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Starbucks Adds Digital Tipping Option to Mobile Payment App

Starbucks will soon let customers leave tips with its mobile payment app, which begs the question—how often do people tip their baristas?

The coffee chain says the mobile tipping option, which it announced more than a year ago, will be available on its updated app for Apple iPhones starting March 19. The rollout comes as the company's app has surged in popularity, with roughly one out of every 10 purchases now made with a mobile device.

After paying with the app, Starbucks says customers will be able to leave a tip of 50 cents, $1 or $2 anytime within two hours of the transaction. The tipping option will only be available at the 7,000 of the roughly 11,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S. that are owned by the company.

The move puts a spotlight on what can be a sensitive topic for customers, workers and even Starbucks, which has faced lawsuits over how it divvies up the contents of tip jars among workers. Some customers are happy to tip for friendly service, knowing that baristas don't earn that much. Others say that they already fork over enough money and shouldn't be made to feel like they should throw money into a tip jar as well.

Starbucks, meanwhile, has been pushing to get people to sign up for its mobile app and rewards program, which helps boost the number of times people are likely to visit its stores. The Seattle-based company says the addition of the mobile tipping option is a response to demand from customers, many of who no longer carry around much cash.

As for the tips earned through mobile payments, Starbucks said they'll be paid out to workers in cash in line with however they receive their regular tips.

— The Associated Press