a tip (with no real money) while I worked there. As a Christian who was trying to witness to my coworkers I was often embarrassed by this.

    I hope that maybe more Christians are starting to wise-up to this reputation will start being know as generous people.

  9. Bradley,

    I do understand not all seminary students can afford to leave a tip at a restaurant. The sad thing is some are able to do but generally dont do it.

  10. Steve says:

    Charging $2 for coffee and then expecting a tip is what requires self-absorption.

  11. Conibear Trapp says:

    I once heard Chuck Swindoll say that if a Christian cannot afford to leave an appropriate tip at a restaurant, then he shouldn’t go. I think this is good advice for the coffee shop as well.

    I can’t buy the argument that they cannot afford the tip. If they don’t have the money for the tip, then why are they spending $4 or better on a cup of coffee? Just go to the convenience store or make your own.

  12. theophilogue says:

    1. Regular coffee is only $1.67 at Starbucks, so while it’s not cheap, it’s still not $3 to $4.00.

    2. The relative difference in funds between Seminary Students and other subcultures is a relevant factor to the discussion. How much do they have to give compared to other subcultures in America? Are there other subcultures who are just as poor but still give more and don’t have the negative stigma in restaurants and coffee shops? These are important questions.

    3. How does one judge the relative legitimacy of expectation on behalf of a barista to receive a tip? Everyone is conscious of the need to tip at a restaurant, so there’s no excuse there. But tipping in coffee shops may be less demanded depending on the relative pay of a barista. In other words, waiters make 2-3 an hour, and actually depend on tips. But do barista’s? What are they paid? Are they only paid $2-3 an hour?

    4. Perhaps more is expected of Christians, thus when college students, for example, another poor subculture of people in America, don’t tip, it’s not considered as much of a crime. Are Christians are held to higher standards in the eyes of the barista?

    5. Perhaps the most disturbing accusation is the one that Christians tend to be demanding and rude in addition to not leaving good tips. It’s one thing to be poor, and quite another to be demanding and rude. There is not excuse for that.


  13. Just a some thoughts on the issue. I have worked as a waiter for Ruby Tuesday in college and J. Alexander’s while in seminary. In general students are not the best tippers at restaraunts which is understandable due to their financial constraints. As mentioned in an earlier post waiters receive $2-3 an hour. If I remember correctly I got $2.15 an hour so I depended highly on tips to make my earnings. Here’s the reality and I might step on some toes here but….Baristas don’t depend on tips to make their wages! They get paid minimum wage at least. If baristas do depend on tips then they should switch to serving tables. Now I am not saying that this should excuse people from tipping at coffee shops but in this case it is definitely more so a matter of grace than for a waiter. I’m not a huge coffee drinker but I do on occasion order hot chocolate and no I don’t tip. In the case of the person that Brad was referring to I would more than likely tip him since the people who ordered “hung out for several hours and ordered several drinks.”

    Below are some possible times when a tip may deem appropriate in a coffee shop:

    1)If I’m ordering a personally specialized coffee then a tip may be appropriate in this case. This actually could make for a good relationship between you and the barista if you order enough he/she could already start making it for you before you ask. A tip…oh yes appropriate. Gospel opportunities here…

    2)If you are in a big enough group and want to show your thanks.

    3)If you are waiting in line and you see that they are busy and/or if you can tell whether or not the barista is frustated, which I have seen on occasion.

    4)If you are ordering a number of drinks at once.

    5)If it’s Christmas… My wife and I tip at least 20% most times more when we eat out. During holiday seasons we try to tip even more. For coffee shops I would tip more than usual and if you don’t normally tip then I would go ahead and tip anyways.

    Students are definitely some of the subgroups in America, which include Christians. Should Christians tip more…maybe…if they have enough to tip and they should in proportion to the type of dinner ($) they are getting. If you can’t afford to tip at Ruth’s Chris then settle for Outback.

    Now on Christian’s attitudes (restaurants and coffee shops) it is one of the most disturbing and frustrating things to see especially working on a Sunday when Christians come with horrible and demanding attitudes. It totally ruins a Christians testimony not necessarily to me but to my unsaved co-workers. There have been times I’ve wanted to publicly rebuke people but of course never have at least in the context of work.

    Although it is debatable whether Christians should be held at a higher standard for tipping at coffee shops there certainly should be a higher standard for a Christians attitude toward those who are serving themin both the context of coffee shops and restaurants. It is representative of Christ’s love.

    Whoops…sorry I didn’t mean to make this so long.

  14. Sorry guys a couple of corrections I meant to say students are definitely on the poorer side of subcultures and when I was referring to Sunday I meant specifically when they come in the restaurant after church.

  15. Louis says:

    I used to work at a coffee shop. I remember one time when a group of black people showed up and stayed a long time, left a big mess, and didn’t leave a tip.
    This just goes to show you that black people are messy and are bad tippers.
    oh, wait… was that inappropriate? that’s right… we can stereotype seminary students and label them all as we please, but we can’t do that with any other group.
    Wake up people and smell the stereotyping and prejudice… i mean… coffee!

