The service industry is a rough life: odd hours, demanding customers, bland uniforms and low pay can wear on even the hardiest soul. Standing on the front lines of this legion are the unsung heroes of the morning rush: the baristas, slinging half-caf soy mocha lattes to the sleepy-eyed workers of the world as the sun rises, and beyond.
So, how can you make life easier for the purveyor of that precious, precious morning beverage? Well, you can hit that tip jar, for sure. But you can also try not to be THAT customer. You know, the one who holds up the line for any number of reasons. Good coffee bars pride themselves on efficiency above all—that includes the skills and knowledge employed behind the bar the to pull the perfect espresso or layer a coffee drink beautifully. And you can avoid the following 15 cardinal sins committed daily by customers all over the country.
15. Being clueless
The slack jaw, open-mouthed stare: this is the face of the customer who didn’t bother figuring out what he or she wanted to order before getting to the register. Now the ordering and service process slows down as the customer ruminates over the menu on the wall, undecided between any of the 30 coffee drinks.
Likewise, figure out how the queue works before jumping into line. (If you’re British, you can disregard this advice. Knowing how to queue is genetically coded into most Brits’ systems.) Trying to order at the coffee pickup point is a quick way to earn the dreaded barista eye-roll, and the subtle wrath of your fellow customers. Most people have been inside of a Starbucks, and the majority of coffee shops in the U.S. now operate almost the same way.
14. Playing 20 questions
It’s totally okay if you don’t know everything about every type of coffee drink ever made. Baristas are proud of their abilities and knowledge and will help guide you to the right choice. But don’t be that person who wants every single drink on the menu broken down for them at the register. If you’re not sure what constitutes certain coffee drinks and need to find out, narrow down your choices to just two or three and ask the barista. Remember that this isn’t the only time in your life that you’ll ever visit a coffee shop—wait until your next visit to ask about a couple of other drinks that look interesting.
And observe the same rule about the baked goods, too. Don’t ask for a rundown of the ingredients in every single item in the display case. Figure out one or two products that you’re interested in, ask about them, then decide and order.
13. Not putting down the phone
Put the cellphone down when you’re ordering. Just put it down. Unless you are in the middle of an international crisis that absolutely requires your presence on the phone you can leave it be for a moment or two while you order your java.
Honestly, if the phone call you’re on is so important that you can’t hang up or pause the conversation, you need to step out of the line until you’re ready to give the barista your full attention. Doing so will drastically reduce the chance of an error in your order, because you are concentrating on ordering coffee exactly the way you want. And it’s just plain respectful to speak to the barista face to face.
12. Not listening
If you’re trying to find out what’s in a coffee drink, why would you not listen to the barista’s description? And yet, that happens all too frequently. Even more common is not paying attention when the barista asks for more information, like what size drink you want or if you’d like whipped cream on that, forcing him or her to repeat the question. It’s early morning, but try to stay awake for this part. So we can all get through this together.
11. Changing your order at the register
This goes hand in hand with knowing what you want when you get to the counter, but take it to heart. Once you’ve decided on a drink, make that your final answer. Changing your mind after the order is rung and the cashier is waiting for your money holds up the line and shatters efficiency behind the counter.
On a similar note, every adult who’s ever been to a shop or restaurant in their life knows this, but it bears repeating: tell the barista at the beginning of your order if you have a coupon or reward redemption. That speeds up the ordering process as your order doesn’t have to be adjusted after it’s punched into the cash register—not as big a problem in more modern point-of-sale registers, but time-consuming on older registers.
10. Changing your order at the pickup counter
Even worse are customers who order, pay, and then decide when their drink is served to them that they didn’t want it at all, and demand a new coffee at the pickup counter. Great customer service means baristas will quietly pick up your unwanted drink and make the one that you do want. But they’re seething inside. As are the other customers waiting patiently at the pickup counter for their drinks, which were back-burnered in order to keep you happy.
9. This is not Starbucks
Starbucks’ drink sizes are unique. Short, tall, venti, grande stand in place of really small, small, medium and large. These sizes are not reflective of drink sizing at other coffee bars, so don’t bring Starbucks terminology into your local independent shop.
More importantly, however, are the drinks themselves. Starbucks tends to appropriate the names of other classic coffee drinks for its own concoctions. For example, order a macchiatto at Starbucks and you’ll get a tall, steamed-milk beverage—hot or cold—with a shot of espresso swimming in it and a drizzle of caramel topping, or chocolate syrup. Order a macchiato anywhere else, expecting the same drink, and you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The classic macchiato is a shot of espresso with just a touch of milk foam on top, and no sugar.
8. Pausing at the drive-thru
The same rules apply to drive-thru customers as walk-in customers at coffee shops. Know what you want, or ask for more information only about a couple of drinks max. (It’s hard to communicate through the drive-thru speakers anyway.) Also, if you are paying with small change please have it handy. The last thing anyone wants is to wait around while you slowly rummage through your purse or wallet. And once you’ve received your drinks, don’t pause at the handoff window to take a long, relaxing sip of coffee. Go park your car in the lot if you absolutely need to drink that coffee right away.
