cutting those apron strings

do you remember my rants about the newbie who, although a genuinely nice guy, couldn't remember how to mark cups, make drinks, or anything else necessary for a barista to remember?

well, he's back. and with a vengeance.
ok, that's not exactly true.
rephrase: his MOTHER is back with a vengeance.

a week before christmas this newbie informed my newly promoted manager that he wouldn't be able to work the shifts he'd been scheduled for because he was going out of town. now, policy hadn't changed between the time he was hired and when he had this talk with my manager. since he hadn't requested the time off in advance, it was now up to him to find coverage for his shifts. reluctantly he spent ten minutes on the phone leaving messages for our fellow baristas asking them to work the week before christmas.

so, instead of trying to call partners at other stores he decides to call - wait for it..... his MOTHER.
yes, newbie called his mommie. was it to vent his frustration? was it to inform her that he'd be late for dinner? no, he called so that she could inform my manager that her precious son had more pressing things to do rather than call around for coverage.
he called his mother, filled her in on the situation, and then told my manager that someone wanted to talk to him about the schedule.

thank god we found coverage for his shifts since we were already understaffed. but here comes the best part: his mother called our manager this morning. why? because newbie now needs new year's eve off! AND he's too busy to call around for coverage!
my manager tried to sweet talk me into working a double shift ("think of the overtime, brat!") but i happily declined.

this newbie and his mother took me back to a time at my old bux where (yet another) newbie had her mother call in for her.
see, this newbie was scheduled to open, but never made it to the store. the opening manager called newbie's house and left a message - concerned that something bad might have happened. twenty minutes later there's a phone call.

"hi, this is newbie's mother." said the caller.
"is newbie ok?" the opening manager asked.
"well, she didn't get much sleep last night so i turned her alarm off."
"you know she was scheduled to open this morning, right?"
"yes, but i don't want her going to work that early. so i'm calling to tell you she quits and won't be coming in again."

that's right.
newbie's mother mother called in and gave the manager -20 minutes notice.
so long as her daughter got a full night's rest.....

customer rant: i know you're probably frustrated because you have a line out the door, but yelling out "i hate my fucking job!" isn't the best way to get sympathy tips. and really - if you hate it so much, then LEAVE! no one's holding you hostage.


boxing (with customers) day

the only thing worse than activating a billion gift cards right before christmas is having every customer use them to purchase coffee the day after.

the cards are supposed to make the process easier for both the customer and the register partner, but often times the transaction takes longer. throughout the day our system will go offline which forces us to redial over and over, or the computers will show their age and take forever to process the cards.
but let's not forget the human component: those customers who have no idea how much is on their card will hold up the line while they look for spare change to cover the cost of their drink, as well as the customers who try and spend the entire amount of their card in one sitting and will add random items one after the other until the card is empty.

and of course there are the customers who demand we give them cash value for their unwanted gift cards. somehow they think that if they give us a big enough sob story, we'll break down and hand over the cash.

so not going to happen.

today i heard everything from "my car needs a new engine" to "i need money to get into rehab". but my personal favorite was this one: "i really need the cash - this isn't even my card. i stole it from my uncle".
a couple of customers even tried to toss their cards in our tip jar and take out the cash equivalent though, of course, none were successful.
it was nice, however, to hear customers lament that there was no way to tip us with their cards - and even nicer when they dug through their wallets to toss a dollar into our tip jar.

barista rant: yes, i know christmas is over. yes, i realize we still have a ton of christmas merchandise. yes, i know that even though it is all marked down there is still an abundance, but that doesn't mean you can demand i give you an extra 50% off. and trust me, phrases like "well, you should just give it to me for free since it's the day after christmas!" will only make me want to raise the price.

*barista rave*: thank you all for your comments to the last post! it was my favorite christmas gift by far.


barista brat is coming to town

no rants today.
instead i submit my naughty and nice lists.

- my newly promoted manager for royally screwing up the holiday weekend schedule.
- the woman who stole our cinnamon shaker from the condiment bar.
- the partner who did the world's worst job cleaning the frappuccino section, so that it took me twice as long to clean it tonight.
- corporate for sending us waaaaaay too much merchandise.
- the customer who asked me to call all the bux in a "ten-mile radius" to look for a particular mug, then demanded her coffee be free because my store no longer had the mug in stock.
- the talker, who spent most of his shift yesterday talking about what his family does for christmas rather than doing his work.
- all the customers who are "re-gifting" their gift cards (making us split up a gift card that was given to them into multiple gift cards for other people).
- my district manager who gave us all the stinkeye while we were working our understaffed butts off.
- the customer who felt he deserved a fifty percent discount because it was "christmas eve eve".
- barista brat, because when i ran out of regular frappuccino base i decided to give everyone decaf instead.

