freebie jeebies

remember mr. and mrs. moocher?
they were the older couple who asked for extra cups, water, coffee "refills" and always tried to get everything for free.
well, the moochers haven't been around since we quit giving them freebies. imagine my surprise when i covered a shift at a different bux and i saw the moochers heading towards the register!

"you know about these two, right?" i whispered to the register partner before the moochers made it to the counter.
"oh my god!" register partner gave me a look and wrinkled her nose. "i HATE these two!"
"well, make sure they know they have to pay for what they order." i told her before i went back to bar.

of course the moochers pulled out all the stops with register partner when she told them they would have to pay regular price for their coffee. and of course register partner fell for it all and charged them for only one refill, when they should have been charged for two grande drips.

besides the moochers, this bux has another infamous customer who wants to pay next to nothing for his drink.
apparently he waits until bux quits serving their mild coffee (we don't serve two different types of regular throughout the day) and asks for an extra extra foamy mild misto in his commuter mug.
since there is no more mild coffee and he refuses to drink the bold roast, he demands two espresso shots undiluted in his mug before the milk and foam are poured over the top. then he makes sure to badger the barista on bar so his foam is super, super stiff and demands that it rises at least three inches above the rim of his mug.
so in reality he's getting a venti cappuccino, but only ends up spending the amount of a tall misto, minus the cup discount. and the kicker is he'll make the barista remake it until the foam peak is EXACTLY to his liking.

this bux must be known for being soft on policy because later in the day three jr. high kids came in and begged for pastries, although they had no money.
and the register partner GAVE them free pastries because according to her "they're so annoying, i'd rather give them free stuff so they leave rather than have to listen to them whine for an hour."
wow, she's gonna make a great parent.

barista rant: don't accuse me of stealing your money just because you lost your wallet in my bux. especially if you lost it three days earlier and only just recently noticed it missing. don't label us baristas as thieves because you can't keep track of your belongings. and don't blame us for the fact that none of our customers turned it in.


still roasting

*i know i've missed a week's worth of blogging, and i hope this post brings everyone back up to speed*

here's the latest goings on at brat's bux:

- mr. whim made the talker cry.
according to the talker, mr. whim was more abrupt that usual when asking for his drink to be remade. the talker made some comment about how mr. whim's whims always seem to change, and mr. whim shot back with a "what's it to you, fag?". so, while the talker went to the backroom to have a cry, perky assistant manager had some harsh words of her own for mr. whim.
"sir, you can take your business elsewhere. we don't serve customers who call our baristas derogatory names."
mr. whim, however, claimed he had used the word 'friend', and not 'fag'. perky assistant manager wasn't buying it, but let him off with a strict warning. i have to admit mr. whim was on his best behaviour when he came in this morning - and he didn't complain at all about his drink.

- overly amorous barista has now alienated herself from every single partner in our store. besides talking smack about her fellow baristas, she's managed to screw up every shift she's been on (by either slacking off, or by making disastrous mistakes). she's also pissed off our manager by demanding more hours, only to give up at least one of her shifts a week. i have a feeling she is on her way out.

- someone decided to leave their mark in our toilet. apparently tagging the mirror or the wooden door wasn't good enough. it's unbelievable but somebody actually drained the toilet tank so they could tag the inside of the bowl. the idiocy involved is almost comical, in my opinion.

- one of our regulars came in intoxicated and managed to hit on every one of the baristas working - boys and girls. "your ass is like two perfectly formed dumplings - i could nosh on it for days!" is what he told one of our particularly fit male baristas. "i wouldn't need a caffeine fix if i woke up to a cup of you everyday." is the bizarre comment he said to me.

- mr. split assistant manager and i have a mutual friend outside of work, which means mr. split now considers me his bux BFF. the upside is he's totally cool with me at work. the downside is having to listen to him bitch about how he can't get a girlfriend, and how all the girls that try to friend him on myspace are "total woofers". he also wants to hang together on our days off, but that is so not going to happen.

- our district manager spent an insane amount of time creating a poster and "incentive contest" for our brewing event. honestly, no one but the manager and assistant managers care about selling x-amount of coffee makers, so district manager is super upset with us baristas. not only that we are now being threatened with write-ups if we don't demo the machines at least three times per shift.

