computer blues

today we had a relaxing family morning at my local coffee bean. of course, i still frequent the bux, but this coffee bean is one of my favorite places because i can walk there from my home, they have employees there that have been there for years and know me, the store is always clean and the service is always excellent. honestly, it's the best coffee bean i've ever visited, but i digress...

about half an hour into our visit we heard a customer exclaim "fuck!" and then run out the door. i asked one of the baristas what had happened. apparently this customer had been sitting next to another customer all morning, talking about computers and software. when he went to the bathroom, the customer he'd been talking to took that opportunity to steal his computer and run across the street to hop on the metro. apparently a woman told a barista, "hey, when that guy gets out of the bathroom, let him know the guy he was talking to took his computer."

don't ask me why she waited until the computer was already stolen to draw attention to it.

but seriously - this was a horrendous thing to happen. i really feel for the guy who had his computer stolen. and unfortunately this sort of thing happens all the time, though i've never heard of it going down in this manner where you've been talking and getting to know the thief ahead of time. i think that must have truly added insult to injury - when the person you ask to watch your stuff while you use the bathroom is the one who in fact steals it. and the guy whose computer was stolen was taking it very hard as the computer had all his work for the past year and a half on it. he was crushed, on the verge of tears, just lingering in the cafe because he didn't know what else to do.

but even with an incident that can make you lose faith in humanity, there are those people who are shining examples of goodness who come through. and that's what happened today. another customer, after talking with the man whose computer was stolen, decided that he would buy another laptop to replace the one that had been pilfered. people in coffee bean were amazed. the good samaritan told the customer, "i can tell being without a computer to do your work will hurt you more than it will hurt me to spend the money to replace it."

as a barista i've seen some amazing acts of kindness between customers. i'm not sure i will ever see one to top this, but the knowledge there are kindhearted and good people out there helps keep me from being jaded. i'm glad to have witnessed such selfless act.


coffee house news

it has been over a year since i've posted. i've received very kind emails from some readers asking me how things are going, so i figure an update is due. 

the big news is the brat no longer runs her own coffee house.

 that's right, i have, for the second time, hung up my apron and am again a retired barista. running a coffee shop is like having a baby who needs all your attention. the problem was i already had a child who needed all my attention. so after a year of awesome customers and fabulous yelp reviews, i realized i couldn't give the attention to my coffee house that it needed.

 and so i sold it.

 to barista buddy.

 yup, my awesome barista buddy who i blogged about so many times now has his own baby in his organic coffee house. he and his wife have truly made it their own and i couldn't be prouder. every time i visit them i see new customers, and their yelp reviews are amazing. my old customers love barista buddy and his wife, and of course they love the coffee! but even though i am no longer in the coffee business, i will always be a barista at heart. i will continue to blog about life as a customer and i'm sure many more rants are on their way. i just hope it won't take another year before my next entry :)


i'm a creep, i'm a weirdo

been awhile since i've posted, but the good news is we are growing and getting new customers all the time.
i've been told by more than one customer that we should be call our coffee "crack" since the flavor and quality is so addictive. and it continues to fill my heart with joy when people tell me i've ruined starbucks and coffee bean for them, now that they know what good espresso is supposed to taste like.

and for all the wonderful comments and compliments, we still get our share of weirdos. like the espresso "expert" who complained when we made her iced americano by adding the shots to ice, instead of putting the hot shots directly into the plastic cup:
"i used to work for an exclusive cafe in seattle and you are never, NEVER supposed to pour hot shots over ice. it makes the espresso taste bitter."
"hmm," i wondered, "wouldn't the taste of melted plastic be even more displeasing?"

and the seemingly normal woman who asked for an ice water and sat in our store for an hour, filling me in on all the latest details of her life (just released from the hospital, thieving roommates, recent divorce, kids messing with her phone) even including the fact she'd thrown a pair of underwear away in our trash because she'd just started her period.

and the bug man who has become a semi-regular customer (no more roaches, however!) who has been very nice and chatty, but still has a strange affect. at least now i actually see him taking a sip of his coffee before he leaves.

so, for the most part my weirdos are innocuous, if not a tad annoying. but i am happy to report the supermassive blackhole of emotional need customer has officially been 86'd from my coffee house.
it's something i never had to do at bux (though we got close a couple times) and i never in a million years thought i'd have to do in my own cafe, but it is for the best and i feel SO MUCH FRIGGEN' BETTER knowing i won't have to listen to hours and hours of negativity, ranting and complaining every week.
this customer was not only exhausting to talk with, but he was also making my other patrons uncomfortable. he became very possessive of me, clearly hating when i would have conversations with anyone else and giving everyone the stinkeye when they hung out. it got to be way too much, and yesterday he crossed a line that can't be uncrossed which is why he is no longer allowed in my store.

