I’ve been working at Starbucks for nearly three years and in those three years I’ve seen it all. From people complaining about spilling hot water on themselves, to helping out with an anniversary scavenger hunt, I’ve been ‘fortunate’ to see lots of characters in my daily work adventures.
Believe it or not, working at a high paced coffee shop isn’t all fun and games. There are the small offenses, like always coming home with black Sharpie all over my hands or the fact that there’s always some type of sticky syrup dried up on my forearm--usually mocha or chai. I mean seriously, if you don’t have Sharpie all over your hands and arms, do you actually work at Starbucks?
Then of course there are the larger offenses, like the time a customer threw his drink at a fellow barista--I was unfortunately absent for that affair--or the whole “being a human punching bad for agitated people.” Obviously, every job has it’s fair share of good and bad but I like to think dealing with people pre-caffeine is on a whole new level. Here are some of the perks (caffeine joke) and the downsides of working at Starbucks.
1. The Regulars:
While this sounds like a band name, this actually applies to the multitude of faces I get to see on a daily basis. Despite being an introvert at heart, I always manage to come alive at work and it’s partly because of the friendships I’ve developed with my regular customers.
Luckily--and unluckily--I work on a college campus so I have an even greater share of regulars, whether it is professors or students. I can’t help but feel like a proud parent when I see students grow up before my eyes. I’ve seen gawky incoming freshmen that first stop in to Starbucks at their orientation, turn into mature young adults. Heck, even their order becomes more sophisticated.
In the social media age, it’s become relatively simple to form a bond outside of work and I get to see my regulars--who I call my friends--in a different capacity outside the workplace. There’s nothing more agitating than wanting to have a conversation with someone but a line out the door prevents you from doing so.
I know I would’ve never met these wonderful people had it not been for a mutual love of overpriced coffee.
2. The Espresso:
I’ve always been a big coffee drinker. I was four years old when I had my first cup of coffee--dash of coffee, lots of milk and sugar. My love for coffee has only grown as I’ve gotten older and it was one of the main reasons I wanted to work for Starbucks. In my head, being the person to supply others with their caffeine fix was as good as it gets.
Since working at Starbucks, my knowledge of coffee has grown immensely and my tastes have grown as well. Before working at Starbucks, I would’ve been fine with getting a salted caramel mocha but now I’m content with just a cappuccino with a few raw sugars in it. It may be annoying to my family and friends when I hastily describe the difference between a macchiato, latte, and cappuccino, or dark and light roast coffee, but I’m happy to have that knowledge.
Another perk is the easy access to espresso. Normally I wake up at 4:45 every morning to get to work by 6. I begin my day with a cup of coffee at home because I need caffeine to operate a vehicle. Once I get to work, I usually have two shots of espresso and, depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll have two more shots later in the day. My coworkers and I take turns taking shots of espresso like true addicts, treating said espresso like a runner treats a cup of water.
3. Getting To Be A Therapist:
After 22 years on this earth, I’ve finally embraced the fact that I’m incredibly nosy. I like to know what’s going on with everyone and if people are whispering about something, I will be relentless and find out what’s happening. I believe the correct terminology for this is “yenta.”
This applies to Starbucks because as your coffee supplier I manage to double as a pseudo-therapist.
I get to hear all about Mandi’s crazy night out as she tried to seduce a guy and how she’s very hungover. I get to hear about Sean’s anxiety regarding his accounting exam and how he needs more espresso than usual as he had to pull an all-nighter. I happily get to learn about the ROTC and Physical Therapy students and any drama that may occur in the program. And because I’m nosy, I love it all.
As a minor in sociology, I clearly am equipped to deal with all the problems that are presented to me and solve them before the customer has their coffee handed to them.
For better or worse, Starbucks has taught me how to multitask with ease and precision. Whether it’s making five drinks at once, or simply ringing someone up on register as you write their cup and gather their items all while maintaining your signature smile, the process is all about efficiency and it’s something I’ll carry with me as I venture to my career--whenever that is.
4. The Multitasking (And More):
One more perk, you may ask? The free training my brain gets every single day. A lot of people claim to be “bad at names.” I know this because I used to be one of those people. However, once I started working at Starbucks I realized I’m actually great at names and my facial recognition skills are top notch. I’m not sure if there’s a competition out there for people who are great at faces and names but if there is, count me in.
Many people tend to appreciate you a little more when you are able to recall their order and their name. It makes the process of trying to spell ‘Kaitlin’ with a sneaky ‘Y’ and no ‘I’ a little easier--for the record, it’s spelled Katlyn and I always want to pronounce it as ‘Kat-Lin.'
Considering the fact that I was never really a Starbucks person before working there, I’m not sure how I would feel if a barista knew me by name and my order by heart. However, I feel like I would be incredibly grateful and honored that someone took the time to know my name--along with hundreds of others.
And now for the cons, which at times, outweigh the benefits:
1. Rude People (!!!):
“I haven’t had my coffee yet” is a great excuse to use when you’re irritable and are snappy toward others. It’s also a cute saying to put on a coffee mug--just saying. Unfortunately, interacting with people pre-caffeine can be a living hell.
As far as I’m concerned, you should treat everyone with respect regardless of whether or not you have coffee beating through your bloodstream or not. If your barista is smiling at you, smile back or at least say a simple “thank you."
I get it. Exams can be stressful, pulling an all-nighter is painful and being hungover is worse. However, I--your barista--did nothing to contribute to your crappy mood so I expect a little bit of respect. Literally, just a dash of respect would be acceptable.
Recently, a young lady came into my store asking for four shots of espresso blended with soy. She was charged for an espresso Frappuccino and she was not having it. She began accosting my--very pregnant--supervisor calling her rude names and refused to speak to another person. Mind you, she is the head honcho on the floor.
Here’s the thing: If you pour hot tea on yourself, it’s your own damn fault. If you’re upset about a refund policy, please don’t yell at me. Please stop blaming your baristas for your problems and taking out your anger on us.
2. Long Lines
Working on a college campus means a rush that never actually goes away. Lucky for my coworkers and I, classes are staggered and start at different times. This translates to people waiting 30-40 minutes in line for a drink. This also translates to a very stressful environment.
The one thing I don’t understand is how anyone would wait that long for anything unless it was free or something rare like a One Direction reunion show.
Maybe I’m just impatient--I am--but the thought of waiting that long for a cup of coffee is simply unthinkable and a caramel macchiato is not worth being late for class.
3. Meeting Someone--And Never Seeing Them Again:
Okay so this actually can happen anywhere but because it’s happened to me so often at my workplace, I feel inclined to mention it.
A con of working at Starbucks is when you see a great guy and have a really awesome conversation with them and then you never actually see them again.
Unfortunately, I’ve had this happen to me at least five hundred times in the last three years. I began chatting with someone and when I expect to see him again at the addictive Starbucks, I don’t. I assume that I’ll see that person again and maybe I do but it’s once again in that shortened capacity.
For all I know I could’ve met the man of my dreams already but he decided to go to Dunkin Donuts and thus I’ll never see him again.
I guess every workplace has good and bad things about it. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by good coworkers who have become my good friends. I’ve also been lucky to be surrounded by my true love, coffee.
Despite all the negatives I like my job. I like getting to talk to new people every day and I like the fact that I’m comfortable with my job.
I know this job won’t last forever but until I leave, I’m proud to be a barista. For better or worse.