  16. theophilogue says:

    HA! Great point Louis.

  17. tj says:

    I have heard this argument in a number of settings. My guess is I know the shop and the barista, and frankly think he needs to get over it, but to the point…

    A caveat or two: I tip, fairly well and somtimes very well at coffee shops. I probably do it motivated by guilt or some unspoken/unseen sense of pressure.

    The last time I heard this argument play out I thought about it a lot because I hadn’t ever really tipped at coffee shops before and I certainly didn’t want to be a bad witness, come off like an ungrateful jerk, or whatever else not tipping a barista implies. End result, I now tip at coffee shops.

    As I processed the issue though, I couldn’t help but think of my ice cream “barista” at Dairy Queen. Why didn’t I tip him/her? They do such a good job of carefully blending my ice cream and heath crunch. Their skill at using that cool blender that reminds me of a boat prop is always impressive. They are so skillful in their work they even deliver it to me upside down with great flare and elan. I am confident that these workers are paid very little, probably minimum wage or there abouts. So, why don’t I tip them? Is what they do that different from my faithful coffee server? (Certainly not at SB’s where it’s simply about pushing a button or two). BTW, if a get a latte at McD’s, I probably won’t tip either. I guess I don’t tip in these places, because it’s not expected. There is not some unwritten, moral imperative that indicates that a lack of tip means a callous, uncaring heart. It is a part of the chic coffee culture, so apparently we will have to deal with it. Better coffee (or ice cream?) + cool environment + indie music = you better tip. So, I guess, if I want a really good coffee (local not national) then I’ll bow to the pressure, show the love and drop my tip. If I can afford the cup, I can afford the change.

    BTW, unrelated to that above, if you go to a restaurant, cafe, or shop and take up space for an extended period of time which might result in other customers not coming in or not spending as much, then you should tip to help compensate. In that scenario it is the only classy thing to do.

  18. theophilogue says:

    Well … looks like tj has spoken the final, definitive word on this post. Great thoughts from everyone. My conscience has truly been better informed by this discussion.


  19. quadzero says:

    I am intimately familiar with the need of tips. My mother needed tips for our family to survive when I was a child. My eldest son has waited on tables since high school and has many stories of how “Sunday People” can be the rudest people. I have had jobs where I tips needed to make a difference.

    There is only one point in this discussion. Christian People must represent the Lord Jesus well.

    Seminarians in particular (I attended MBTS in KC as well) must not provide an easy excuse for others to blaspheme God. “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

    Consider what Paul wrote:

    Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:9-21

  20. theophilogue says:


    I believe we are all in agreement that we must all represent the Lord Jesus well. What we are trying to determine at this point is whether that necessarily means coffee baristas who don’t rely on tips for their wage (that is … they get paid at least minimum wage, but most frequently far above minimum wage, and their wage is thus never ‘dependent’ on tips), whether such coffee baristas have the right to expect tips from everyone in the same way that waiters and waitresses do. If it is unreasonable for them to expect such tips, then the Christian shouldn’t necessarily be shamed for not giving them. If such tips are reasonable to “expect” (not just hope for) then Christians, it seems to me, should be ashamed for being so abnormal in the tipping culture by not tipping when everyone else does.



  21. quadzero says:

    Thanks for the clarification. Personally, I love my coffee (I take mine black) you make a valid point about our place within the culture.

    I certainly do not want to take pride in being “Odd for God” but it certainly is my aspiration to “winsomely different” what I wish the barista, waiter, or the convenience store clerk to say “I wish more people were like him” who knows if we ever might get an opportunity to share why we are eternally grateful that Christ has redeemed our wrecked and ruined life.

    Again, the Great Apostle Paul:

    For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

    “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
    and sing to your name.”

    And again it is said,

    “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

    And again,

    “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples extol him.”

    And again Isaiah says,

    “The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
    in him will the Gentiles hope.”

    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

    Romans 15:8-13

  22. Drew says:

    I have often wondered what the “tipping” policy is for coffee shops? Anyone want to lay down what is appropriate.

    I don’t have a lot of money but I generally tip when I order something that takes work to make–i.e. a latte or a mocha or some such drink where the barista has to do some work. Or if I order something that they have to heat up and bring out to me then I tip.

    If I just order coffee that they already have made and they just pour it in a cup and hand it to me, I generally don’t tip. If they give me coin change back, I’ll put the change if its significant (50-75 cents) in the jar. If you use the same rules you would at a restaurant, 15-20% tip, 50 to 75 cents on a $2.50 drink is more than fair. If I order something that takes more work, then I tip $1.

    I doubt that these seminary students are trying to be cheap they probably just don’t see Coffee shops as a necessary place to tip. If I am honest part of the reason I often tip at the coffee shop I go to is because they know I am a pastor there and I want to build relationships with them for the sake of the gospel.

    Anyway, just thought I would ask what proper coffee shop tipping is?

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