- the customer who brought in cupcakes for us baristas.
- the newbie who gave 200% every shift she was on this week.
- the woman who handed out lottery tickets as stocking stuffers.
- our regular customers who kept smiles on their faces even though the line was out the door and we were a person short.
- my fellow barista brat's fiance who brought us pizza and soda.
- the two baristas who closed with me and helped make tonight's close so much fun.
- the readers of this blog!

if you feel like giving this barista brat a christmas gift, it would be great if you could drop by the comments box and tell me where you hail from.

merry christmas and happy holidays!


six holiday tales

thank goodness for a relaxing day off because i will not have another one until christmas day.

more tales from this past weekend:

- a customer brought in his travel mug and asked us to rinse it out before filling it with coffee. when my fellow barista brat peeked inside the mug her stomach turned. stuck to the bottom of the mug was a dead cockroach. a friggen' COCKROACH! i don't know what grosses me out more: that the roach was in his cup or that he was still willing to drink from it when the barista pointed it out to him.

- a woman was shopping for gift packs but refused our offers to hold the merchandise for her at the front counter. instead she was content to carry it all herself, adding more mugs and pounds of coffee to the mix. so, while she was was examining the ceramic mugs and matching saucers, she lost her grip on the merchandise and it all came crashing down, knocking over the display of ceramic mugs and saucers. in the end three sets were broken. did she apologize? no, she blamed us for not better securing the display.

- a regular customer who is known to be a complainer handed out ten dollar bills to all the baristas. he even gave us a big smile as he wished us "happy hanukkah - or christmas - or whatever it is you celebrate".

- a man admitted he'd made a mess in the bathroom and asked us for a toilet brush because he didn't feel right making us clean it up.

- a customer held up the line while buying fifteen gift cards. he ended up adding on four more cards (each for five dollars) to give to the four customers that had to wait in line behind him.

i'm mentally preparing myself for the craziness of the next few days. i have to close christmas eve but i'm working with a great crew so hopefully it will be happy and not horrendous.

partner rant: i'm busy at bar, so quit trying to talk to me! you see i have a line of ten drinks - and it's true i kicked you off of double barring with me because you actually slow me down. but that wasn't an invitation to hover around me and talk about what you hope your parents will get you for christmas! earn your paycheck and do something useful!


same school, different attitude

i'm taking a well-deserved day off after a crazy weekend at bux.

on friday two local high schools had their last day of class before winter break, so they decided to inaugurate their freedom by running wild in bux. it was COLD outside but that didn't stop them from ordering their frappuccinos with extra syrup, extra caramel, and extra annoyance.

three of the teenagers are regular fixtures at our bux. they are always a little too loud and squeal a little too often, but for the most part the aren't much trouble. apparently they've rubbed some of their fellow students the wrong way because these girls have become targets.

well, at least their drinks are.

my bux was not designed to be a high volume store, so the area at the hand-off counter gets very crowded when there is more than two people waiting for their drinks. usually people have to wait a bit before they can even come get their drinks because the store gets so crowded. it seems a couple of teenagers have used this to their advantage and have taken drinks from the counter before the rightful owners can come claim them.

frappuccino bandits, we call them.

well, for the second time this month our three regular teenaged customers have been victims of the frappuccino bandits. since it was their last day of class, and since they are the least annoying of our teenaged "guests", i gave them each one of the morning pastries that had to be marked out. the girls were so thrilled they showered me with a chorus of "awwww, you're sooooooo nice!".

to my (and the other baristas') surprise, the girls took turns and stuffed money in our tip jar. they ended up tipping us a total of fourteen dollars.
fourteen dollars!
just because we made an attempt to make them feel better after the frappucccino bandits raided them. i tell you, that extra cash helped make them seem a lot less annoying.

barista rant: yes, it's the holiday season. yes, i know you want to purchase several gift cards. yes, i know you've received a few gift cards of your own as well. but did you know there was a solid line of people behind you? it was bad enough you wanted me to check the balance on all the cards you'd received. but then you wanted me to consolidate all your cards into one. and THEN you wanted me to take that card and use it to pay for the 20 gift cards you now wanted to purchase. are you kidding me?!? next time i'll just say the network is down and i can't do anything with gift cards.


many happy returns

'tis the season to turn new tricks!

i'm lucky to be in a small store where our retail shelves are directly across from the registers. that means it's harder for people to steal mugs, cups and french presses they will try and return for cash at other stores. that doesn't mean they don't make an attempt, though.

last night i noticed a guy pacing back and forth in front of my bux. he kept peeking his head through the door but never actually decided to come inside. it wasn't until we had a rush that i noticed him at the back of the line. when he made it to the register he handed me two travel mugs.