here's hoping this is the first and last time i have to ban someone from my coffee house.



roaches happen.
it's true.
in any food service industry, whether it be full service restaurant or coffee house, you will attract cockroaches. it's just a matter of fact and that is why i get regular pest control service.

in my part of the world german cockroaches are the biggest bother because they are resilient and populate quickly. you can't wait until you see evidence of an infestation to call the bug man. or you can, but will have to deal with roaches for days, if not weeks, while you wait for the effects of the pesticides to do their magic.

being in the food service industry for as long as i have, i've seen plenty of these german cockroaches. i hate them. they are quick and unafraid and i revel in finding their upturned carcasses. and because i've seen so many, i can tell when a roach is of a different variety.

cue weird customer who came in last week.
he claimed to have been meaning to come into my coffee house for weeks. he asked questions, like how long we'd been in business, did we have a lot of customers, etc. at first i thought he was from a rival coffee house (believe it or not i've had more than a few "fishers" come in or call me, digging for info on my coffee blends), but it soon became clear he really didn't know much about coffee. he didn't even know how to order it. he stood at my counter for close to five minutes. it was like extracting teeth just to figure out he wanted a large black coffee.
and then he made sure to sit in a chair just in front of my register and continued to talk to me, though he never once took a sip of his coffee.

low and behold, during our conversation, i saw a roach walking on my counter. not a small, dark german cockroach, but a larger, very light brown roach. i swiftly killed it and it was at that point he informed me that he worked for a large and well-known pest control company. he asked me who i used, and spend the next few minutes pitching his services to me. he then left, without ever drinking his coffee.

now i'm not saying it's impossible for a non-german roach to make it's way into my store. i'm not even saying non-german roaches can't coexist with the german ones. but what i am saying is i haven't had a single roach sighting since, and this guy has contacted me by phone to quote me his service charge, even though i've told him i'm quite happy with my pest control guy.

if he calls again i'll just tell him to quit bugging me.


the fussies

so, i've mentioned before that i have a wonderful set of customers. i'm lucky to be in a city that really embraces and supports local businesses, and i know many of my regulars pass a bux or two on their way to my coffee house. as we get busier, our clientele gets more varied, which means i'm beginning to see the kinds of personalities i would deal with on a consistent basis when i worked for bux.

we have a duo of women who use our coffee house as a weekly meeting ground. i guess they picked us because we are equidistant to the both of them, because they certainly don't seem to care that we have organic coffee or free wifi. in fact, every time they come in there always seems to be an issue with their drinks.

the first time they both wanted decaf lattes, but one of them forgot to tell me.
"i'm PREGNANT!" she stressed aggressively.
so, without matching her attitude, i remade her latte.

the next time they showed up the non-pregnant one asked for a vanilla latte. remembering the decaf fiasco from before, i verified her order, and asked if she wanted decaf again.
"no, HALF-caff" she half-growled.
so i made her half-caff vanilla latte and after two sips she informed me it was supposed to be sugar-free vanilla. yup - yet another modifier she failed to inform me about WHILE I VERIFIED HER FRIGGEN' ORDER!

the third time they came in mr. brat made their drinks. he didn't give me the details of that encounter, he only informed me he was now calling them "the fussies" because nothing seemed to make them happy.

cue to earlier this week. the pregnant one wanted only water, and i was somewhat surprised she didn't have a complaint about the temperature or the amount of ice i put in. her friend, however, wasn't going to let me off scott-free.
"i want my usual," she told me.
"half-caff sugar-free vanilla latte?" i verified the order. but seeing it was insanely hot that day i figured i'd ask if she wanted it hot or iced.
"oh definitely iced!" she fanned herself with hand.

so i made her iced half-caff sugar-free vanilla latte and handed it to her.
"oh, i wanted it blended," she said as she wrinkled her nose.

so, again without attitude, i remade her drink. when she saw i was making it from scratch instead of just tossing her drink in the blender she said "oh, you didn't have to totally remake it!"

um, yeah right.


music people

ok, i have to admit one of the BEST things about running my own coffee house is getting to handpick what's on my playlist.

you might remember the numerous rants i had regarding the horrid choices bux/hearmusic made (or were forced to make by record companies who were supporting the corporation) when creating the mix cds that were played on a continual, tortuous loop. often times the music would be mostly innocuous, easy to tune out during a busy rush, but the bulk of the time we were forced to listen to a cacophony of warbles and shrills - joni mitchell, i'm talking to you!

