Managers, Mind Your Baristas

No love with this latte. - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
No love with this latte.

We know that being a barista isn't the easiest job in the world. There's an art to making espresso, just as there's an art to dealing with caffeine-starved rude masses.

We feel for you. Really. That's why we heed your pet peeves, which are perfectly reasonable. We also tip well, when the jar's available.

Sadly, espresso's sliding into the fast food category, where people demand their products cheap, fast, and as convenient as possible. With Starbucks and even Kaldi's popping up in box stores next to Pizza Hut Express, the rules for behavior are getting blurry for both patron and barista.

Is it fair for a single barista to be working the Kaldi's counter at a high-traffic Schnucks on a busy Saturday afternoon? Not really. Is it fair for that barista to not only make coffee, but also ring up store employees making non-coffee purchases for their breaks? Nope.

But that was the situation we encountered recently.

It sucks. We know. We know. Lots of us have been exactly where you are. Management needs to know that overextended employees tend to get surly, which leads to surly customers.

However, we have a few suggestions to any barista who find herself in such a situation that might make life easier.

  • When faced with yet another grimy, draggy customer waving a five-spot and asking for a giant iced latte, acknowledge the customer's existence. Just because you pretend she's not there doesn't meant she'll go away. It doesn't take much effort to say, "I'll be with you in a minute."
  • Why does your company think you have time to ring out bottles of Vitamin Water and snack-sized bags of Fritos for cashiers taking their breaks? We agree with you that it's a stupid policy. But it's no reason to snap at the cashier when you tell her the gelato guy can ring her up. She didn't make the policy and isn't at fault.
  • Besides, the gelato guy's working solo, too, and he has a line that includes indecisive kids. By easing your own burden, you're making his worse.
  • Oh, and when you tell the cashier to go to the gelato guy, it's wholly unnecessary to snarl your upper lip and roll your eyes so hard they crash into your frontal lobe. We can see you.
  • When you set a drink on the counter without saying a word and your customer reaches for it, don't snap, "That's for someone else." While your eye-rolling indicates what's going on in your head, it doesn't fully allow us to read your mind.
  • When you do present us with our drinks, smiling sweetly and apologizing for the wait, thanking us for our patience, we're not buying it. Not after the display we've witnessed. The wait didn't bother us one bit at all. If we wanted super-fast, we would have gone to the McCafe. What bothered us was your lack of patience, which made your latte taste about as good as one tainted with French fry oil residue.

Bad moods happen. No one can be happy at work all the time. And while each individual is responsible for her behavior, the folks in charge need to take a good, hard look at what they're expecting.

Managers, it's really, terribly rude to leave your employees understaffed, overburdened, and perhaps in a position that doesn't suit their personalities. Yelling at such employees doesn't do a damn bit of good.

How about providing work conditions that benefit your employees, which in turn benefits your customers and ultimately, your bottom line? It's the polite thing to do.

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