Depressionista You scream, I scream, Let's All Scream at a Barista! Melissa Stephens

“Relationships are like pudding to me.  I can have one at any time” – Jake Gyllenhaal for shizzle.  

For the past couple of weeks, I have noticed that I have massive reactionary sarcasm in coffee shops, grocery stores, banks, bodegas, anything that has customer service.  Don’t get your tampon string in a wad – I worked in the service industry for ten years starting with Manhattan Bagel and ending with Jack and Jill’s in Beverly Hills.  Try and guess which one I s**t my pants in.

How many times have you gone into a coffee shop like Starbucks and waited in a ginormous line to order coffee, only to be assaulted by an overly energetic barista who would rather have a conversation than do their job?  Oh, this happens to me every day – doesn’t matter if its Coffee Bean or a mom and pop café, every time I am amazed at the idiocy that inhabits them.  Now, I know I sound like an assh*** and I am here to tell you maybe I am, but let’s look at the facts here:

  1. Coffee is a stimulant that you need to wake up, concentrate and avoid eating.
  2. Before ordering, I am lacking all of those things, so back off.
  3. I don’t know you.
  4. Please, thank you and you’re welcome are the only necessary words.
  5. The customers who engage obviously have self-esteem issues.

Full disclosure: I have taken part in both sides of the argument and I am making sweeping generalizations that include me and because I can.

Coffee shops are not the only culprits in this scenario.  Pinkberry has become aggressively perky lately, all movies theatres with assigned seats have taken hospitality to a new level.  All restaurants are cursed with this, which ends in suicidal waiters who recommend crappy food.  I respect a non-communicative waitress who does her job more than a “friendly” one who annoys me.  The only establishment that in my opinion is allowed to behave in a warm friendly way is a neighborhood bar that’s empty.  Bartenders work off of tips so they can lube up their customers with chit chat and the patrons are under the influence and most likely looking for conversation or maybe even a one night stand.  This I approve of. But Starbucks – what’s your excuse?  I will tip you more if you shut up.

Recently at my local Starbucks, after waiting in a mammoth line I was forced to endure the following interaction:

S-Bucks Employee: “HI, How are you?”

Me:  “Good, you?”

S-Bucks Employee:  “Pretty Good, Pretty Good, can’t complain.  You look good today, have you lost weight?”

Me:  “Um.  No.”

S-Bucks Employee:  “Well you look good. What can I get for you?”

Me:  “Regular Coffee.”

S-Bucks Employee:  “Want anything sweet with that? The cookies are really good today!”

Me:  “Nope, I’m good.”

S-Bucks Employee: “$1.95. Would you like a receipt?”

Me:  “Nope.”

S-Bucks Employee:  “How’s work going?  Busy day?”

Me:  “Nope.”

S-Bucks: “I hear ya! Have a good day, Melissa, see you soon.”

WTF.  So many things wrong with this conversation. Let’s play Where’s Waldo with this interaction.  How many times do you think this guy crossed the line or got weird or was just plain annoying?  The answer will be at the bottom of the article.

This employee has on multiple times asked me if I have lost weight.  That’s offensive – it implies that at one point I was fat, which I’m not.  I haven’t lost weight so it’s an empty attempt to compliment me.  That’s like asking “How far along are you?”  I’M NOT PREGNANT.   Real life.  That happened to me when I was a waitress and I went to the back and cried concerned that I looked pregnant.  Aprons are unflattering; they don’t fall well on me, high waisted or low waisted.  Attention mothers, sisters, wives, mistresses, girlfriends, daughters, friends with benefits, please tell the men in your life that’s not okay.  Pregnancy and weight should never be discussed in a casual conversation while ordering anything.

The reason I bring this topic up is because I have a lot to say about it.  But the main reason is, I am embarrassed at my behavior.  I feel the many times I have rolled my eyes, not made eye contact, sighed, asked where my order was, said out loud to other people “What is taking so long?”, cursed and stormed out has left me with the feeling that maybe it’s me.  I don’t do these things all the time and maybe they aren’t that noticeable but I have done them in my lifetime.  So I have to be honest with myself: Do I feel this way because I am trained to want everything instantly or because I hate human interaction?  Honestly, I’m unsure.  Sometimes its both.  I grew up in the south and maybe this is a revolt on the slow speech, slow cars and lackadaisical people that I put up with for many years.  Either way, my behavior isn’t necessary, it’s like speeding up to stop at a red light.  Pointless.

I will say this.  I would love it if all Coffee shops were a little bit more like any government run service.  I’d love me a good old DMV barista.

Annoyance count is: 12.   And I s**t my pants at Jack and Jill’s of Beverly Hills.  Didn’t think I would out myself, did you???