- the property manager of our shopping center has been hassling the baristas about our neighborhood SDF. i guess our property manager was trying to evict the homeless man from behind trash bin #3 - who claims "well, the starbucks people say i can stay, so i'm staying!". since the property manager has "no reason NOT to believe him!" he's been on our case about it. he's even gone as far as to suggest one of us give the homeless man a ride to the nearest shelter so that he won't be hanging around the trash bins anymore.

barista rant: what planet are you from? just because you're hungry doesn't mean you can take one of our sandwiches out of its wrapper, take three large bites and then hand us a dollar because you didn't plan on eating the whole thing. getting pissy with us when we explain that you have to pay for the entire sandwich, even if you only had three bites, will not suddenly make everything "all good".


almost famous

dear c-list actor's annoying girlfriend,

yes, we know you're sleeping with some guy that used to be on tv, but don't expect preferential treatment because of it. you are not allowed to cut in line because you're boyfriend is double parked with the engine running. and we certainly do expect you to pause your phone conversation long enough to tell us what the hell it is you want to order.

neither is a 'tai chi, non-dairy'.

responding to the question 'what size would you like?' by tossing a five-dollar bill at us does not inspire us to 'chop, chop!' when making your drink. bitching at the barista because he was supposed to read your mind and know you wanted your non-existent drink iced does not merit a free drink coupon. nor will yelling into your phone: "I HATE THIS FUCKING STARBUCKS! THE WORKERS ARE SO RUDE AND SLOW AND OBVIOUSLY JEALOUS BECAUSE THEY SAW ME AND MY BOYFRIEND PULL UP IN HIS NEW MERCEDES!"

throwing your straw wrapper on the floor as you left was a particularly eloquent parting gesture.
trust us, all the baristas here hope you make good on your promise to "FIND ANOTHER STARBUCKS TO GO TO - WHERE THEY ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT A TAI CHI NON-DAIRY IS!".


the bux baristas who'd rather clean the drains with our tongues than swap spit with c-list actor.

barista rant: i know the bux down the street closes an hour later than we do, but that doesn't mean you can repeatedly tug at our locked door and ask us to let you in. when we mouth the words 'we're closed' to you and point to our hours of operation, that is not an invitation to debate us about what time YOU'D like us to stay open until. calling us on your cell to continue the debate is not advised, either. nor is complaining that our interior lights are not dimmed, and are therefore 'misleading the public into believing you guys are still open'. really, sir, with all the time you took to bitch at us, you would have already been at the other bux enjoying your beverage.


brewing blues

yesterday i had an exceptionally good day at work. not only did mr. split personality assistant manager turn over a totally amazing shift, my manager has been going out of his way to make sure his baristas are getting the hours they need. he’s even found shifts for us at other stores, which really is going above and beyond.

we also have two newbies who are super fast learners, and a third newbie who isn’t catching on as fast as we’d all like, but is putting every effort forth to get the job done. so even with newbies and newly transferred assistant manager, my little bux is starting to feel like very harmonious environment.

but (and you all knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you?) we are now having our brewing event.

bux has a brewing event every year and basically this is one time the execs in seattle ask us to REALLY push our espresso and coffee makers.
i am not a fan of the brewing event and here’s why:
1. there is a reason i’m not a car salesman. i abhor ‘selling’ a product to a consumer. what i love about being a barista is the customer comes to me, orders what they want, and i make it. i don’t have to approach them, chat them up, and pray that they’re willing to drop a grand on an espresso maker so that i can pay my rent.
2. it’s hard enough to pull a barista off the floor to grind some beans in the middle of a rush. what’s worse is to have a barista off the floor for twenty minutes to demo a coffee machine to a customer who really isn’t interested in buying it anyway.
3. it’s a bit of a sham. they want us to entice customers to drop a lot of money on an item bux doesn’t really want them to use. honestly, if everyone made their own coffee and espresso, bux wouldn’t be as profitable a company as it is.

