If you fancy yourself a writer, chances are you have spent some time writing in a coffee shop. You, sitting there with your Macbook Pro, typing away while the other customers are most assuredly peeking at you over their newspapers thinking, “Wow, they must be writing the next great American novel! And I get to watch!”
I’m not judging. I’ve done it, too. Sometimes the walls of my apartment start to close in and I have to get out before I go crazy. I try to focus on writing and all I can see are dirty dishes, unwashed laundry, smudged mirrors, and the sad faces of my dogs begging for love and attention.
But while I’ve spent my fair share of time publicly writing the next great American novel, I’ve also spent a significant amount of time on the other side of the bar as a barista (a fledgling writer working in a coffee shop? No! Go on!). If your barista is somewhat grumpy, it’s entirely possible that it has nothing to do with you. Maybe they’re having a bad day, maybe their cat is sick, maybe they got another publishing rejection letter because they didn’t think to submit to Eat Your Serial’s short story contest. Perhaps it has nothing to do with you.
Sometimes it’s not your barista. Sometimes it’s you. Check the following list and find out if you’re guilty of any of these practices, which could cause your barista to kill you off in her next book.
1. Show up before the coffee shop opens.
It seems like fairly simple logic: if the open sign is turned off and the current time is outside the posted hours, the shop isn’t open. On a few occasions when I was a barista, I’d have customers wander in and demand (because no one asks nicely anymore) coffee while I was still counting the register and the chairs were all still up on the tables. Not wanting to turn away business, I’d serve them, but I hit my limit the day one of the customers said rudely, “Um, just so you know, your open sign is off. Did you know that?”
Yes, yes I did. Idiot.
2. Take twenty minutes to order during the morning rush.
Unless you’ve never heard of coffee before, you most likely have a general idea of what you like to drink when you visit a coffee shop. What drove me up a wall were the customers who stood in line staring at the menu but when they got up to the register and I asked them what they would like to drink, they stared at me as if I had just asked them to recite the periodic table backwards. In Aramaic.
3. Ask for a job during the morning rush. The coffee shop I worked in was located near a high school and one morning during a particularly busy rush, one of the high school kids started banging on the counter and shouted, “Hey! HEY!” When I looked over at him he asked, “Are you hiring?” Not anymore, sparky.
4. Actually, anything during a rush other than politely ordering your coffee. If I have a line of six or seven coffee cups at the espresso machine during a rush, I don’t really have time to deal with you repeating, “But I just really need a banana!” over and over even though I’ve already explained to you that we don’t carry fresh fruit, but there’s a grocery store literally one hundred feet from our front door.
5. Screw up your own drink order.
You are a special snowflake with very specific likes and dislikes. You, of all people, should know what these are and be able to correctly order your own coffee. I once had a girl come in and spend ten minutes ordering her coffee and tweaking it to her exact specifications. I delivered her drink, she squealed with delight, and she pranced about on her merry way. Ten minutes later, and with the drink half gone, she came back up to the bar and requested I remake the drink with soy because she “like, totally forgot she doesn’t like milk.”
6. Have inappropriate volume control.
Either end of the spectrum is really unnecessary. Shouting at me as if I’m deaf is uncalled for as is whispering inaudibly. The latter happened with startling regularity which would result in me practically lying on the counter top, close enough to qualify as a prom night backseat in an effort to hear an inaudible customer. Speak at a normal volume. Pretend like we’re having a real conversation during a real human interaction.
7. Try to best the barista with your coffee knowledge.
I can’t even count the number of times that I had customers try and “quiz me” on coffee history and terminology in an effort to try and one up me and feel superior to the underpaid barista pulling their espresso. Yes, you obnoxious prat, I know what a true macchiato is. Stop challenging me for the smug satisfaction you might get from smiling pettily at the rest of the coffee line. It only makes me want to spit in your drink.
8. Explain to the barista how to make a basic espresso drink.
I know how to make a freaking latte. Trust me, I’m a professional.
9. Make stupid requests about things you want to see in the shop.If you work in a coffee shop, especially when you move higher up in management, you tend to be open to new ideas for ways to improve the business because hey, good ideas can come from anywhere. Stupid ideas, however, are best kept to yourself. I once had a high maintenance regular request we put an exercise bike in the shop so when she wanted to take a study break, she could hope on the bike for five minutes. You want to take a study break? Walk outside. Want to ride an exercise bike? Buy one and study at home.
10. Don’t tip.
It seems that a lot of people are unaccustomed to tipping for coffee which, in a Starbucks world, I get. Why tip someone who pushed a button on a machine? However, if you go to a coffee shop where the baristas manually pull shots and put forth some real effort in your drink, throw them a buck or two. Baristas endure a lot of crap from high maintenance customers and an appreciative tip goes a long way to improving their minimum wage day. Plus, they might stop making fun of you while you write for attention in the shop.
For more ways to piss off your barista, check out Conversations I Want to Have with Customers.