Image by Mitch Loidolt

 

comments

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  1. I’ve been on both sides of the counter, and I can understand the backlash other people are posting on here. Saying you’re having an okay day before you order your coffee really shouldn’t be too much to ask. Having to answer questions about your weight or your job is. I think the main complaint any of us can have when it comes to dealing with overly chipper employees is that it doesn’t seem genuine. Most of us involved in the conversation understands that their friendliness is mandated by the corporation, and find the phoniness of it all a little tiresome. Starbucks (and other companies, I’m sure), are telling their employees to be chummier with strangers than they would normally be on a second date. Sadly, the best course of action for this is to stop consuming Starbucks in the first place. We know that won’t happen; they’ve got us by the beans.

  2. i clicked on this article because, as a coffee shop “employee,” i enjoy reading articles written by non-baristas that acknowledge how horribly we are treated on the regular. it serves to help reinstate my faith in humanity, if only slightly. unfortunately, this article was not at all what i was expecting, and now i’m even more grumpy. when did hello giggles become a forum for shitting on the little guy? since when does this site support uppity, holier-than-thou behavior? just because you were once in the food service/retail industry does not mean you can turn into the customer that 10 years ago you would have wanted to strangle. try decaf to take the edge off, and maybe buy your own coffee maker if human interaction angers you so much. jesus. also, way insult an entire region of the country for no reason. incase you hadn’t noticed, it is beyond rude to refer to an entire subsection of the country as slow and lackadaisical. there are so many things wrong with this piece.

  3. I work at Starbucks myself and while you hate being chatted by strangers while ordering your coffee I’m not alway happy making a random conversation with strangers myself, but I have to. Unfortunately It’s a part of my job description and as much as I’d like to just serve in polite manner and just serve you like a regular stranger I can’t .We are forced to be polite and over the top.
    So maybe next time when you go In to get your drink just make it easy on your barista. They have to serve customers and make fools of themselves for hours and you’ll be gone before your latte gets cold.
    You are not a rude person, you just never have been on the other side and possible did not realized that they are forced to behave that way. If it was my choice I wish customer service was just friendly , polite and anonymous.

  4. I think all this discussion is one big comment on the society we live in. Melissa has stirred up something in a lot of people, and I think that’s what honesty will do. Melissa’s being honest, refreshingly honest. Many of the baristas and all of the corporations are not. That’s the point. Is she happy with her behavior? Are the employees happy they have to interact like this? Only because they are happy to have a job. It’s sad how many people are responding with “the corporation makes them do it.” That’s what should be pissing people off. Nobody wins here, at least not until Melissa gets her coffee.

  5. um… I agree with Kaya, I work at a starbucks and we are basically forced to learn your name, your drink and try to connect with you on a surface level. Even if we weren’t being paid to do so, I think that seeing someone EVERYDAY should allow you a certain rapport with them (maybe not asking about your weight, but i mean really, are you going to be mad that he thought you looked nice?). I get very tired of the people who come in everyday and answer the question “how are you today?” with “WHITE MOCHA.” sorry, wrong answer. I enjoy a customer who will have a friendly back and forth with me in the small time it takes to take their order and get their drink ready. It always blows my mind when someone takes the friendliness of a stranger and finds a way to complain about it… I mean really, there’s worse that could happen

  6. If you want to avoid any chit chat, you can always just go straight to your order. Several times a day I’ll greet a customer with “How are you doing today?” If they respond and initiate a conversation, then I’m chatty, however if they just say “I want a tall coffee,” without acknowledging my question I understand that they don’t want to chat and I limit the interaction with them. Yes, it’s slightly annoying to have a customer be short with us, but we move on. But don’t answer her question in a way that may be seen as wanting to be friendly, and then punish her for taking your lead.

    Also, after the would you like your receipt question, you may have moved to the place to pick up your drink instead of lingering at the register, indictating that you may have been open to more conversation while your coffee was coming. It is awkward for us to have customers just standing there waiting, and it looks bad on us if we aren’t interacting with you in some way. If a manager were to walk up at that point they wouldn’t know at first glance that you’ve been helped and then we’d get in trouble.

  7. I read a bunch of the comments, and I agree that it’s rude…BUT did you read the full article? Stop attacking her because she obviously states that she thinks there is something wrong with her for thinking the way she does. You could just agree without being mean.

    The guy you interacted with was really strange. I would have just told him that I wasn’t in the mood to talk. It’s okay to tell people what you need/want them to do as long as it’s not rude. I feel like the biggest part of working in customer service is to listen to the customer; he should have taken your huge “I don’t want to talk” signal and shut up. He didn’t thought, so you should have said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not in the mood to chit-chat.” Also, it bothered me that you cut slack on bartenders but not waiters because bartenders work for tips when most a waiter salary comes from tips.

    Nothing is wrong with you for not wanting perky service professionals, but it is wrong to get angry at them for it.

    • I’m pretty sure that people did read the full article. The acknowledgement that it’s the ‘writer’s fault’ is so half-hearted that it reads like ‘oh i might sound like a jerk, so better cover myself’ and then the article reverts back to a sort of ego-centric rant. As a reader, I just thought, Well, this person is unlikable and clearly not observant enough to have any opinions I ever want to read again. I’m still looking for the humor too…

  8. This is honestly the first HelloGiggles article I do not like! I’ve never heard of anyone complaining about friendly customer service before. I work in a very busy, fast paced restaurant in Hollywood and I think people prefer the extra time we take to ensure customer satisfaction.