7. Trying to be clever
Many baristas pride themselves on their ability to translate and turn around the most complex drink orders. But don’t try to get clever and make up some ridiculous abbreviations just to try and sound like a coffee expert. Just like a short-order cook, baristas have specific jargon for various coffee drinks. And even if you know the lingo, try not to show off with an order like “a quad decaf mostly water mochaccino with the shots poured on top like a macchiato,” or a “split-shot semi-dry soy iced cap” or any of the phrases smooshed together from Sprudge’s Coffee Order Generator.
6. Demanding the secret menu
I’ll let you in on a secret about secret menus: they only exist in marketers’ dreams. Secret menu items started out as ingredient experiments by creative Starbucks baristas, looking to make their own favorite coffee drinks. Occasionally a customer would order a custom-made drink that the baristas liked. Either way, drinks that made the grade often became word-of-mouth custom orders. Once the “secret menu” went viral, however, the coffee marketing machine went to work. Which led, ultimately, to the most recent inexplicable fervor: Starbucks’ one-weekend-only unicorn Frappuccino extravaganza. There’s only one reason why this rainbow-sparkles tragedy had to happen: customers constantly asking for the mythical secret menu.
Leave the secret menu alone–if there’s a special kind of drink that you want, ask specifically for it. And be prepared to tell the barista how to prepare it: just because the coffee shop in the next town knows that your favorite custom order is blueberry-vanilla-salted-caramel half-caf iced whip, doesn’t mean the shop you’re in today knows what that is.
5. Trying to beat the system
Coffee shops are popular not just for their products but for the extra little conveniences they give you. Like a prep bar where you can add as much half and half and sugar as you want. Like a variety of tables so you can sit by yourself or with a group of friends. Like free wi-fi. But some customers take advantage of those freebies to a ridiculous extent. Don’t try to game the system by ordering a single shot of espresso over ice, then filling the cup the rest of the way with milk at the prep bar to save yourself three bucks. The baristas can see what you’re doing.
Likewise, don’t set up camp in a coffee shop like it’s your new office. The intent is for you to sit back, relax, check your emails and do some light work for a little while—not block off a bunch of table space, set up all your devices, crank up some heavy-duty video streaming or gaming and stink-eye other customers for talking and laughing during your important conference call.
4. Tripping down memory lane
Oh, you used to work in a coffee shop! That’s nice. Oh, they did things differently then! Okay. That’s about as much feedback as you’re going to get from your barista today. Everything changes over time, including the way retailers set up their customer service systems—from queuing to coffee preparation to serving.
If you’re mentioning your time behind the coffee bar as a way to make pleasant conversation, most baristas will respond in kind—as long as they’re not rushed. During morning rush is not the place to stroll down memory lane. If you’re mentioning it because you’re unhappy with the way things are being done—it would be much more helpful to just say exactly what’s wrong with your order, so baristas can make it right. Likewise, don’t unfavorably compare the coffee shop’s other location with this one: the baristas are usually too busy to care about that.
3. Pickup faux pas
Picking up someone else’s drink by mistake happens frequently enough—that’s why Starbucks scribbles something approximately like your name on your drink cup—but certainly don’t try to do it just because a drink “looks like my drink” or looks better than the drink you ordered. On the other side of the coin, don’t wander off to let your espresso languish on the pickup counter. The cream on that little cup of black gold has a limited lifespan.
Another big no-no: reaching over the counter to get your coffee. Not only does it annoy the baristas, it’s dangerous for you and them: there’s hot coffee and steam running back there. Let the barista serve the coffee to you.
2. Being nasty
Accidental spills happen; that’s life. But don’t walk away from a big puddle of coffee or cream on the prep bar; let the barista know. Don’t trail napkins across the floor or drop the sleeves everywhere. If you brought your kids, don’t stand them on the pickup counter or the prep bar, or let them stand on the tables. Don’t change them at the tables, either; most large chains have installed family bathrooms or changing tables in their restrooms. Clean up after yourself. And it apparently has to be said, but take a shower and put on clean clothes before you go out.
1. Being a D-bag
Don’t grumble at baristas over the price of your coffee drink: they have no control over pricing. Don’t yell or swear at baristas because of a delay, an error in your order, or because you’re late to work. Don’t assume that because the barista smiled at you, he or she is sexually attracted to you. Don’t make racist, sexist, or abusive comments to either the coffee shop staff or the customers. This is kind of basic stuff but unfortunately baristas online have detailed so many douchey incidents that it’s hard not to fill this entire space with them.
So chill out, relax, and let the line take you along. Work with the baristas, and we’ll all get through this morning coffee rush together.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!