"i got these yesterday but now i don't want them." he informed me. "i left my receipt at home but i paid cash."

now usually at this point i have to go through the motions of telling the customer what our return policy is, yadda, yadda, yadda - but since i'd seen him checking out our store for twenty minutes (minus the two travel mugs, mind you) i knew he'd waited until there were people in the store so he wouldn't be so conspicuous when he grabbed the mugs. since i knew what the game was, and since there was still a long line behind him, all i did was point to our security camera. apparently that was enough because he walked right out of the store, leaving the two travel mugs on the counter.

then there was the lady who really wanted a cup off coffee, but REALLY didn't want to pay for it. she started off by trying to chat me up - telling me about her troubles (her mother is terminally ill), about her business (she sells houses), about her kid (he hates math) and about her boyfriend (he shut off her cell service because they had an argument). when i wasn't completely won over by her charming repartee she switched tactics and gave me the full run-down of her last horrible experience at bux (the barista was rude, the coffee was cold and she was overcharged).

"dollar fifty-five, please" was my response after listening to her drone on and on.
"oh!" she seemed almost surprised that i'd asked her for money. "well, i know i have a gift card here somewhere." she said as she started digging through her gigantic bag.

first she pulled out her planner to show me how busy she is. then she pulled out her business card holder to show me how many contacts she has. next came a ziploc baggie containing costume jewelry, which she then modeled and offered to sell to me. finally she located her wallet and pulled out the gift card, but then she started talking about the jewelry and put the gift card BACK into her wallet which she put BACK into her bag!

"i could give you a really good deal on these rings," she smiled at me.
i smiled right back and repeated, "dollar fifty-five".
"it's somewhere in my bag," she began digging again.
"it's in your wallet behind your discover card," i said flatly, ready to pull it out for her.

she finally handed over the card, but of course there less than a dollar balance. when i asked her if she had any cash she gave me a repeat performance of "the amazing endless bag search".

my perky assistant manager ended up giving me a mug award for my tireless patience.

barista rant: do not pick up the toys in the donated gift basket, hand them to me and ask if i have any more left in the back. bux is not a toy store. we have never sold super-soakers or leggos. when i explained that the basket in front of you is for DONATIONS, you pursed your lips and bitched that there should be some sort of sign. so of course i pointed to the sign, to which your only response was "give me the directions to the nearest toy shop".
lump of coal for you, woman!


enemy mine

after several months of a peaceful truce, there is now hatred where there was once love. menacing glares which were once kind eyes and stinging vitriol when there was once glowing praise.

have the baristas finally rallied against the managers?
have the buddies turned sour toward the brats?
have the newbies resorted to brandishing the pointy ends of thermometers as protection against the old-schoolers?

and no.

history is repeating itself and now there is a full-fledged war between the openers and the closers with both sides bitching that the other doesn't do their required duties.

now i admit that i'm a little biased. i close once or twice a week and i know how much work the closers put into making sure the store is broken down, cleaned and stocked. closers have all the responsibilities of the day crew (serving customers and prepping) AND then some.

so when the openers don't do their set duties, it piles on the work for the closers and they have to stay past their scheduled shifts to complete their tasks (i've gone into overtime too often because the day crew has turned over crappy shifts). if the day has been particularly rough, then the closers might forget to fill the ice bin or empty the sanitizer. these, according to the openers, are cardinal sins. the openers will be so offended that they will spend the day complaining and will
'run out of time' to do their duties, which in turn adds more work for the closers. which of course means they will have to stay later and probably miss another closing duty, like stocking pounds of coffee or filling the sugar containers.

see? it's a vicious circle that polarizes the two sides until management intervention is required. my store is about two weeks away from one-on-one meetings with the manager and threats to be written up.

have a holly jolly christmas, indeed.

customer rant: not only is it against health code to resteam milk over and over - it's downright disgusting! when i saw you checking milk temperatures, then resteaming milk that had cooled down - i convinced my friend to stick with drip coffee instead of getting a latte. but with your standards the coffee was probably two hours old as well.


call me, crazy

for the past four days my bux has been bombarded with prank phone calls. for whatever reason, some person is getting their jollies by calling my bux and asking ridiculous questions.

"what color is your atmosphere?" a heavily accented voice asked when my perky assistant manager answered the phone.
"excuse me?" perky assistant manager wasn't sure if she heard him correctly.
"what color is your atmosphere?" he asked again
"i'm sorry but i think you have the wrong number."
"WHAT. COLOR. IS. YOUR. ATMOSPHERE." he screamed at her.
"i'm hanging up now," perky assistant manager said before ending the call.

an hour later the phone rang again and this time i answered.
"how old is the glass?" asked the accented voice that i assumed had called earlier.
"four hundred thirty-two." i informed him and hung up.
apparently my method worked because he didn't call back for the rest of the night.
the next night, however, he was back to his old tricks. he called so many times that perky assistant manager told me she had to leave the phone off the hook.

