human touch

sometimes there are occupational hazards to being a barista.
i'm not talking about steam wand burns, box-cutter wounds or pulled muscles from carrying multiple gallons of milk. i'm talking about barista molestation.

now, one of the great things about working as a barista is getting to know our regular customers. they come in daily to joke with us, and tell us about their personal lives - and usually that's the extent of our interaction. but there are some days when talking isn't enough to satisfy a customer.

i have been squeezed, hugged, and petted too many times to count. and these customers are tricky and quick; they always wait until you've turned your attention to something else before they thrust themselves upon you. i've had my hand grabbed and kissed while i was giving someone a pastry, my hair caressed when i was changing a trash can in the lobby and my fingers caught in the paws of an affectionate customer when i took his credit card from him.

the latest incident happened while i was restocking the gums and mints at the register, which required me to leave the safety of my usual spot behind the bar and join the 'civilians' on the other side of the counter. while i put the little tin containers where they belonged, i felt two hands on my shoulders. before i could react i was being massaged by some customer.

"there you go brat, you deserve it." the voice of one of our regulars told me.
"haha, yeah." i answered uncomfortably as i wriggled free of his grip.
"now, i wouldn't do this for just any barista." he raised his eyebrows at me and i ran behind the pastry case so that i would be out of his reach.

"brat, i heard you got the 'special treatment' too." awesomely amazing barista said to me later that day.
"he did it to me as well and i was so conflicted." she wrinkled her nose. "i so didn't want him touching me, but i really needed the massage!"

now, both of us knew this regular didn't mean to come off as creepy, and i'm sure he really was just being nice, but it's difficult for us baristas at times like these. we don't want react harshly with a loud "HANDS OFF!" and get in our fighting stance, especially when previous to the encounter the customer has been princely. nor do we want to seem in any way encouraging. there's a fine art to setting one's boundaries without making the other party feel defensive and unfortunately it seems i'm not very artistic.

partner rant: it's ok to be frustrated. especially when we are understaffed and we have a line out the door. but it is not ok to yell at your fellow baristas. ever. no matter how many drinks you've had to remake or how many customers have asked you for water. respect your fellow baristas, or find someplace else to work.


train in vain

working at bux one tends to become jaded when it comes to fussy customers.
usually it's pretty easy to roll with the punches when a customer bitches that their drink isn't hot enough, their muffin not moist enough, or if the aroma of their coffee doesn't "dance enough" on their tongue.
but even though a complaining customer is par for the course, there are times when you come across a person so mad at the world that they leave a lasting impression.

case in point:
yesterday morning my bux was in a state of flux. we were a person short on the floor, had a brand new trainee (don't worry - i have TONS of stories about this newbie to post) and a steady flow of customers that just wouldn't cease.
unfortunately, when we have to train a newbie on bar, it makes a longer wait for our customers.

now, what people might not realize is that we baristas have NO say in what a newbies training schedule will be. it doesn't matter if we tell our managers that putting a newbie on register training during a busy monday morning rush is insane, or if we explain with great detail that teaching a newbie how to make frappuccinos during the hottest part of the day is idiotic - managers will squeeze newbie training in wherever they see fit, even if it makes no logical sense.

so, yesterday morning we baristas had no choice but to follow the 'wise' decision of our manager and train the newest apron-wearing member of our staff on how to work the espresso bar. as you can rightly guess, customers had to wait an unusually long period to claim the drinks they had ordered several minutes before.
doobie newbie (yes, indeed, this guy enjoys his herbs) was placed in the care of my awesomely amazing fellow barista brat. not only did she have the almost impossible task of teaching doobie newbie how to make drinks, she had to appease the horde of upset customers at the same time. honestly, most of the customers left happy, especially since awesomely amazing barista made sure to apologize to every one of them about the long wait, but there was one woman who made it well known that nothing awesomely amazing barista could say could make her happy.

"is mine ready yet?" she hissed at awesomly amazing barista. "i've been waiting forever!"
"yours is up right now," aab informed her and began to apologize for the dely.
"why the hell are you guys so slow?" she growled. "there's no reason why i should have to wait ten minutes for my drink!"
"i fully understand, and you're right," aab answered her sincerely. "it's just that we are training right now and it takes a little longer to make drinks."
"you guys shouldn't be training right now!" the customer raised her voice to a level that made everyone turn and look in her direction. "that's no way to run a business! you should do your training some other time!"
"i totally agree with you, but i have no control over when they schedule training." aab responded in a kind voice.
"this isn't even right!" the customer screeched and shook her drink at aab. "you put too much milk in it! i ordered an iced latte and there is too much milk here!"
"well, i can remake it for you if you'd like - "
"forget it!" the customer shrilled and grabbed her drink. "i'm never coming back here again. i'm going to phone your manager and complain!: she called out as she made her way to the front door.

none of us were surprised when the phone rang and a highly tense woman's voice demanded to speak with the manager. upset that there wasn't a manager around to bitch at, she settled for one of the shift supervisors.

