That one word.
I have no bloody clue what it means, but it is a powerful word, full of meaning, different to everyone.
Coffee. Money. Life-blood. Global domination.
For the small town I live in, it’s one of the few signs that the corporate big city world has managed to dab a couple of fingers into our pies. Most of us here fear Corporate and Change.
“We’ve had local hardware shops for decades! We don’t need Canadian Tire!”
But we got it and we survived. (Wal-Mart is still in debate, however.)
“Coffee shops on Main St will suffer if you bring that weird little mermaid into our grocery store!”
But that weird little mermaid took her place 5+ years ago now, and if she left, there would be absolute rioting in the streets.
Scratch that. Starbucks is HERE and MOSTLY FUNCTIONAL and there are still people who don’t get how this works.
Finally, I have gathered enough Intel to talk about them here.
1. THE RACCOONS
“I dream of a world where Starbucks customers actually know where the garbage is.”
My co-worker said this approximately 4 days after I started working there. I laughed at the time because I thought it was cute.
I was given another 4 days before I realized that this had been a factual statement.
I believe mankind is a brilliant species. We’ve hurtled ourselves into outer space, created instant communication across oceans, developed indoor plumbing and the one-cup coffee maker – but damn if we can’t find a garbage can.
It’s right there, smack-dab in the middle of your journey from picking up your coffee to putting it on the cream-and-sugar counter.
That’s not a giant metal condom or a Bullet from Super Mario World – that’s a garbage can. Put your shit in it.
We have a timer (one of maaaaaanyyyy) that goes off every hour to remind us to go wipe down said counters with a cloth – and every time I go out there, it looks like some raccoons had a birthday party.
One fateful hour, I went out to wipe down the cream-and-sugar counter and discovered a soaking wet tea bag had been placed IN the sugar packets. SOMEBODY TEABAGGED IT.
So, with a purposeful smile on my face (now I knew why Barista Training included “Never show your frustration in public.”), I picked up the sopping tin, dumped it all, washed-sanitized-dried it.
These actions took 5 minutes. Less, even.
By the time I walked around the kiosk to return the tin, I discovered three more teabags had been dumped through the tin’s hole in the counter, and were now soaking up our stores of sugar below.
THREE TEABAGGINGS. IN FIVE MINUTES. IN ANOTHER OBVIOUSLY-NOT-A-GARBAGE-CAN.
One genius friend has suggested rigging up a leaf blower underneath the counter so that it blows everybody’s garbage back in their face. Just imagining that makes me smile.
There is hope, however. Not long after that, a young mom and her toddler boy were getting a treat from us, and as the little boy was wheeled around the corner in his grocery cart, he looked up and said, “Garbage, mommy?” pointing directly at the Mario Bullet Condom.
“Yes, sweetie, put your garbage in there.”
He reached up…aimed…and slam-dunked it, smiling like he’d won the moon.
You HAVE won the moon, kid. Here, I’m giving it to you because I love you. And Mommy? Book me to give you a massage later. You’re awesome.
2. THE GEOGRAPHICALLY CONFUSED
Another corporate coffee shop that manages to exist here is the Tim Hortons. It’s on the other end of town, straight off the highway like us, but that’s where the similarity ends.
I have nothing against Tim Hortons. They have kept me alive on many a road trip. Although, sometimes I have questioned their bathroom renovation choices.
Some days, citizens feel like spending more money and they come to us, rather than making the daily trek to Timmy Ho’s. We’re fine with that.
But there can be…situations.
“Hi, yes, do you have something that tastes like an Iced Capp?”
Translation: “Hi, yes, I’d like an Ice Blended Cappuccino just like Tim’s makes it.”
My Polite Response: “Hi. We have a variety of different ice-blended drinks, but our recipes might be a little bit different. For frappuccino options, we have a board just up here.”
Their Mystified Response: “Oh. Okay. *looks up* $5 for a large?! I’m out.”
Example B: “Hi, yes, I’d like a medium double-double, please.”
Translation: “Hi, yes, I’d like a medium coffee, whatever you’ve got brewing, with 2 cream and 2 sugar, please.”
My Polite Response: “We’ll leave some room for you in the cup, and the cream-and-sugar counter is right around the corner for you. Would you like medium or dark roast?”
Their Mystified Response: “Oh. Okay?”
One particular customer was open-minded and got into it. “Sounds good, leave me some room for cream.” So I did, and went about my day.
