The Punishment for Being Mean to Your Starbucks Barista -


The Punishment for Being Mean to Your Starbucks Barista

This week, when the Internet gave us this viral video that parodies why Starbucks baristas really spell names ridiculously wrong, everyone who has ever walked into a Starbucks had a good laugh. Real Starbucks baristas laughed even harder. Turns out, the joke is pretty close to the truth. One assistant manager talks to about how she finds the greatest joy in the everyday way she messes with her customers. “I really love my job,” she says.

How often do you intentionally spell someone’s name wrong on his or her coffee cup?
Most mornings, I do it just to mess with people. I love to see their reactions. But my regulars have come to love it. I have a lot of Jessicas that come in, and I’ve done every variation on that name you can imagine. In fact, I’ve done just about every name that the video shows.

Has anyone ever been pissed off by the prank?
I have a regular customer named Bob, and the first time I spelled his name Boob, I went even further. I yelled it as loud as I could, “Boob, your latte is ready, BOOB!” He didn’t really care for that. He made a little scene, and my manager gave him a free drink to calm him down. Now he has a sense of humor about it. Now, when he walks in with a scowl on his face, I spell his name “Boob,” just to give him a little smile.

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How often do people complain about the misspellings?
I never really get many complaints about the name being wrong; it’s normally about the drink being wrong. There was one girl who said her name so fast I had no idea what she said. I asked her to repeat it a few times, and I still couldn’t figure it out. Then I realized it was Shaniqua. I have no idea how to spell that. So I just wrote Shaq on her cup and called it out. “Hey, Shaq, here’s your caramel macchiato!” She just gave me a dirty look and said, “Really, Shaq?” I smiled and she left. She still comes in all the time.

Is this an unwritten barista code of conduct? Does every barista do this?
I don’t know if everyone does it, but when I asked my manager if she does, she admitted most Starbucks employees use it as a marketing tool. Most people aren’t going to post a photo to social media of a cup with their name spelled right. I just use it as a way to be funny, but now I get why people use it as a way to promote the business.

How else do you entertain yourself at work that annoys customers?
Sometimes the whole staff will gather together with espresso shots and sing “Shots” by LMFAO at the top of our lungs. We are extremely loud. Sometimes people sing along — I love those customers. Others are just annoyed and impatient.

Do you ever give regular milk to someone who asks for skim?
Oh yeah, all the time. And we’ll give them regular espresso shots when they ask for decaf. I don’t do it if someone is being nice, and I’d never give a caffeinated drink to someone who was pregnant if they didn’t order it. But if someone is being pushy or rude, I do it. For example, I’ll be making a drink and someone looks over the partition and asks, “Did you push the decaf button? Wait, I think the decaf button is over there.” One time a customer actually tried to come behind the counter to verify where the decaf shots are located. I was like, “Sir, you cannot come back here.” He said, “I just always see you guys push different buttons back here, and I just want to know where the right one is.” And you know what? Now you’re getting a regular shot just to jack you up. Maybe even a double.

Have you ever spit in a drink?
Oh no, I would never do that. Besides, we have cameras on us all the time.

Has anyone ever made you so angry that you wanted to spit in his or her drink?
A customer made me cry once. It was late, and I was closing by myself. She [was] a larger woman with a very loud voice. She comes in talking on her phone and orders a green tea latte. She didn’t specify if she wanted it hot or iced or what kind of milk she wanted, and she wouldn’t listen to me. So I rang her up for a hot one and gave it to her. She took a sip and spit it out on the counter. She said, “Is this nonfat? Is this sugar-free? Is this 180 degrees?” I said, “I didn’t know what you wanted. I can remake it.” Her reply: “You better remake it!” So I did, she tasted it, shrugged, and said, “This will do,” and left. She comes back to the store 20 minutes later and says the drink is horrible and demands a new one. I opened the lid, and it’s a cup full of cold milk. Our green tea lattes are really green from the matcha powder we use. I started to make her a new one and asked, “So, what happened to the matcha in there?” and she snapped at me: “Are you seriously questioning me? You’d better make my latte, bitch!” I started to cry, and she kept terrorizing me. It was awful. But I still wouldn’t have spit in her drink. I don’t want to intentionally hurt anyone in any way.

How much coffee do you drink a day?
If I’m working, I usually have my trenta-size coffee, and I’ll get my free refill as well and drink it throughout the course of my eight-hour shift. When the weather is nice, I also get a hot mocha when I leave.

Do you have trouble sleeping?
It’s weird. Some days, I could drink a quad shot of espresso and go right to sleep. Or I could drink a double shot and be awake all night.

What are your favorite drinks and snacks Starbucks offers?
I like a caramel macchiato, mocha vanilla, or chai vanilla. And I really like the pumpkin cream cheese muffins.

Do you come home reeking of coffee smell?
Yes. I have to shower and wash my clothes right away. But I don’t think I’ll ever really get sick of the smell.

It’s fall, so Starbucks is pushing the pumpkin spice latte hard. How do you really feel about it and the other holiday drinks?
I personally really love the pumpkin spice latte. But I get it with half the syrup because I do think it’s on the sweet side. If it’s made correctly, I could drink them all day. I think it’s one of our best drinks. I’m not really a fan of the gingerbread latte though.