  9. I am really impressed by all the responses. I am happy that you guys felt the post was worth engaging in. I know the authors intentions were not to upset anyone. That being said, I love all baristas and all Hellogiggles readers. xoxo

  10. “That’s offensive – it implies that at one point I was fat, which I’m not.”

    :/

    This comment is just as offensive; it implies that there is something horribly wrong with being fat. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you didn’t mean for it to sound like that…

  11. I’ve worked at a drive-thru mom&pop coffee shop for two years, and have the opposite complaint! Customers who would sit and talk to me for minutes! The worst part was that I had to pretend to care, despite there being four cars of angry customers behind them, and all I could worry about was how pissed they were gonna be when they ordered, due to the “slow service”. On the contrary, there can be a very special bond that develops with the “regular” customer. Despite knowing what kind of dog they had, how they felt about the weather, or where they were from, I often never learned their first names. It is satisfying to see the effects of providing great customer service to someone in need of caffeination. Also in the form of more tip$.

  12. i’ve worked in retail for the past few years and it is definitely the company who forces you to speak with anyone and everyone who walks through the doors. i get customers who LOVE the fact that everyone has said something to them, and customers who just want to be left alone. i think the latter is the one i hear most often, but still we are forced. it’s almost like there is this fine line you have to walk on between friendly and not overbearing.

    as for me, i like friendly people when i go to coffee shops. the guys who work at the sbux where i live pretty much know me by now and if they weren’t somewhat friendly i probably wouldn’t go there so often. that’s the philosophy company’s have when they force their ppl to talk to others… just in most cases because of the force, employees are overbearing and can say ridiculous things that irk customers because they fear for their job. so i can see both sides, but friendly customer service is going to win out in the end because the majority of people prefer that over feeling that they are being ignored or are a hastle to the employee.

  13. haha baristas gonna hatista

  14. I had never heard of someone complain about nice people, until now. The “have you lost weight” thing is pretty annoying. But, really? TOO nice? How was this submission picked to show off to us, the readers?

  15. I am also a barista at Starbucks and I find this a tad bit offensive. Perhaps this young woman was trying to kill you with kindness for being such a jerk. I understand that you are in a rush and need your coffee, but maybe you should get up 15 minutes earlier and be a little less impatient. Geeze.

    Anonymous | 8/19/2011 12:08 pm
  16. As someone who has worked in service (and now doesn’t), I go out of MY way to be kind to service people. I always ask THEM how they are doing and tell THEM to have a great day. I’m not always in a good mood, but I know that that is not any stranger’s fault and why not try to bring a little happiness into someone else’s life?

    I can’t believe this was submitted to HG. This would been fine for a personal blog (heck, my personal blog is all about ranting), but on a website geared towards creating a positive environment? I’m a little taken aback.

  17. Here’s an idea, when you’re feeling particularly frustrated, why not try being nice back? These people have sucky jobs, it won’t kill you to smile and make small talk for 3 seconds. And it might even make you feel better.

  18. I think everyone ‘taking issue’ with this article should calm down a little bit. She says that she has worked in Service before and that she sees both sides of the issue, and at the bottom of the article she basically addresses that the problem is herself. She’s sharing an opinion that EVERYONE has at least sometime in their week, at some point in time you are not in the mood to have that chatty conversation- you want to get your food and get going. Working as an opener for Panera has realized that you can’t be super chatty with everyone at 6 in the am. People need their coffee to wake up.

    If everyone would take a good hard look at themselves I think you would see that you have this attitude too, it doesn’t matter if you’ve worked in service your whole life, there are going to be the days that you are not in the mood and that is on YOU, not blaming it on the barista. And that is what she was trying to say.

    • I totally agree with you some of the people postings are about as “rude” as they consider hers to be…i like when the people on the counter are nice and talkative but.my problem always seems to be I go thru the grocery lanes were the ones tht seems to hate their job are at, making me feel awkward for saying hi and smiling at them…but I dont take it to heart I see it as im having a good day and not letting someone I see for less than 5minutes ruin it. I actually laughed at the “are you pregnant line..i said it one to someone my hubby,son and I were at a store and she was doing my makeup she was chattering.bout.my son and not to be a jerk she did look pregnant so I asked and she responded she wasnt…rest assured that killed the conversation

  19. I was a barista for 5 years at Caribou Coffee and I tried my hardest to be nice and just give people their coffee without pushing other stuff on them or asking them about their lives. Of course once somebody becomes a regular they start opening up to you and become your “friends” but I would only do that if they iniciated the friendship if not I owuld just have their Medium Americano with an extra shot

  20. I agree with everything above. I’ve worked at starbucks and a local coffee shop, so on one hand you have a coporation that wants you to be a friendly face, know regulars names and upsell, at a local place, they want their customers to feel recognized, respected and part of the “community.” If you want to be that rude customer who gives short, sarcastic answers that people dread, go for it. It doesn’t mean the barista is doing anything wrong.