20 seconds later, this man picks up his coffee, looks at it, marches straight INTO the kiosk like he owns it and starts pouring his coffee down one of our sinks.
“Lady, you GOTTA leave me some room for cream!” And then he left, with half a cup of coffee.
If you want something like Tim Hortons…go to Tim Hortons. That’s all I’m saying.
3. THE VETERANS.
No, not those ones. I’m not a completely terrible person.
I’m talking about the customers who have been coming to Starbucks every day for YEARS. They have their drink down to a science and it never changes.
Now, I love our regulars. I love seeing them approach and being able to say, “How are you, want the usual?” And they smile because they feel known and understood by a complete stranger.
When you’re the only Starbucks in town, you get a lot of people. A lot of “usuals.” Occasionally, though, I forget. And since I want to make sure they get exactly what they want, I ask them again and write it down in the little boxes. It can exasperate them.
Hey, you’re the one who invented this mouthful, not me.
And if you happen to be in a hurry so you steam their mixture of 2/3 skim and 1/3 soy milk with a dash of 2% to 170 degrees instead of 175, they can tell. And THEY WILL TELL YOU. Even if there’s a line-up out the door, they will insist you remake their drink until it’s exact. Because that’s our policy and they know it.
Look, I get it. Just yesterday, I made a Salted Caramel Mocha with peppermint instead of toffee nut (ugh do not ask me how!), and it tasted wrong and it wasn’t what she ordered. But she was really nice about it. It did not personally offend or ruin her day, so therefore it did not ruin mine.
Please, show your barista some grace today. We are trying really hard, and it’s not as easy as it looks.
4. THE ILLUMINATI, THE ENTITLED, THE DISAPPOINTED.
Friends, I HAVE CRACKED THE CODE.
And it’s this: don’t be a d-bag when things don’t go your way.
Life happens. It’s unexpected. It’s brutal. And it doesn’t care whether you got your coffee or not.
For us, a lot of inconveniences happen simply because of where we are located: the middle of Northern BC at the beginning of Winter. It’s not like we can order a necessary item from Headquarters and it’ll be there the next day, unfortunately.
In September, our blender broke. And because of a miscommunication in ordering a new part, it remained broken for 2 weeks.
At a time when we chase down the last drops of summer we can get, the town of Smithers had no Frappuccinos. Instagram accounts took a dip in activity; it was a dark night of the soul for us all.
“Excuse me. Am I to understand that I’m at a Starbucks and there are NO Frappuccinos?” – direct quote.
When one little girl learned that our blender could not magically make her Strawberries & Creme Frapp, she started flailing and screaming.
In October, Safeway/Starbucks had a scheduled water shut-off so they could rinse and clean the system. I’m guessing they do this every year, but you’d think it was something totally new and unexpected and OMG Starbucks can’t be closed for 2 hours, can it?!
We can and we did. For the 2 hours we were open in the morning, we were inundated with the shocked and dying and un-caffeinated.
For 2 hours after we re-opened, it was more of the same. The people were pale and weary with battle.
But as my Grandpa George who’s had 9 major heart attacks would say, “It’s just another bump in the road!”
5. OKAY THERE ARE SOME REALLY AWESOME PEOPLE.
When you’re working in retail/customer service, you can always tell which of your customer have also worked in retail/customer service. There’s an unspoken bond of brotherhood, understanding and patience when it comes to the every day trials of the coffee bean.
They are British fishermen, saying, “An Americahno, dahling,” or working moms with teenagers saying, “No pressure, sweetie,” because they’ve been where you are now, and they know that the picture is bigger.
They smile, tell you you’re doing a good job even when you feel like pulling your hair out; they boost you just enough to get to the end of your shift. For them, coffee is relaxation, an enjoyment, a boost for themselves along the way.
If your method of relaxation, enjoyment and boost is going to what is essentially a drive-thru coffee shop without the drive-thru, expecting perfection from your “personal slave” while surrounded by 50 others just as busy as you – maybe you should try yoga. Just a thought.
Three months into this job, and the awesome customers are why I’m still here. Plus, the girls I work with are funny and silly and good looking and I’d like to think that my Mexican-style Frappuccino blends nicely with theirs.
Oh my gosh, I think I just invented something.
Good thing I have a working blender, or else this whole day would have been WASTED.
Have you worked retail? What are your favourite stories? Invent a Frappuccino with me?