Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Being a Barista... Again, Part 1: "The Good"

What's up, Skeeter?!

I have recently re-entered the crazy, caffeine-saturated world of Starbucks where you always smell like coffee and your arms are always sticky with syrup splatter ("I'm hot, sticky sweet, from my head to my feet" describes me most days - hot in the temperature sense, not the other one...), and I love it.

I love my boss, my co-workers, and, overall, my job. There's lots to love. There's the challenge of learning to make every drink with care and skill, all while keeping up with the massive flow of drive-thru customers. This is an especially difficult task with certain "custom" drinks and the ever-expanding "secret menu," which is really nothing more than an online aggregation of ill-conceived modifications of the already annoyingly ubiquitous Frappuccino.

There are the unexpected, but welcome, personal relationships you develop while being part of a team - and with such an eclectic crowd as those you find working at Starbucks these relationships are often with folks you would not likely find yourself gravitating towards otherwise. The feeling of comraderie within such a diverse group of people is its own reward. However, as with life outside the coffee racket, some of these relationships take more time and care... but if you put in the necessary effort you'll usually grow to appreciate every partner on your team. If not, then hopefully they will go work for CBTL where everyone is awful (just kidding! Not EVERYONE at CBTL is awful).

But again, there's lots to love.

Then there are the customers - a mixed bag of treats and tricks. True, most folks will fly by without making a lasting impression. Eventually you learn their drinks, and their often strange preferences, but, for the most part, they're not really an impacting part of your day. Such is the Starbucks drive-thru way. But there are some folks who WILL make an impression. Sometimes good... sometimes not so good.

On the good side you have the "Pay-It-Backwarders." Those are the few-and-far-between patrons who (while usually NEVER tipping) will opt to pay for the person behind them. It's a kind gesture, and I generally overlook their decision not to tip because hey, they're trying to do something good, right? Sometimes the car behind them is an $85,000 Escalade driven by the most ungrateful sourpuss you've ever met, but whatever.

There are also those rare folks who actually DO tip at the drive-thru (I call them "Tippers." I'm really good at coming up with names for kinds of people). Even rarer are those particularly kind folks who give you a $20 for a $4 drink and say, "keep the change!" as they drive away with a huge smile. I LOVE those people. In a zombie apocalypse situation those are the human beings you want in your group of survivors. They're altruistic to a fault. Sure, you'll eventually cry yourself to sleep every night for a week thinking about how they offered themselves as a mostly unsatisfying snack (on account of their malnourished state... ya know, because they let you eat their share most days) to an undead horde so that your selfish, and might I add fat, butt could escape. But that's just life in the apocalypse.

Also in the good crowd are the "Complimenters." You know these folks. They tell you how pretty your eyes are or how much they like your attitude. These customers really have the ability to make your day. An "I-love-your-beard" really goes a long way towards getting your past the "my-drink-is-wrong-and-I-broke-by-ankle-and-the-line-is-way-too-long-and-you-suck-cause-it's-all-your-fault"s. Am I right?

So, there are all kinds of great things about working at Starbucks. These are just a few of them. In the future I'll maybe focus on one at a time, but next week it's time to talk about THE BAD.

Until then, I'll see you at the drive-thru! But first I'll talk to you through that box below the menu.
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