all right, mr. de mille. i'm ready for my close-up!

a lengthy tale about a vainglorious barista:

when this barista was first hired, he seemed like a great fit. he was affable, punctual and a quick learner. in fact, we all had high hopes for him because not only did he appear to like his job, he also liked dealing with customers.
he was the guy who would give you a hug before he started his shift, always be available to work for you if you needed the day off, and gave gifts to all his fellow baristas every holiday (which, quite honestly, seemed very odd to me). he was chatty with the customers and with the partners alike.
but he was also painfully slow on bar. and was always late coming back from his breaks. and would spend ten minutes talking to one customer while the rest of the partners had to work harder to make up for the slack. AND he thought he was the greatest thing bux had ever seen since the advent of frappuccinos.
but when he REALLY became unbearable was when he decided bux was sherwood forest and he was robin hood. he started giving away beverages to his friends, family, regulars, people he'd just met, customers who thought adam lambert should've won american idol, and the guy who reminded him of his mechanic.

"so why didn't you put him straight, brat?" you might be asking.
well, i tried.
and failed.

i admit, i was manipulated into being too nice to him.
i have never worked with such a suck-up before. it was always, "oh honey, i love working at this store!", "my love, thank you for being the best learning coach!", "sweetie, i appreciate your help so much!".
baristas were complaining about his laziness and freebies left and right, but were all too afraid of hurting his feelings - so he continued to "hand out donations" to his friends and customers while the rest of us had work even harder just to stay afloat.

baristas, leads, even my own MANAGER would tell me of how hard their shifts were because he'd taken too long a lunch, or was too slow on bar, or had gossiped with a customer for ten minutes while he was supposed to be doing a lobby. whenever they would try and gently let him know that they needed him to work as hard as they did, he would softly purr his apologies and then be so hard on himself that they soon found they were comforting HIM!
he'd even figured out how to cut the leads off at the pass and would promise to work harder before they'd a chance to have a coaching conversation with him.

finally, i'd had enough.
i didn't care how "nice" he was anymore.
i had no use for the empty compliments.
all i wanted was for him to DO HIS JOB.

so, with the blessing of my manager, i decided to have a sit down talk with this barista to let him know that:
a) he was very well liked
b) he needed to pull his weight while at work, not just spend all his time talking with customers
c) all his fellow partners really, honestly did like him
d) his job was in danger because he gave away so many free drinks and pastries
e) it wasn't personal - everyone LIKED him

as i said - i was stupid and easily manipulated by him.
i should have kept it to only point b and point d, but i didn't want him to feel picked on.
after our talk was over i was hopeful that he'd adjust his behaviour while at work. and you know what?
his behaviour DID change!
but not in the way that i'd hoped for.

instead i became locked in his crosshairs.
he still continued to give away freebies, and still didn't do his job, but now he spent his time telling baristas and customers alike that i had it in for him because i was -
wait for it...


yes, it's true.
he told anyone willing to listen that i was jealous of him because he was so popular, which in turn made my popularity wane.
his exact words were, "she used to be the one in the spotlight, and then i came and took it from her. now she can't handle not being in the spotlight anymore and she's trying to get me fired."

i admit, i laughed - no, not laughed - guffawed when i heard this.
and then i was kind of sad.

i was sad because it suddenly became crystal clear why this barista gave away drinks and bestowed gifts upon his fellow partners. he so desperately wanted everyone to like him that he'd resorted to "buying" his friends. he didn't genuinely want to help people out - he wanted their affection.
and when i told him that his job was in danger unless he buckled down, well, he saw that as a threat to his standing.
and his standing was more important to him than his job because not two days after our discussion, barista buddy had his own conversation with him regarding the SAME things.
and less than a week after that he was "separated from the company" for -
wait for it...

giving away beverages.

barista rant: i know you love the way i make your drink. i know that whenever you see me on bar you call out, "yay brat's gonna make my drink!" but even though you get "the best" drinks from me, it does not mean if i'm in your eyesight that i have to drop what i'm doing to make your high-maintenance beverage. this especially holds true when i'm on my knees under the blenders cleaning the drain. i don't care if it will ruin your day if someone else makes your drink - deal with it. i'm busy doing yet another one of my duties.


comical corporate, combative customers and crappy co-workers

hi there!
remember me?
i've been away so long i barely remembered my blogger password.
clearly i've been too busy to post, and i'm hoping a super long entry will help tide you over until the next time i am able to blog again.

there have been SOOOOOOOO many things i've wanted to post about, and just haven't had the time, so i will do my best to get you back up to speed.