Do you ever tell customers if you don’t like a drink?
I do, but I tell them it’s my opinion first. Then I’ll have another barista who maybe likes it give their opinion too. I’d rather them hear how I feel than buy a $5 drink, hate it, and we have to make something else.

Is there any actual difference between the Oprah chai latte and a regular chai latte?
I get this question all the time. Personally, I don’t care for the Oprah chai. It’s way [spicier]. I’d say 85 percent of our customers hate it. If we told them we were switching to only the Oprah chai and wouldn’t serve regular chai anymore, they would say they would no longer come to Starbucks. It’s great that each drink raises money for charity, but she’s the only person in history to have a Starbucks drink named after her. It is kind of an eye roll.

What’s the best type of customer?
I love my regulars or anyone willing to spend their time talking to me so I can learn their likes and dislikes. I also really like customers who try samples. I don’t know why customers don’t want to try samples. It’s free.

Can I ask to sample anything in the store even if you’re not offering it up in those tiny cups?
Yes, you can ask to sample anything. Just don’t tell me you don’t know what a Frappuccino tastes like and you want to sample all of them. Every barista hates making Frappuccinos because it has the most steps out of every drink. I’ll make the samples for you, but I’m kind of annoyed with you now. The type of person who would ask for that is also the type of person who would ask for it when I’m clearly really busy.

What’s the worst type of customer?
Someone who comes in on their phone and expects me to know what they want just by glancing at them. So, is it a grande nonfat latte? No? Hello? And then I get a dirty look. Or anyone who slams their money down on the counter. It’s one of my pet peeves. I held my hand out here gently for a reason, you know. Impatient customers are annoying too. Anyone tapping their foot or jangling their keys. Just stop it. And the OCD inspectors — someone who orders a caramel macchiato layered but then asks why it’s not stirred up.

Do you correct people when they get the terminology wrong?
I’ll say it in a nice way. If someone says a large, and I grab a vente, then they say they want a “large large,” I’ll say, “Oh, you want the trenta size.” A big annoyance for all of us is when people put an X in espresso. And everyone calls our Frappuccinos “frappes,” like at McDonald’s. Eww, this is not McDonald’s.

Do the people who hand out the coffee get upset when the customer has disappeared?
Do we have a fit? Not necessarily. If it’s really busy, we freak out when someone else takes it because then we have to remake it and put it at the top of the list. Normally, we just call it out every couple of minutes because that person could be on the phone or in the bathroom. After five minutes, we pull it to the side, re-steam it if it’s a hot drink, or add more ice to an iced one.

What do you do with all the unclaimed coffee?
Normally, I’ll offer it if someone wants it. Or I’ll put it in little sample cups. But if it’s something with a lot of different changes in it — like black tea with a shot of espresso, soy milk, and sugar-free vanilla — no one wants to try that. So I’ll throw it out.

What has been the most annoying drink order?
I have it memorized. There’s a customer who came in a couple of weeks ago and asked for one of our cups, then she took out a pen and drew out exactly what she wanted: six pieces of ice, a shot on top of that, a splash of soy milk, six more pieces of ice, another shot, soy milk, then she wants that blended. Then, on top of that, two pumps of raspberry, one pump of peppermint, one venti scoop of ice and a pump of our Frappuccino base, then blended again. Then sugar-free vanilla on top of that, two more shots of espresso, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, hazelnut drizzle, chocolate drizzle, mocha drizzle, and vanilla drizzle. That’s a high-maintenance drink. It came out chunky because our blender couldn’t really handle it, and we didn’t even know how to ring her up.

Do you ever enforce the customer-only bathroom rule?
I believe it’s only been once when a homeless man came in and he locked himself inside for over an hour. He was washing himself in there. I let him finish, and we told him he had to leave. Then we had to clean that bathroom extensively. But I don’t mind people coming in just to use the bathroom. We have pretty clean bathrooms. Do what you gotta do.

How old is the food really?
All the food you see out was made that day. We freeze it when it comes in, but we would never put Wednesday food out on a Thursday. We throw away all the unused food at the end of the day. And I hate that we do. It’s so wasteful. One year, I got permission to donate all our unused pastries to a food pantry right around Thanksgiving, and I loved that. I should do that more often.

What food do people love most, and what should everyone avoid?
People love the cake pops and all the pumpkin stuff when it’s in season. And I pull about a dozen blueberry yogurt muffins every day, and we still sell out. Don’t eat the croissants. They’re just not up to the quality of Starbucks. A good croissant isn’t in the refrigerator, and most of our customers know that.

What do you think of people who buy one coffee and sit there all day using Wi-Fi?
It doesn’t bother me. We have enough seats in there. If you don’t buy anything for a long time, we’ll go over and ask if you want water and get a feel for what you’re up to. But we won’t kick you out.

What’s the best part of the job?
My favorite part of my job is the customers. I love seeing the light in their faces when they try a new drink and they love it. One customer was tired of her vanilla latte and wanted something different. I made her a black and white mocha, and she was so excited she told me I reinvented her palate. It’s those little things that outweigh the bad.

What’s the worst part of the job?
Probably cleaning. It’s just so much cleaning all day long.


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