Most of us haven’t left a restaurant without tipping our servers or taken a glass of wine from a bartender without tossing down a dollar or two. Most of us haven’t refused to pay the bellhop who lugged our luggage up three hotel stories (though most of us probably haven’t used a bellhop either). Most of us won’t get our hair cut without adding extra coinage to the total bill. But what about a budtender? Do the rules of tipping apply to the herb helpers just as they do other industries? The answer: you bet.
The Legality of Tipping in the Cannabis Industry
Because recreational marijuana is a whole new ballgame, it’s not exactly swimming in clarification. Simply, people don’t always know what is and what is not allowed and tipping falls under this umbrella of ambiguity. Or at least it did. Legal markets have caught onto these grey areas and have sought to clarify their state’s stance on many things, including ganja gratuity. In Washington, for instance, the State Liquor and Cannabis Board issued a bulletin to announce: Tipping has not been an allowable practice in a retail marijuana licensed location. This position was adopted based on an interpretation of RCW 69.50.357, and indications that prices of products were being manipulated based on the size of a tip to avoid paying excise tax. Effective immediately, customer tipping is now an allowable practice in licensed retail marijuana stores. However, tipping cannot be required or a condition of sale, nor can it be linked to the price of the product to avoid tax obligations.
To put it another way: tip if you want, but you don’t have to (so – basically - it’s the same as every other area of business)
What to Consider in Regards to Tipping
The legal clarification regarding tipping opened a can of worms for some, with people now wondering when to tip, if they should tip, and how much to tip. Does the 20 percent acceptable rate for restaurants apply to your budtender experience? If someone in a pot shop only spends ten minutes with you, should the tip be as much as a waiter or waitress who spends over an hour? What about the cost of cannabis? Pot is expensive, more expensive than food typically – you can walk out of a restaurant spending twenty or thirty dollars but walk out of a marijuana shop spending much more. What does that do to tipping? Of course, tipping and all it entails is up to the consumer. But, the job of a budtender involves a deep and comprehensive understanding of the cannabis plant. If he or she spends a half an hour explaining terpenes and farming techniques and why you shouldn’t smoke an indica strain as you study all night for the MCATs, tipping is really the right thing to do. They won’t spit on your Alien Kush if you don’t, but they’ll appreciate the gesture. Ultimately, when considering tipping, consider two things:
How much attention you were given and how in depth your budtender got
If you walked into a pot store unable to differentiate between THC and CBD and walked out with the ability to draw a molecular diagram of both, you owe your budtender a debt of gratitude and a wad of gratuity. Considering your own personal finances is always important too – if can afford to tip more, do.
Tips as an Afterthought
If you’ve never tipped a budtender, you’re certainly not alone – lots of people haven’t, including me the first few times I visited a dispensary. It’s not that I’m cheap; I’m usually a great tipper and not only in monetary terms but in areas of advice, giving my husband timeless tips like: You’d look great in a snow coat and boots, standing in the driveway shoveling. I’d never tipped a budtender because I’d never thought about it. And that’s the case for a lot of people, including budtenders themselves. This isn’t to say budtenders won’t happily accept a tip (heck, almost anyone gladly would. Let me know if you want to tip me for this article – I’ll send you my PayPal address). But most budtenders aren’t in the business because of the extraneous earnings. The passion for helping people is at the root of their career choice. Tipping is an afterthought and an added bonus.
Now that we know budtenders could use a little extra TLC for their knowledge of THC, let’s touch upon the basics of tipping etiquette. According to Tipguide.org, the following tips are helpful in deciding an appropriate tip amount: Be forgiving of bad days: People who work in customer service have bad days same as the rest of us; be patient as you have no idea what they’re dealing with. But having a bad day or a bad attitude every single time is different; if the same budtender is rude time and time again, they might need less of a tip and more of a new profession. The percentage isn’t that fluid: Per etiquette, the percentage of a tip doesn’t change merely because the cost is more. If you spend 20 dollars at a pot shop or 100 dollars, the percentage remains constant. This isn’t to say there’s no deviation – tipping is optional, after all. But if you want to follow the etiquette, then follow the money too – out of your pocket it goes. There’s a lot of uncontrollable things: Maybe you’ve done it – failed to tip your server as much because your chicken was burnt. It’s human, really; you’re unhappy and don’t want to reward poor service. But a lot of the time the person penalized has nothing to do with your dissatisfaction. If you go into a pot shop and find that they’re out of the medicinal patches you love and only have the ones you like, don’t punish your budtender.
Make sure your tip reflects only what they can control
Tipping isn’t as instrumental in the cannabis industry as it is in certain other industries; the average salary of a budtender is nearly triple that of a waiter or waitress. But budtenders, the good ones anyway, know cannabis in and out and spend months cultivating this knowledge and keeping up on the trends. If they do their job well, let them know.