"you guys, that lady was so pissed!" the shift supervisor told aab and i after hanging up the phone. "she complained about the service, the wait, the training and the 'extra' milk in her cup. but she also SPECIFICALLY complained about the 'puerto rican looking fella that probably barely speaks english and stood there like an idiot staring at the cup'."
now, i myself, get frustrated with doobie newbie's inability to move beyond a snail's pace, but her comment was still somewhat shocking.
"and when i asked her if there was anything i could do to fix her experience," he continued, "she just yelled at me. she said, 'i'm just gonna toss my latte, drink my soda and be unhappy!'"

can i just say we will not miss her patronage?

barista rant: please don't plop your baby on the register counter, then walk away. i'm sure you thought that since i was standing right there, i would ensure your baby wouldn't fall to the floor, or start chewing on the paperclip next to her. i'm sure you figured that since you were only 'gonna take a second!' to browse our display shelves, we would have no problem entertaining your little angel. well, guess what - baristas do not babysit. we are not here to keep your kid from injuring herself while you choose between a green or purple commuter mug. be a parent and keep an eye on your own kid!!!

bonus question post!

i promised to answer questions that were left in the comment section of 'absence makes the brat gripe harder'.

here they are:
mellowlee said...
Im so glad to see you back. Sorry you had such a crap week. As soon as I saw the Orange flavoured drinks at my bux, I thought of you. Are these syrups limited time only? or are you stuck with em?

yes, it appears we are stuck with them. and i'm sure you can guess i'm thrilled with that.

Schlatko said...
Hey Brat!

Let me ask you something.
Do you have a problem at your store with partners (both at your store and at others) not charging for extras such as added syrups, caramel sauce, heavy whipping cream added to drinks, and other stuff.... meaning when you are on register and ring up the drink correctly the customer gets all pissy because their drink is now a wallet-breaking sixty-three cents more than what they paid before?
I've been having this problem a lot lately and it's starting to get to me. I'm really tired of looking like the bad guy and that I don't know what I'm doing.... when in reality I'm the one doing things correctly?
Was just wondering if you had the same issue.

yes. this happens all the time. bux doesn't charge for extra whipped cream, or extra caramel (so long as the drink recipe already came with caramel) but ALL the time we have people claiming that no other bux charges for soy or breve.

delect said...
Hey Brat, new reader here.
I need some help. I go to a really busy bucks near work and I am all about quick order, quick pay, quick tip, patient waiting. I need to change my drink, they are making it too sweet, so.. in starbonics...how do i order a grande americano with a shot of vanilla syrup and some non fat foam on top? Help please.. thanks.

first i need to know if you mean 'pump' when you say 'shot'. for grande drinks we use four pumps of syrup, so if you want all four pumps you just need to ask for a grande vanilla americano topped with nonfat foam. if you want only one pump you ask for a grande one pump vanilla americano topped with nonfat foam.
hope this helps!

Melissa said...
Brat- Love starbucks. Yummy. I always get an 8 pump Venti Chai Latte w/ no water.
But, i have a question- Those Banana Dolce Coffee Cakes; do you get them whole sale? And if so, from where? I have been trying to get the recipe but to no avail.... What company makes them???

i could be wrong about this, but my understanding was that different regions have different pastry suppliers. my store doesn't even have banana dolce coffee cakes - we have banana chocolate coffee cakes instead. sorry!

SkippyMom said...
Um, Brat...do you need bail money? 'Cause you know when I was married to my ex I became totally ace at getting him outta jail...so, if, y'know - you finally took out one of the customers I would SO come bail you out...and then I could hide you in VA! hee....
Seriously...we hope you are okay.
Take care and let us know if you need anything, 'kay?

haha, thanks for frontin' me! i'm saving my tips to pay you back!


mortal combat

dearest readers -
once again i must apologize for my lack of updates. i can promise, however, that by july i should have more time to blog.
so many things have happened at bux in the past couple weeks, and i have SEVERAL stories with which to regale you, but i think today i must focus on an even that happened this past weekend.

now you might recall my post about our infamous scammers – mr. and mrs. moocher. well, since their scam was no longer working at my bux they decided to “patronize” the other bux’ in my district. apparently they’ve been quite successful because it had been several weeks since they’d made an appearance in my store.

last week, though, i was informed of a mrs. moocher sighting. apparently her husband now waits in the car while she tries to pay only eighty cents for two grande drips, two venti ice waters and two empty cups (that she fills with milk from the condiment bar). so when she came in on one of my shifts, i was ready to (once again) inform her of our refill policy and charge her the correct amount.
what i wasn’t ready for, however, was the verbal lashing she had well-rehearsed just for my benefit.