the one item i feel comfortable pushing during the brewing event is the french press.
because they’re relatively inexpensive, and it’s very difficult to get french pressed coffee in a cafĂ© (plus it tastes SO much better than regular drip coffee), so i don’t feel bad about peddling a french press because i truly believe in the product and bux doesn’t prepare coffee in this manner (well, unless you specifically request it, and even though the barista will smile and says ‘no problem!’ they are cursing you inwardly).

of course i’m going to be a good sport and demo machines when customers ask about them as well as offering to explain why our coffee makers are superior to those you find in the grocery market. but i’m really glad i only have to do it once a year.

partner rant: please don’t tell newbies, ‘oh, you don’t have to really clean that – just wipe it down. brat cleaned it last night so we don’t have to do it tonight.’ don’t pass on your bad habits to newbies, and don’t tell them they can half-ass things if i’ve worked the night before. that’s just wrong on every level.


turkish delight

on saturday we had one of the most obnoxious scammers i've ever encountered.
honestly, at first she came across as a sweet elementary school teacher - chatting with us a bit and asking us what coffee roast we recommended. after a couple minutes she decided to buy two pounds of espresso roast.

"can you grind them up real fine for me?" she asked.
"sure, did you want it ground for an espresso maker, or finer than that?" i asked before i opened the bags.
"grind it for turkish." she nodded at me.
and like i always do, i verified the grind with her before i poured the beans into the grinder.

barista buddy gave the woman her total, but she hemmed and hawed until i'd finished grinding the beans. as soon as i handed them to her she re-opened each package and sighed heavily.

"this is the wrong grind!" she frowned.
"you asked for turkish grind," i reminded her.
"no," she shook her head. "i wanted it fine, but not this fine. this is wrong."
barista buddy and i exchanged sour looks, knowing full well we both weren't hard of hearing.
"what did you want them ground for?" i asked, trying to keep my voice pleasant sounding.
"they're espresso beans!" she rolled her eyes. "obviously i want them ground for an espresso maker!"

so i pulled two more pounds of espresso off the display and triple verified that she wanted them ground for espresso.
"forget it," she told me. "just give me the beans and i'll grind them at home."
so barista buddy puts the two pounds of whole beans in a bag for her and again gives her the total.

"these were my beans," she lied. "i brought them from home. i just wanted you to grind them for me."
when she saw we weren't falling for her bull she decided to leave the second set of beans but tried to take the two pounds that were turkish ground.
"ma'am, you have to pay for those." i told her, this time my tone wasn't so pleasant.
"why? you're just going to throw them away anyway." she smiled, like we would somehow ignore the fact that she was trying to scam us.
"you can have them, but you have to pay for them." i told her again.

she spent another thirty seconds trying to convince us to give her the espresso for free. when we wouldn't relent she changed her tactics and began to bitch about our ineptitude and how we owed her an extra two pounds because we were the ones that screwed up.
"i'm never coming here again!" she gave us her parting shot while leaving empty-handed. "you guys are thieves!"

later barista buddy and i concluded she must be suffering from some affliction; her attempt to scam us was too bizarre and drawn out. or maybe she was doing recon for when she and her partner in crime go on a bux scamming spree.
who knows.

customer rant: i pray that you were joking when you said "you clean it!" and tossed a rag at the customer who informed you that the bathroom was dirty. i seriously hope you know the guy, or even that he was an off duty barista - because if he really was a customer i can bet he will be calling the corporate offices to complain.


convenient for who?

i've ranted before about newbies that take waaaaaay too long to learn and master their barista duties - but sometimes it's the seasoned 'old-timers' who are guilty of slacking or cutting corners. in fact - seasoned baristas are the hardest to re-train. they are so stuck in their own personal ways and are resistant to change.

it doesn't matter if you point out how the proper way to do things is more efficient - they'd rather waste time and energy doing it they way they've always done it. sure, it's convenient for them to stay stuck in their ways, but it makes more work for the rest of us.

convenience #1 - rinsing out blender cups
i've ranted before about partners who throw blender lids into the sink without rinsing them, but worse than dirty lids are dirty blender cups. now you'd think a barista that has been with bux for more than two frappuccino seasons would understand that tossing dirty blender cups into a sink will only lead to more work when the next customer orders a frappuccino. and that it is gross and nasty to pull a dirty blender cup from the sink that is covered in coffee grinds, old whipped cream and lukewarm milk. and that it means we have to sanitize the damn thing several times an hour (as opposed to the usual rinsing).