there were only two times in all my bux history that i approved of the music (because, you know, seattle needed to worry about what i thought, haha). at my first bux we had a reggae cd which also featured tons of ska bands. it was like a party every time that cd played, but the cds were supposed to be time sensitive and one day the it would no longer play.
until i figured out how to force play it.
of course at this time i was working with a partner named adam who acted so much like a passive aggressive girl that i called him "madam". one day i came in to bux to find the reggae cd was nowhere to be found. looking over the schedule at who opened that morning i saw it was madam. knowing he was the sort to be a killjoy, i checked the wastepaper basket. sure enough, there was the reggae cd, broken into three parts. of course, since it was the only cd i could tolerate, i was very pissy about madam's actions. BME (best manager ever) ordered me a new cd, and although madam admitted to throwing the cd away because "it didn't work", he denied breaking it, claiming instead it must have broken into three pieces when he tossed it into the empty trash can.
i mean, if you're going to be a dick, own it. yeah?

so now at my coffee house i play only what i like.
and i absolutely love when customers come in and ask who's playing (IAMX, nixon, morten harket, ampop, maria mckee) and when they profess their own love for what i have piping in through the speakers (adam ant, sneaker pimps, a-ha, portishead, shakespears sister). i've never once had anyone ask me to change the song, which was an almost daily occurrence at bux, and i've even had a record label contact me and send me some cds of a band to listen to and play in my coffee house if i thought they were any good (their name is the belle brigade, and yes they are).

but one of the funniest music related customer interactions happened yesterday:
fellow strip mall worker: "who this?"
brat: "it's lily allen."
fellow strip mall worker: "ah, yes. she has a little funny music, but cute. i like."
brat: "yeah, i love her, too."
fellow strip mall worker: "she has blonde hair, yeah?"
brat: "uh, no, she has dark hair."
fellow strip mall worker: "yeah, yeah, she have dark hair but was blonde before, yes?"
brat: "not really..."
fellow strip mall worker: "yes, she wear funny costume. have blonde hair, is very popular. funny songs, but i like."
brat: "i think you're thinking of lady gaga."
fellow strip mall worker: "no, it lily allen. funny costume, blonde hair."


everyone's an expert

being a relatively new coffee house, i get unsolicited bits of advice all the time from customers.
it can range from small suggestions: "get a prettier tip jar so people will want to toss their change in" to comfort requests: "you should put some tables and chairs outside, that way we can hang out with our dogs while we drink your coffee".
and sometimes they're a little too specific: "you should organize your flavored syrups alphabetically".

but yesterday i had the most bizarre suggestions from a woman i'd never seen before, and wouldn't mind not seeing ever again.

she was in her mid-50s, very well put together, and by her accent i'm assuming she originally hailed from eastern europe. she opened my front door and totally ignored me when i greeted her, instead standing in the doorway and scanning my coffee house like the borg.
"you make food?" she asked without making eye contact, her head still turning on a swivel.
"no, we make coffee and espresso drinks." i told her.
"but i'm hungry!" she rolled the last syllable into a whine befitting a toddler.
"there's a restaurant just on the corner." i pointed to the small cafe in our strip mall.
she waved her hand to shut me up and shook her head, again whining "but i want organic."
i could only shrug, since we clearly are not a restaurant.

at this point she decided to come inside my coffee house and have a proper look around. she checked out the condiment bar, our community corner where our customers display their business cards and show announcements, and she tried to peek inside our backroom.

"you don't make food?" she asked in disbelief.
"nope, just coffee." i reiterated.
"just coffee?" she was incredulous. "but how do you expect to survive just making coffee?"
again, my only response was to shrug. considering coffee houses originated much closer to her part of the world than mine, i was kind of shocked she had such little faith in them being successful enterprises.
"you should make food." she emphasized by pointing her finger at me.

i was a bit surprised when she actually bought a loaf slice, a doppio espresso, and complimented me on the taste. but her happiness was fleeting because she then proceeded to harangue me again about serving food.

"i have no space to put cooking equipment in." i told her, hoping this would be an irrefutable statement.
"get rid of these!" she pointed the comfy chairs and tables. "you know what else? you should offer yoga classes. everyone can get their coffee then do yoga!"

maybe i should take it as a compliment that she wants me to be successful, but i mostly think she was pretty clueless.

so no - the brat will not be serving food or leading yoga classes.
somehow i think we will still survive.