A Michigan woman says the owner of her favorite vegan ice cream shop used her credit card to find her name and tracked her down on social media.
The dessert business did not offer her a discount or notice about an upcoming customer reward but reprimanded her for not tipping after a recent purchase from the store.
Shante Fagans says she has patronized the Cold Truth Soft Serve, an ice cream shop in Midtown Detroit since it opened in 2019. Over the past four years, she never had a problem with the store, but recently she was shocked when the owner directly messaged her on Instagram, tracking her down about not leaving a tip on a $12 purchase.
According to the woman, she spent Sunday, May 21, out with her friend and decided to top the afternoon off with a cold treat. After paying for two ice creams with her credit card, she completed the transaction without leaving a tip.
In an interview with Click on Detroit, she said she typically leaves a tip when she goes to the shop but couldn’t this time around because she did not have the extra money.
By the time Fagans arrived at her home and started to check her social media, she noticed that she’d received a message from Cold Truth Soft Serve. The owner reached out to her to ask why she did not tip the server.
Fagans shared the message with the news outlet, and it informed her that the store operates “in a tipped business model.”
“We’ve considered building in the costs into the price, but we’ve chosen not to, to make our ice cream as available as possible. We haven’t raised our prices since we’ve been open despite the fact that ingredients have … doubled in price,” the owner Tim Mahoney allegedly wrote. “If we haven’t risen to a level that you feel is worthy of a gratuity, we absolutely understand. Thank you.”
Fagans said at first she thought the message was “strange” because she didn’t leave any personal information. But that feeling shifted.
“I thought it was crazy. I felt attacked, and to search me out to leave a message like that was just unheard of,” Fagans said.
Baffled by the message, Fagans reached out to Mahoney, and after a conversation with him, she said he doubled down on his opinion. She actually expected him to apologize.
“I didn’t have it that day,” Fagans said she shared with him. “Did you think about that? I could be on a budget, I was trying to treat me, and my friend and I had money just for that.”
Fagans posted about the interaction on her Instagram, vowing never to patronize the business again.
She said in a caption, “An establishment I have frequent[ed] and supported since they opened in 2019 has sadly and angrily disturbed me and have lost me as a loyal customer. To search me out on social media, (invading my privacy) leaving a message in my DM is just downright awful, unheard of, and unprofessional. What a shoddy move to track someone down who has repeatedly given you business just to shame them for not leaving a tip one time.”
Fagans argued that alienating her as a customer leaves the company out of more than just “a single tip.”
“It leaves you without regular business and word-of-mouth recommendations, which are far more impactful than website reviews,” she wrote for her followers to read. “If your business depends so much on tipping, perhaps you should pay your workers a higher wage,” before wondering out loud, “if this has been done to others.”
Click on Detroit captured a response comment from the ice cream shop before Fagans limited the responses.
“We’ve seen dozens of similar independent small businesses forced to close down due to massive increases in the quality ingredients we need. If we moved from a tipped model, we will be forced to drastically raise prices to make everything work. The result would be very expensive cones that would be nearly impossible for families to consider,” the message read.
Under both federal and Michigan laws, it is important to note that tips are considered the property of the employee. Employers are prohibited from retaining any portion of employee tips for their own benefit. However, there is a provision known as the “tip credit” that allows employers to count a portion of the tips received by an employee towards meeting the minimum wage requirement.
On social media, many criticized the owner for implying that tipping is mandatory.
“If he wanted to include the cost/tip in the price of the purchase, then he should have done so. It’s not the customer’s problem. If you give someone the OPTION to leave a tip, you can’t be upset if they choose not to,” one person wrote.
Another individual commented, “I’m sorry, but this is incredibly petty. They should be grateful to have a regular customer like that.”
One person expressed the opinion that people should only visit establishments if they have enough money to tip, but tipping should not be relied upon as the primary means to compensate the staff.
“If I don’t want to tip… I won’t. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t, but don’t allow others to pressure or bully you into doing either,” someone else asserted.
Thomas Farley, an etiquette expert and manners coach, agreed that no one should be forced into “guilt tipping,” particularly at businesses where the owners don’t pay their workers well.
Tipping is more effortless now that people seem forced into adding a few dollars on electronic tablet-based payment systems, including ShopKeep, Square, and Revel.
“With that big ‘no tip’ button staring us in the face, and you know two seconds later that screen is going to be spun back around to the person who just waited on you, suddenly we feel we’re being cheap if we don’t give any kind of a tip,” the expert says to the Today Show.
After receiving backlash from the community, on Wednesday, May 24, Mahoney changed his tune.
The ice cream shop owner allegedly reached back out to Fagans and said, “I realize that my actions overstepped a social boundary. I am deeply sorry for any distress that my actions have caused.”