convenience #2 - leaving all singles in your till
i know it's a lot easier to drop four five-dollar bills as opposed to twenty singles, but why the hell would you leave your till with only singles for the next register partner? when you finished tilling out did you not notice that you had no fives and all singles? and if you had some sort of brain fart and forgot to leave your till with the correct change, at least tell the manager so he can change the till out.

convenience #3 - leaving empty trays in the pastry case
why is it so hard to pull out an empty tray? especially if you take the last pastry off the tray to give a customer? don't you realize we get marked down for empty trays in the case? don't you realize it only takes about 2.1 seconds to yank that tray from the case? and don't you realize that you're setting the WORST example for the newbies when you leave a job half done?

convenience #4 - leaving a messy bar
i know it's impossible to keep the bar neat and clean every second, especially during a busy rush. but there are those times when there's only a couple customers in line and you don't have any drinks on deck. how hard is it to wipe down the counter, rinse out the pitchers, fill the hopper and clean the steam wand? even if you can't do all those things, can't you at least do one or two? why must you leave disgusting, crusty milk on the steam wands? what's the logic in leaving the hoppers empty? when the bar was handed over to you, it was fully stocked and clean - so why do you feel you are above leaving it prepped and clean for the next barista?

convenience #5 - not stocking the condiment bar
yeah, i know it's a neverending mission: keeping the condiment bar stocked and clean. but in our bux (and every other bux in my district) it is standard for you to fill the condiment bar before you go on break, lunch or go home. taking a rag and doing a one-swipe-wipe is not 'cleaning'. checking that the sugar container is half filled is not 'stocking'. and pushing the trash down further in the can is not 'changing the trash'.

convenience #6 - leaving trash single-bagged
i know it takes, like, an extra minute to empty the trash and line the can with two bags. yeah, i know you're saving yourself precious seconds when you decide to pull only the one bag out and leave the second bag in. but do you realize how much time is spent cleaning the trash can after the single bag splits and all the contents come pouring out? do you realize that now we have to clean the trash from off the floor and inside the can (which means we have to cart the can outside to rinse and dry it)? and that your 'shortcut' will leave us with one less person on the floor because someone has to clean up after your 'convenience'?

barista rant: don't tell me to grind your beans on "number three" if you don't want your beans ground for an espresso machine. don't tell me you want the beans ground for a french press, then insist that i keep the setting and "number three". LISTEN when i tell you what each setting is. don't nod, say "ok" and then add "but i want it for a french press on number three".


message in a (frappuccino) bottle

*happy bloggerversary to me!*
i can't believe a year has passed since i first started posting, but here we are: 200 posts and 270,000 hits! thanks to everyone for making my blogging experience so successful. i appreciate each and every one of you.

- back to our regularly scheduled post -

some of you might have heard some buzz about a leaked memo from howard schultz to bux ceo jim donald.
of course there's been much talk about this in my own store, as well as every other corporate owned store. one of the gratifying things to learn was that howard schultz has many of the same concerns we lowly baristas have. it feels almost satisfying to know that even his eye (all the way in seattle) is capable of recognizing key issues the rest of us at store level have been dealing with for months (years, for some).

do i think this (now very public) memo will change things for the better at bux?
dare i hope that howard will do away with excess syrups and powders?
will we finally be permitted to pack up that monstrous convection oven and send it back to whatever cruel animal sent it our way?

yeah, right.
a big fat NO to all those questions.

i'm not afraid to say bux now feels like an entirely different company from the one that hired me. when i was a newbie we never had understaffing issues, we had plenty of room for all our product, and we never felt like we were heading away from 'cafe' and speeding towards 'donut shop'. now we have more drinks, more pastries, and more ways for customers to customize beverages to their hearts' content. we offer so many more choices and are pressured to complete the orders in record time (long gone are the days of timing a perfect shot).

and even though howard schultz knows that his operational decisions have created their own unique set of challenges, it does not mean he will be able to fix them.

