I love my barista but it just is not convenient to tip in a credit card society, and I know that tips have declined as more of us whip out the card instead of pulling out a few dollars.
Which got me thinking, why doesn't Starbucks encourage everyone to use a gift card by offering that every time we load a gift card and pay with it, the crew working gets some token amount or percentage thrown into their pay that day? Ponied up by the company itself, of course. I don't mean charging the customer, but building it in as an incentive of using the card the way you did for the drink upgrades or free syrups. It would emphasize the company's focus on employees and social/corporate responsibility, make customers feel good, and incentivize the cards which I am too lazy to use.
Think of it as a barista appreciation program--and a way of keeping your employees happy while tying the community to their store and rectifying the slide in tips.
I'd love to know that I can tip for free as a perk of buying and using a Starbucks card and I don't think the cost to the company would be very much at all. I may be using my own card now, but this would get me to reach for that branded piece of plastic.
* P.S. I offered this idea to Peet's but they didn't do anything with it. Somehow with the store closings, Starbucks seems hungrier...