“brat!” she pointed at me after a fellow barista had called me out of the backroom. “i have a bone to pick with you.”
“with me?” i asked with a smile. honestly i had no clue as to what her problem was, but i was amused nonetheless.
“yes, you!” she gently pounded her aged fist on the counter. “you have mortally offended me!”

i guess i didn’t give her the reaction she wanted because she repeated twice more that i had “mortally offended” her. it took every ounce of self control to keep from chuckling because i kept thinking “hey, if i ‘mortally offended’ you, then shouldn’t you be dead?”.

“brat, i always liked you,” she lied, “and i never, ever had a problem with you,” she continued to lie, “but now i am so upset that i don’t even think i want to buy coffee from you anymore!”

to my credit i was nice and did not flippantly remind her that she barely “pays” for coffee in the first place, nor did i inform her that i would in fact be quite content if she chose to no longer try and run her scam on me.

“it has been several weeks since i’ve even been here, you know, and i’m so, so upset because i’m so offended.” she rattled semi-cohenrently. “you know, we don’t always come to this store – sometimes we go to other starbucks. we are very loyal customers, you know.”
“yeah, i’ve seen you at other stores before.” i answered evenly – still not sure of what i had done to “mortally offend” her.
“well, we went to a different starbucks, and before i even ordered my coffee the boy working there said to me, ‘i know who you are. you always try to get things for free – brat at the other store warned me about you.’ and i was so upset and embarrassed!”

now i was surprised for a couple of reasons. first, it seemed odd to me that someone at another store would just come out and tell mrs. moocher that they had been warned about her. secondly, what would make mrs. moocher think baristas WEREN’T talking about her and her scamming husband?

“well, i’m sorry if you were offended –”
“mortally offended!” mrs. moocher interrupted me. “he named you specifically! i was so hurt that you would spread lies about me to someone i’ve never even met before!”
“first off, i have no idea who you’re talking about.” i told her honestly. “and how can you be sure he was telling you the truth?”
“but he named you specifically! he said YOU warned him about ME!” she cried out while shaking her empty coffee cup. “not only that, he got in trouble with his manager because he refused to give me my discount.”
“listen," i told her evenly and calmly. "we get in trouble if we don’t follow policy. i'm only doing my job when i charge you for your grande drips. there's no reason to be offended because i've done my job and another barista happens to know that."
"YOU listen," she pointed her finger at me. "what YOU should be concerned about is whether someone comes in with a gun and shoots you dead. or if they jump over the counter and rob you! you should NOT be so concerned with how much i pay for my coffee!"
"it's true," i conceded before launching into my own tirade. "being robbed is a huge concern, however that doesn't mean i completely ignore policy and let you pay whatever you want just because i don't want to be shot!"
"well, i would never expect you to not do your job." she said in a tone that was part sarcastic and part complimentary. "let's just say this: let's start fresh next time i come in. you have apologized and i accept your apology. perhaps we can forget all this ever happened." she offered before leaving (WITHOUT her two forty cent refills, i must add).

my fellow baristas had a good laugh about my tongue-lashing, their favorite quote now being "brat, you have mortally offended me!".
but the best part of the story hasn't even been told yet!
a few days after mrs. moocher chewed me out, one of my favorite baristas ever came into my bux. he and i used to work together quite often before he was transferred to the bux across town.

"hey brat!" he called out before giving me a hug. "you'll never believe who showed up at my store - mrs. moocher!"
i laughed and began to fill him in on me having 'mortally offended' her, but he interrupted me.
"what a liar!" he shook his head. "she came in and tried to run her scam on me, but i told her 'hey - i know who you are! you used to come into my old store all the time and try to get freebies and discounted drinks.' she tried to deny it until i said 'lady - i worked with brat at the other store. i was there when she told you that you had to pay regular price - so don't think just because i'm at a different store that i'm gonna forget to charge you correctly'."

now i can't wait for mrs. moocher to come back to my store. i have a feeling that she'll be quite disappointed that i'm not so willing to "start fresh".

customer rant: please, please, please let me know if you are out of iced coffee! pouring hot coffee over ice cubes is NOT the same beverage at all! especially DON'T pull this stunt with me since i work with you! if anyone can taste the difference, it's a fellow barista - and if anyone should know better it's the baristas i work with.