first off - comical corporate

now i'm sure many of you remember what a big deal it was when howard schultz came back as ceo. how he was supposed to turn our company around and bring us back to our 'roots'. there was a HUGE emphasis on customer service: dvds were watched, memos read, and managers held meetings to make sure their partners remembered that the customer experience was our first concern - NOT the bottom line.
not only did howard want the customer to get the perfect beverage every time, he wanted them to be blasted with the scent of freshly ground coffee. so we baristas no longer had the luxury of pre-ground packs of coffee, but instead had to grind pounds upon pounds of beans so that a permanent cloud of coffee dust hung in the air.
but howard didn't want the experience to end there! he wanted the customers to SEE how fresh their coffee was! so not only did we had to portion out pounds of pike place each morning, but we had to label them with the date and our names so that the customer could see how dedicated bux was to having fresh coffee in the store. AND if we needed to grind or pour more pike place blend, we had to walk out from behind the counter and grab a conspicuously positioned five-pound bag of beans to again give the customer that "unique" experience of a coffee house.

so, you might have asked yourself if this tactic did indeed work.
well, in a word: no.
in fact, it was so ineffective that within weeks we no longer kept the five-pound bag of beans out in the lobby. and just a few short months later, without any reason given to us baristas, pre-packed pounds of pike place showed up in our deliveries.
so much for that "unique" experience, eh?
add to that "brew on demand" decaf coffee in the afternoon and you get a lot comments from customers that they might as well save their money and make their own coffee.
BUT i do have to say there is one saving grace to this whole economic mess bux is in, and that is the return of the refill policy.
that's right!
because bux stock is so very low, we have now been given STRICT orders to enforce our refill policy.
this fills me with pure joy, it really does.
i LOVE telling customers it doesn't matter if they have held on to their cup for the last millennium just so they could get away with paying 50 cents for their coffee or iced teas. it brings me to a level of bliss i didn't know existed to be able to say "actually this has always been our policy, we've only just recently been told we must enforce it" to the angry faces of our cheapie customers.

ah, how i love the slow and painful death of "just say yes".

combative customers
before i start ranting about some of the horrid folks that come into my bux, i first have to acknowledge how truly great most our customers are. our regulars are the main reason why i love my job. truly.

so, i get that people are freaked out by the economy. i, myself, am concerned about whether or not i will still have a job (and no, we have not yet heard if my bux will be one of the unlucky ones that will shut down during the second wave of store closures), but somehow i manage to go about my day without being a total bitch, you know? the fact that you're stressing does not give you the right to yell and scream at me. just because you are having a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that you've spent almost 1000 dollars in my store since the start of the year does not mean you have license to threaten us baristas whenever you need to 'get it all out'.
even though we baristas work for a large corporation, you do not have the right to call us jerks because we won't give you a discount on your venti espresso caramel frappuccino with energy, protein and chocolate chips. it is not our responsibility if you are "addicted" to your bux fix and HAVE to partake of it every morning just to feel human. if you really feel the need to bitch someone out and call them names because you spend way to much money in our store, then i suggest you take a long hard look in the mirror.

crappy co-workers
for the most part, my store is doing well when it comes to our baristas. we have a strong manager/lead team, several seasoned baristas, and more than a handful of hard-working, principled partners. but even though we've been on an employee upswing, we still have our share of dead weight that NEEDS to get cut.
for instance, just because you spent ten minutes talking to a customer does not mean you are the bees knees when it comes to customer service. really, what it means is your customer service skills SUCK because you ignored the thirty OTHER customers that came into our store. besides the fact that you made the rest of us baristas have to work harder and faster because you were busy chatting it up with a customer.
while we're at it, i should mention a few other things that you've obviously mistaken for good customer service:
- giving away free drinks because a customer said you make the best lattes is NOT good customer service. especially when those same customers act like outright jerks to the rest of us baristas because we won't give them their beverages on the house.
- offering to donate a free coffee traveller to the neighborhood watch meeting is NOT good customer service. especially considering you don't have that authority, and the fact that you totally put our manager on the spot when the neighborhood watch lady waltzed in to our bux singing "hooray for free coffee!".
and finally - making samples of a chai cream frappuccino for the homeless woman who has never spent a red cent in our bux is NOT good customer service. especially when our very loyal paying customers hear you say to the homeless woman "oh don't worry about asking for free samples - it's not like starbucks doesn't make enough money as it is!"

besides all the freebies, you are as slow as molasses when it comes to working behind the bar. you do a crappy job of deep cleaning, and you spend more time running your mouth than actually working. i am so pleased to hear that you have been given a final warning. the rest of us working baristas can't wait for you to be gone.

so, dear readers (if any of you still occasionally check this blog), i will do my best to keep you better up to date as the weeks progress.