because bux caters to a different type of customer now. and these customers will not accept service delays or minimal beverage choices. they prefer quantity over quality - and they are willing to pay for it. so even if bux did everything in their power to woo back their original customer base, they wouldn't be nearly as profitable as they are now. and we all can bet our little tushies that "profit" will beat out "nostalgia" when it comes to our favorite corporate coffee slinger.

but i know that as a barista i am also reaping the rewards of profitability. medical benefits, stock options, discounted stock purchases, 401k, high pay raises and the opportunity to advance are only possible because i work for a company that rakes in the dough. sure, i may think fondly of my early days at bux - i might even occasionally be envious of the hipster barista at my local independent coffee house - until i think of all the things i'd have to give up to work there. that's when i remember i have nothing to be envious of.

so, i'd like to pose a question to you all:
would you be willing to give up efficiency and speed for 'the warm feeling of a neighborhood store'?

barista rant: don't ask us to put a mug on hold for you, neglect to purchase it every time you come in the store, then expect us to give you a super discount when you decide to buy it three weeks later. and don't ask us to put it on hold (again!) until it gets marked down.


ickity split

we have a new addition to our little bux family: split-personality assistant manager.
it seems our business has steadily increased since fall, so now we are being ‘blessed’ with an additional manager at the store, which means forty less hours for those of us that are part time.
some of us are pretty lucky – in fact my usually scheduled hours weren’t affected, but we have a few partners that are now getting 7-10 less hours a week than they usually get. the two raising the biggest fuss about it are bitter old man and the newbie-formerly-known-as-amorous (are you really surprised?).

actually BOD is always raising a stink about his schedule. he feels that since he opened this bux, he’s entitled to work m-f, 6am-1pm. tnfkaa doesn’t have any specific reasoning for her desired schedule, except that she’s selfish and has no problem whining and bitching until she gets things her way. i have a feeling that our manager wanted to knock them both down a peg or two and thought an effective way to do it was by taking away some of their hours.
no matter what the thought process was, BOD is now complaining non-stop about how bux has no loyalty to ‘one of their own’. tkfkaa is trying to pressure newer newbies into giving up their shifts so she can get the extra hours. and caught in the middle of all this is our new split-personality assistant manager.

mr. split has been with bux for almost two years. he worked his way up the food chain and is now a brand-new assistant manager. but because he’s been in this role for barely a week, he’s having a really hard time deciding which hat he wants to wear while at work.

when the talker came in to pick up tips on his day off, mr. split offered him a free drink.
“hey, i’ve been around – i know what the deal is!” mr. split said in reference to going against policy.
but when my barista buddy marked out a cheese danish to eat on his break, mr. split turned into the pastry police.
“hey man, you can’t just be marking out pastries when you’re hungry.” mr. split told him harshly. “that’s money out of my paycheck, now that i’m a manager. every time you mark something out, that goes against the bottom line – and the bottom line is how i get my bonus.”
“but all the am pastries are supposed to be marked out and thrown away already. how does it hurt you if it goes in my belly instead of the trash?” barista buddy asked.
“it doesn’t matter,” mr. split shook his head. “how can i be sure that you’re only marking out pastries that are supposed to be discarded? for all i know you’re marking out thermoses and coffee beans, and that’s money out of my paycheck.”

every single one of his shifts has been like this – with him constantly oscillating between two personas: the cool barista and the hard-line manager.
maybe in time he’ll pick just one, but for now he’s still mr. split.

customer rant: since i’m a barista, i’m very accommodating as a customer. for instance, when you said that you were out of regular drip coffee and i’d have to wait four minutes for a rebrew, i said “no problem”. but when you walked over to the decaf drip, poured me a cup and then tried to pass it off as regular, i had to call you on it. first you tried to deny pouring the decaf, and then you said the signs were mixed up and you really had given me regular. but you know what? if you’d just asked me if i was ok with decaf instead of regular, i would’ve said ‘yes’. but since you lied to me (more than once!) i turned into a pissy customer and asked that you rebrew the decaf as well as the regular “you know, since YOU said the signs were mixed up and all.”