re-wrap recap

i'm trusting everyone's holidays have been fantastic.

besides the expected christmas cards in my mailbox, i also received a letter from starbucks about how although they used to match 401(k)s, it is now up to their discretion whether they will match, and if they match how much they will match.

"does this greatly affect the brat?" some of you may wonder.
well, not really.
in fact, i'm not sure how many people at bux it does affect. the only buxters i know who have enrolled in the 401(k) option are salaried managers, and not even all of them have done it.
but i thought you all might like to know that it's not only labor being cut by seattle - benefits are being cut (oh, excuse me: "modified") as well.

i can tell you, however, that this was the slowest holiday i've experienced at bux. though because of the shortage of hours alloted it seemed pretty hectic. i made sure to keep track of some of the best and worst of the season my store was fortunate enough to experience.

- the customer who bought every barista in our store a present (even though she only knows half of us).
- barista buddy who kept everyone smiling and laughing, even when we had a line to the door and one of our machines had broken down.
- our loyal and patient regulars who didn't complain at all when the last minute shoppers held up the line so they could purchase 20 gift cards.
- not-so-newbie barista who baked us all christmas goodies.
- my manager who gave me the holiday schedule i wanted
- the customer who felt so bad at holding up the line while she had us wrapping mugs that she bought drinks for the next three customers in line.

- the woman who brought in a gift card for 50 dollars, demanded cash, and when we couldn't comply made us turn that one 50 dollar gift card into ten 5 dollar gift cards, and THEN made us give her the cash for each gift card one transaction at a time.
- seattle for sending out a memo to all the stores saying we MUST ring up customers properly and follow the refill policy, yet STILL tells us to 'just say yes'.
- the nut who made us put her latte in a ceramic mug because 'i can't stand these goddam red cups year after year!"
- the family that decided on a whim during a morning rush to order a coffee traveller, then complained loudly about how long it was taking for it to be ready, even after we explained that we would have to brew a batch especially for their traveller. and when it was finally ready, they decided to order a second decaf traveller, but demanded it be free since they would have to wait another ten minutes (of course we did not comply).
- they guy that yelled at me for not caring about dying africans when i informed him that we are not equipped to take donations for the (red) campaign.

partner rant:
holiday used to be my favorite time to work at bux. i loved the decorations, the music, even the eggnog, but this year was such a downer. sure, you can blame the economy, but i put most the blame on you, seattle. this is NOT the same company it was when i was a newbie. this is NOT the company i hired on to. this is not even the same company from two years ago. i know you have stock holders to keep happy (hello - i'm one of them), and i know you need to be profitable as a corporation, but the decisions you've made over this past year have all stunk. i'm talking every single one of them. and none of them have turned this company around like you said they would. so please, start listening to your managers and baristas (you know, the people that actually work IN the stores) if you really want to see changes that will make this company what it used to be.



you can always get what you want

ok - this story is too good to leave off the blog.
i don't care that it didn't happen in my store, or even my district. trust me - this is great:

every few years each bux gets a major remodel. usually that means a fresh coat of paint, new artwork, new furniture, and updated pastry cases and shelves.
it just so happens that in this particular bux, there is a regular who really, REALLY loved the comfy chairs. he would come in every morning, ask for a venti iced water (that's right - he never bought drinks), claim a comfy chair and camp out on it for several hours. apparently he was a budding sitcom writer.
no, he didn't ACTUALLY write for sitcoms. nor did he ever make money for any of his scripts. nonetheless, bux had become his workplace and everyday he came in for his venti water and his comfy chair.

now, you might have rightly guessed that he was very upset when this bux was closed for remodeling.
"how am i going to get any writing done!?!" he demanded of the baristas. "you are seriously messing with my flow!"
so, he eagerly awaited the re-opening of this bux so that he could settle into his comfy chair with a free water. imagine his devastation when he found his comfy chairs had been replaced with some not-so-comfy seats. he apparently raised the biggest stink because he could not write his sitcoms while sitting in the less-comfy chairs because it strained his back. he called the manager, the district manager, the regional manager and the starbucks customer complaint line. he brought in his own special padding to use and demanded the baristas keep the padding in their backroom because he couldn't be bothered to lug it back and forth everyday (you know - because of his bad back).
still, he continued to complain to everybody and anybody about his missing comfy chair. he told corporate that he was going to sue.
he felt a lawsuit was necessary because (please stay with me here):
he couldn't write in the new chairs because they made his back hurt
which meant he couldn't make any money
which meant he couldn't afford to take his girlfriend out
which meant she didn't want to date him anymore
which meant he became depressed when she dumped him
which meant he had to pay for therapy
which meant he would also have to pay for anti-depressants
which meant he would no longer be an effective sitcom writer since he was going to be taking medication
which meant he couldn't realize his dream as a sitcom writer

want to know what bux did?
they CAVED!