last night when he called my barista buddy was the lucky person to pick up the phone.
"how cold is the toilet?" mr. prank asked.
"how old is the toilet?" barista buddy asked, deciding to play along with mr. prank.
"how cold is the toilet?" mr. prank repeated.
"how bold is the toilet?"
"how gold is the toilet?" barista buddy was laughing now.
"you stupid bitch man! i get knife and i will cut!" mr. prank threatened, but barista buddy just hung up on him and turned the ringer off.

so tonight when i answered the phone and heard "what airplane is inside?" i responded with an "operator, this is the call we want traced. how soon will the police be there?".
amazingly mr. prank was the one to hang up and didn't call back for the rest of the night. we'll see if he wants to ask us more questions tomorrow.

barista rant: i fully expected the "i want a soy eggnog latte" requests, but i was not anticipating the "gimme an eggnog latte, but don't make it sweet" demand. when i informed you that eggnog is made with sugar, and there is no way to make it "not sweet" you huffed and said "i get it unsweetened all the time!". stupidly i tried to explain, yet again, that there was no way i could make your drink unsweetened. you rolled your eyes and asked for the manager. when he told you the very same thing you responded with a smile and said "oh! i didn't realize they were already sweetened. thanks for letting me know!".
may that eggnog go straight to your butt.


bizarre love triangle

this week we have news of more district shuffling. this time it's not management drama - it's love trauma.

it's bux policy that lovers should not work in the same store - but it happens.
a lot.
when it does (or actually, when other people find out) one of the lovers must find another store to transfer to. usually it's not a big deal, although it can be an inconvenience. there are, however, those times when it IS a big deal. example: the barista that had to move stores because she had a threesome with her manager and his pregnant wife. no matter how "hush hush" the reason for her transfer was supposed to be - the green apron express could not be quelled and EVERYONE in the district knew why she had to change stores.

my bux is about receive a newly transferred barista of our own. no matter how many times my manager and perky assistant manager told us "not to gossip", by the end of the day even our customers knew the reason for the transfer.

the short version:
lesbian partner of ten years works for bux.
attractive hetero newbie who has a boyfriend is hired at same bux.
lesbian partner makes a play for hetero newbie.
lesbian partner "turns" newbie.
newbie breaks up with boyfriend and secretly starts dating lesbian partner.
newbie and lesbian partner move in together as "roommates".
guitar playing emo boy is hired at same bux.
newbie starts hanging out with guitar playing emo boy.
newbie starts sleeping with guitar playing emo boy.
lesbian partner finds out about hetero affair and confronts newbie - during their shift.
newbie decides emo boy is her soulmate and dumps lesbian partner, but wants to stay "roomies" (because emo boy still lives with his parents).
spurned lesbian partner torments emo boy when they have overlapping shifts.
newbie torments lesbian partner for tormenting emo boy.
drama gets waaaay out of hand and newbie is forced to transfer to my bux.
emo boy will transfer to another district and lesbian partner has taken a leave of absence.

i can bet money newbie and bitter old dude will try and outdo each other with their personal drama. either that or they become best friends.

customer rant: you screwed up four drinks in a row because you were on your cell phone when you should have been working. you know full well that cell phones aren't allowed on the floor, but it seems you believe that rule does not apply to you. not only that, you also seemed to feel it was well within your place to argue with a customer because she interrupted your conversation when she pointed out you'd made her drink incorrectly. leave the cell phone in the backroom where it belongs, and start doing what you're paid to do!


you pay for happy ending?

sometimes customers like to talk with their baristas. and sometimes they like to banter and flirt. usually the banter is light and innocuous. sometimes the flirting borders on creepy.

tonight, for instance, a customer delivered a line that caused me to cringe: "would you sit in my latte to make it sweeter?"


i guess he was going for the variation of "it's sweet just because you made it" or even "will you sweeten it a little more by putting your finger tip in it?" <-- still gross, by the way.
but asking me to SIT in his latte? that went way beyond flirting and straight to "strange uncle". he also informed me that he likes it "extra hot - and with extra whippage". but what really made me feel dirty was when he waved a dollar at me and said he was tipping because i always "do him right".

it's not just the girl baristas that have to deal with this sort of customer. boy baristas also have their share of admirers. i used to work with a guy who looked like he belonged in a boy band. not only were the teen girlies hot for him, their mothers were as well. in fact he was propositioned by more than one desperate housewife looking for a "workout partner". one mother in particular was so aggressive that my fellow barista buddy started hiding whenever she'd come into the store. if she cornered him while he was at bar she would always ask him to add his "special sauce" to her drink.

so. very. wrong.

partner rant: you've been here for three months already! how long will it take for you to learn that "GTL" stand for "green tea lemonade" and not a "green tea latte"? i know all the symbols can be confusing, and many of them are similar, but you make this mistake EVERY SINGLE DAY! why can't you learn to differentiate between "GTL" and "GRTL"? it's not rocket-science!