How Not to Be a Dick to Your Starbucks Barista

Publish date:
June 12, 2014
how not to be a dick, coffee, Starbucks, baristas, being polite

I have read a number of blog posts and articles questioning the intellect and integrity of Starbucks baristas. Because apparently working at the Taco Bell of coffee shops and donning the most unflattering shade of green isn’t punishment enough.

Having worked at a number of stores over two different spans of time, I chose a part-time job at Starbucks for the same reason as approximately 75 percent of coffee shop employees: to supplement my writing income. Truth is, baristas are a dynamic and well-educated bunch, making the life choices necessary to make ends meet, pay off debts and further our educations all while enjoying medical benefits and pursuing less lucrative passions.

Unfortunately there are no specific statistics as to how many MFAs have carameled your Frappuccino, but just know that it’s a lot.

There are a number of great customers who step up to a Starbucks counter and treat the person handling their beverage like a human being. I can’t say that it’s a very big number, but they are definitely out there.

What truly boggles the mind is why anyone would treat someone who has access to a decaf button as subhuman.

Below, 12 ways to keep your Starbucks barista from hating you.

1. Step one, hang up the phone.

It is unfathomable how many interactions go on between customers and baristas that don’t actually include any interacting. Being shushed or given the "one-minute" finger just makes a barista want to respond with a finger of their own.

Apologizing to the person on the other end of the phone when you made the life choice to start a phone call while trying to order a coffee makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. If you ignore the existence of the person standing in front of you or make incomprehensible motions with your hands about your ordering needs, know that your drink is probably decaf.

2. Being uncaffeinated does not mean you can be rude.

I get it, mornings are hard, but you know what is even more difficult? The rough task of waking up every day at 3 am, only to face steaming cups of patronization. Just because you haven’t had your coffee yet, doesn’t mean you get to be disrespectful. If you can’t harness a pleasant demeanor early in the morning, it might be time to get a Keurig for home.

3. Don't hold me accountable for all Starbucks employees.

I know it's hard to discern the difference between whoever made your drink yesterday and the current person in green that stands before you today in a different Starbucks location. But 90 percent of the time, when you say "You made my drink wrong yesterday," you're talking about someone else. My name is not synonymous with Starbucks.

4. While greetings aren’t mandatory, they are strongly encouraged.

When I say “Hi, how are you?”, it's rude to respond "Grande latte." Especially in the drive-thru, baristas are usually greeted with some form of grunt or bark. Starting your order with “Give me” isn’t doing you any favors either. Baristas deserve basic manners.

5. Shouting orders from the passenger’s side or through the back window of someone’s car is obnoxious.

Pro tip: if your drink is too difficult for someone else to order, it might be time to tone it down. Otherwise, find a driver with a stronger short-term memory.

6. Don't talk to us super-slowly like we're stupid.

If your drink has more steps than an Ikea assembly, and we ask you to repeat any part of it, DO NOT repeat the entire thing in extreme, patronizing slowness as though English is our second language. Further, once we’ve got it, don’t be that guy who demands that we repeat it back to assure that we “don’t mess it up.”

7. Know that we are humans who occasionally make mistakes.

Part of the Starbucks culture is individualizing drinks to match each and every one of our customers sparkling personalities. That being said, if you request 22 sugars, and we only put in 21, go ahead and put that last one in yourself. We’re only human.

8. Don’t pull money out of your bra, or up from under wherever it is that you were keeping it safe, warm and mildly damp.

Just don’t.

9. We take your name for a reason.

So what’s the deal with that whole writing your name on the cup thing? Well, it is our CEO Howard’s idea of solidifying our connection to our customers while making the drink process run smoothly. Little known fact: Most "incorrect orders" happen when people simply grab the wrong drink. Even if I do use a customer’s name, chances are they’ll still ask me what the drink on the counter is immediately after I not only just announced it and called them by name. While making eye contact.

Also, we don't always spell it right. We don't know you after all, and we just heard your name for the first time, possibly while surrounded by coffeeshop clatter. It's not personal.

10. You don’t need to know the fancy words, but it’d be great if you could at least get a handle on the basics.

"Large caramel" is not a thing.

11. Don't play favorites.

“Are you new? Is so and so here?” Nope and nope. Choosing favorites hasn’t been a thing since grade school. I’ve been here for months and I will be the one making your drink today. And because we all use the same recipes, it’ll taste the same no matter who makes it.

12. Don't micromanage the drink-making process.

I probably went ahead and made the drink correctly. Dangling over the counter supervising your drink is unnecessary. Yelling that I’m making it wrong when I’m actually making someone else’s drink is damn near unacceptable.

I am the first to admit that I am human and make mistakes. While the job isn’t rocket science, it comes with its own set of challenges. We are working at what can often times feel like a thankless job, dealing with the sometimes patronizing masses while trying to keep a smile on our faces and pay the rent. And even with all the hurdles, some of us still manage to enjoy what we do.

I'm also aware that some baristas are incompetent or even rude -- I've worked alongside them. I know that can be frustrating from a customer's perspective, but please don't assume we're all that way. For the most part, we're just doing our best.