that's right - they searched high and low, far and wide to find him his precious comfy chair. and NO ONE ELSE was allowed to use his chair, which meant the poor baristas had to bring out the chair for him when he arrived, and carry it back to their backroom when he left.

so, to recap, a non-paying regular who would spend hours camped out at bux (occupying a chair that should have been for paying customers) managed to get what he wanted from corporate by threatening to sue.

i have to laugh, or else i'll cry.

barista rant: no, i will not sell you one of our red aprons. it doesn't matter how funny your girlfriend will think your gag gift is, we will not sell it to you. don't wave your twenty dollar bill at us and expect us to chance losing our jobs so that you and your girlfriend can have a giggle on christmas morning. don't act like we're stupid for not being tempted by your money, and don't insult us by saying we don't know the value of a dollar. WE are not the ones spending twenty bucks on a laugh.


centers of the unibux

i've blogged often about customers with entitlement issues.
you know, the ones who think they are allowed to bypass the register partner and order their drink directly from the barista at bar.
the ones who expect you to stop pulling shots, pouring frappuccinos and steaming milk so you can get their venti cup of ice water.
the ones who want you to call every store in your district to find a mug that is on clearance, no matter the fact there is a line out the door.
the ones who think we baristas are slacking at our jobs because we didn't save the last blueberry muffin for them and we should have known to since they didn't come in and get it at 7am.
the ones who want you to remake their drink three times because "oh, i don't know, it just doesn't taste right".
the ones who expect free drinks every time they come in because one time in the distant past a barista was rude to them.

today we had some royal gems as far as entitlement goes:
- since howard now expects every store to run a negative 3% variance to ideal, we are noticeably short handed during the morning rush. in fact, many customers commented on how well we were doing and how they appreciated us obviously working our apron strings off. there was one customer, however, who felt that even though we were busting our butts just to stay afloat, SHE still wanted us to go above and beyond.
"i want a bagel with butter - TOASTED!" she barked as she threw down a hundred dollar bill.
"ma'am, i'm sorry but i don't have enough change in my drawer for that bill. do you have anything smaller?" register partner politely asked.
"no, i don't." said big baller, jutting her chin out. "that means you gotta give me my bagel for FREE."
"uh," register partner surveyed the line and decided it was worth it to give away the bagel. "i guess we can do that for you today."
"and i want it toasted!" big baller stuffed her benjamin in her bra (in her friggen' bra!), "and i want it buttered BEFORE you toast it - with TWO pats of butter on each slice!"
"ok", register partner sighed.
"AND after it's toasted i want you to let it cool down before you put it in the bag so it doesn't get soggy, understand?"
"i understand she's a bitch," register partner whispered to me as she prepped big baller's breakfast.

- a man set up camp in one of our leather chairs. he ordered a frappuccino, a bottle of water, a sandwich and two pastries. he then pulled out his laptop and began surfing the web.
about ten minutes after he'd settled into the chair, a customer came up to mr. split assistant manager and myself.
"excuse me, but i thought you'd like to know that the man over there in the corner is watching porn on his computer and the volume is up high enough so that i could hear it." he told us.
i didn't know whether to gag or laugh. i mean, who does that? who goes to bux to watch porn?
"i'll take care of it. thanks for letting me know." mr. split said before heading into the lobby to talk to mr. happy.
"i'm sorry sir, but we've had a complaint about the nature of what you're watching on your laptop." he awkwardly started. "we don't mind you staying here, but you have to watch things that are appropriate."
"who the hell are you to tell me what to watch?" mr. happy grunted.
"well, we just can't have you viewing explicit content on our grounds."
"i just bought twenty dollars worth of stuff - i can watch whatever the hell i want to!" mr. happy was now getting angry.
"this isn't coming from me -" mr. split assistant manager was getting intimidated. "it was brought to my attention and it's my job to come over here and talk to you. it's not coming from me."
"you gonna refund me my twenty bucks?" mr. no-longer-happy growled. "if you make me stop watching what i'm watching, then you have to give me my money back. i paid for this seat and to use your damn internet!"
"it's not coming from me." mr. split almost whimpered.
apparently this was enough to ruin the mood for mr. happy because he left - without his twenty dollars but with a free drink coupon.

