Letter to Barnes & Noble

Dear Barnes or Noble,

I’m not sure which of you will read this first, so I ask the one who does to inform the other. I ask this, because I cannot be sure which of you instituted the ban on baristas receiving tips, and to whom I should address my letter.

Earlier today I found myself in one of your stores1, looking for a copy of some book that you obviously do not stock. Convinced that I had to be mistaken, and that I only needed some rest before I would find it, I decided to take a break at the café, a passable place that one might believe to be affiliated with Starbucks2. After receiving my satisfactory beverage, I attempted to tip my barista.

They refused it, citing your prohibition, and left me to my fairly sufficient coffee substitute device. Surprised, I asked a manager about this strange practice of rejecting money, and they informed me that tips were not allowed, as it would produce envy among the booksellers. If baristas were allowed tips, the jealousy of booksellers would soon become intolerable, and there would be civil war in the store that sells some books but also puzzles and moderately interesting wall clocks.

Part of me is hesitant to write this letter, as I wouldn’t like to beat a dead horse (to bring a more literal meaning to the idiom). Your business model is quaint, and the Nook pursuit is probably a pleasant way to pass time. It’s all potentially respectable, but for these same reasons, I do not wish to treat you too harshly and ruin your fragile buzz, subtle and nearly imperceptible though it may be.

Nevertheless I write to you, hoping that you appreciate the implausibility of retail conflict, and ask that you allow your baristas to accept tips.


  1. This is a literal description of how I arrive at your stores; I simply find myself there. No intention on my part is to be inferred.
  2. Are your cafés affiliated with Starbucks? I truly do not know. It appears that you brew their coffee proudly; perhaps you are a party to some licensing agreement?