- and there was the woman who expected us to kick out the person occupying the bathroom so that she could use the mirror to re-apply her make-up.
when we informed her that there was no way we would tell someone they had to leave the bathroom before their business was done just because she wanted us to, she then pulled the "well, you HAVE to. i come here every morning for my REFILL and you're supposed to just say yes to your customers!"
"well, i already told they guy in the bathroom 'YES', so you'll have to wait your turn." i responded.
she then took my manager's business card to report me.
gee, i'm so scared.

partner rant: i appreciate your initiative, i really do, but for the love of espresso PLEASE finish a task before you start a new one. yes, i know the trash needed to be changed, and yes the coffee needed to be rebrewed, and yes the pastry case was empty, but what good does it do if you pull out the trash without putting in new bags, empty the urns without starting the rebrew, and opening boxes of coffee cakes without putting them in the case? it does NO good. in fact, it makes the store messier. so please, please, PLEASE finish up a task before heading into the next.


less means more (work)

latest word from the bean tree is that howard has decided to be proactive about our profit losses. so he has figured out a way to help save money, and therefore save our company.
"is he finally getting rid of those sandwiches brat hates so much?" you might be asking.
"i bet he's realized that brewing coffee every half hour means a lot of wasted dollars down the drain." some of you might have deduced.
unfortunately for all of us, the corner mr. schultz has decided to cut is labor.

that's right.
you see - apparently he's learned (over his decades in the business) that when your customers are already unhappy with your products and your service, the best thing to do is cut labor. that nothing will get those profit margins up like having less workers on the floor to serve drinks and deep clean. that you customers won't mind a bit having to wait longer in dirtier stores for your beverages that have been made by baristas who are overworked and micromanaged.

i guess it's a good thing howard didn't ask my opinion about how to get our stock value back up, because if he had i never would have suggested running the store with less labor. you see - i would have made the sorry and misguided decision to cut costs by not keeping a fully stocked pastry case all day long, which leads to hundreds of dollars a week in expired pastries that have to be thrown away.
i would NOT have spent the money to re-tool all the espresso machines - especially since those very machines that were re-tooled are being replaced by brand new espresso machines (that i'm sure cost a pretty penny).
and yes, i would have gotten rid of those damn ovens!

i guess i just don't see the long term cost benefits of having less employees on the floor to do the same (if not more, in some cases) amount of work.
i don't see how it would appeal to a customer to spend their hard earned money at an establishment that doesn't seem to care anymore about quality or service.
it seems that all the things that made bux so great (for the barista AND the customer) are being phased and/or forced out - only to be replaced by mediocrity at best.
i'm sorry, but i don't know any regular customers that come to bux because the coffee is "so great". they come, day after day, because of the connection they have with their baristas.
well - if this connection is no longer possible, then what reason do they have to keep coming back?

barista rant: please do not play 'whack-a-mole' with your beverage at my bar. i know it seems like it will be lots of fun to jam your straw into your iced beverage one-handed, but when you miss and end up spilling the entire contents of your drink all over my bar - well, fun is the last word to describe it. please use both hands to poke your straw through the lid, that way you won't have to wait for me to remake your beverage, and i won't have to wish a pox upon your house.


'tis the season

we baristas are now officially in the swing of holiday, which of course means our customers have started to behave rather poorly under the guise of 'the season'.
already we've seen an increase in rudeness, selfishness, and rage - and we know it's only going to get worse.

the first wench of christmas was an older women, smartly dressed, and with her phone glued to her ear. when she made it to the front of the line she decided her call was far too important to put on hold and ordered her drink in between a shower of "i don't believe it!", "then what did you say?" and "uh-huhs".
when the register partner tried to verify the order, the wench just waved her off and rolled her eyes, clearly upset that her conversation was being interrupted. so register partner marked the cup to the best of her understanding and handed phone wench her receipt.

well, wouldn't you know - not two seconds after i handed phone wench her drink, did she erupt with "this is NOT what i ordered!".
mind you, she was still on the phone, so when i informed her that i could remake her drink, so long as she told me what it was she wanted, she didn't hear a thing. instead she huffed and started yelling into the phone about how incompetent bux baristas are.
then she looked at her receipt and growled that she'd been charged for the wrong size.
"i can give you the difference - it's no problem," the register partner offered, but of course this fell on the deaf ear that didn't have a phone attached to it.
"this is ridiculous!" phone wench bitched into the receiver and huffed her way out of the store.
"that's what happens when you order WHILE talking on the phone!" i called out to her.
of course, she didn't hear a word.

we also saw an increase in energy with the school kids that filter in for their frappuccinos and raspberry waters. they are so excited about their upcoming two week vacation that they are bouncing off the walls, even without the aid of caffeine. not only are they boisterous and loud, but they are extremely clumsy. we've had to rebuild our holiday display twice since last friday, and we've had to mark out four ceramic mugs that were broken to bits because these kids are kinetic nightmares.
well, at least they've been more polite than the older patrons.

partner rant: are you deaf? how can you not hear that annoying 'beep-beep-beep' coming from the coffee timer? i was on my break in the back room and i STILL heard it. you are standing less than two feet away from the damn thing! it's not enough that you've apparently learned to tune it out. the whole reason it's beeping is to tell you to rebrew fresh coffee! so why the hell were you serving expired drips when i came back from break? oh, i know. because you just DON'T care.