How Not To Be A Dick At The Coffee Shop

How Not To Be A Dick At The Coffee Shop

wisdom

OK, I wasn’t gonna do it, but low-hanging ripe fruit is just too tempting to pass up.

So I was doing my usual social website perusing of coffee people and came across comments about a post written a couple of weeks ago titled “How not to be a dick at the coffee shop“. I know, I know, I was thinking the same thing, but the focus was actually the barista telling the customer how not to be a dick. Backwards, I thought, but I have to read it now.

I try not to be controversial, honestly I don’t, but I think this topic is so fundamental, so talked about and so important I couldn’t pass it up. I have copied the original post below in it’s entirety. My comments are in blue where I show what I believe is from the customer’s perspective, or what I see as toxic about the author’s mentality.

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HOW NOT TO BE A DICK AT THE COFFEE SHOP

by Marissa Reddy

It’s not EXpresso. We do judge you for that one. (Whether it was their first espresso, a “coffee-lover” taught them wrong, or a mis-hearing of what someone said, I would NEVER mock a customer for mispronunciation. What a terrible attitude.)

If you are a dick in the coffee shop, I am sincerely praying that you will at some point find yourself in an apron behind a counter helping the madding crowds whose ability to function depends on mainlining French Roast. (Get over yourself. It’s called work for a reason. Try being a funeral home director or cold-call salesperson, or try telling a single mom her kid was just killed in a drive by shooting.)

Peel away the outer layers — the plaid shirts, the Buddy Holly glasses, the confusing space and secret-coffee-language menu –of most coffee shops and I firmly believe you’ll find that most of us coffee professionals truly do care about the work we do and love making it interesting, not alienating, for customers. (It is true that “clothes do not make the man”, but they do introduce him. If you look or act like a dork, how will I get “professional” from that? And maybe you should make it easier for me to order and get my drink. Confusing and cryptic is alienating, not interesting.)

To help you experience this love, here are 23 tips culled from many years and many shops that will keep you from being a dick and help you become the next Customer of the Day/Week/Month/Forever. (WOW, thanks for letting me know there are only 23 steps for me to make sure you like me!)

1. DO NOT (EVER) TALK ON YOUR PHONE WHILE YOU ARE TRYING TO ORDER.

Nothing, nothing, will do more to brand you as the ultimate jerkface. Use common courtesy and give your full attention to the actual human being standing in front of you. Our interaction doesn’t need to be long and involved, but it should not include your phone. (Contrary to your mindset, the world does not revolve around you and your coffee. When it is our turn to order, don’t treat us like a jerk face if we don’t immediately hang up. We are being kind to the person on the other end of the phone, you could learn from that. Besides, that call was a customer and he pays my bills, not you.)

2. Free and unlimited Wi-Fi is not a right.

It is a perk, and it is in my best interest to provide since there is clearly demand, but you are not owed the Internet as part of your coffee drinking experience. Free, unlimited Internet access? That’s what the library is for. (If you allow access to wifi without a password, you give it free to the world. Maybe you should control it, give access to customers and thus “free” is to customers rather than anyone who is in range.)

3. Recognize that we are running a business and we need your money so we can continue to provide you with a place to enjoy your beverage.

If our shop is your daily office, please buy things throughout said day. I don’t care how small those purchases are, but they indicate that you respect and value our shop and want us to stay afloat. Or, check out the aforementioned library if you’d like a place to sit all day for free. (Just because someone else hung out all day and didn’t buy much, don’t treat me with contempt when I spent $12, 3 hours ago and haven’t purchased since. I had a big project to finish and love your place and lost track of time.)

4. Take off your sunglasses unless they’re prescription-strength and you need them to see the menu.

Otherwise, I’m trying to provide good service and it’s hard to guess where your eyeballs are, especially when your lenses are the size of a scuba mask. Indoor-sunglass-wearing immediately pings my asshole radar. (Seriously, you are gonna label me a dick because I leave my sunglasses on?? You really need a vacation away from your business. Forever. No wonder your shop needs money.)

5. If you and a friend are arguing over who’s going to pay, please, one of you, graciously allow the other one to win.

Don’t both hand your debit cards out and force the PBTC (person(s) behind the counter) to choose. (Sorry to be such a bother. You know if you had any relationship skills you’d see this as an opportunity to have fun and engage both of us. But, seeing as your customer skills are so lacking, it may be that your wit is too.)

6. Speaking of paying, smooth out your bills before you hand them over, OK?

It’s also nice if you actually put said bills directly into my hand, since forcing the PBTC to reeeaaach for your barely outstretched method of payment or scrape change off the counter is kind of mean. These may seem like small details, but nothing shows scorn like just tossing your money in my general direction. (Wow, is there anything I do that doesn’t bug you?)

7. Don’t set your child’s bum on the counter.

Food and drinks go on that counter, some of them rather hot, and in this fast-moving environment your child’s odds of getting burned are pretty good. Also, other customers might not appreciate eau de tushie around their croissant. (I had to get out my cash to pay you and there was no other spot to put my child while I grabbed it. I won’t do it again.)

8. On another kid note: thanks, well-behaved kids!

And parents who realize that a coffee shop can be super boring! And parents who let their kids drink decaf, thereby acquiring a taste for legal addictive stimulants at a young age and ensuring the future of this industry! We really, really appreciate those of you who expect your children to treat our shop with respect. (Wait a minute – I am purchasing from you, keeping you in business – and you keep telling me to respect you. How I raise my kids is none of your stinking business. Wait till you have some of your own perfectly behaved children who never ever act up!)

9. If the bathroom is out of soap or paper towels, please tell us.

Really. I will not be offended, or judge you for using the facilities. The same goes for any kind of mess or spill or other accident, bathroom or no, whether or not you yourself actually caused said problem. (Maybe you should up your staffing a bit to be able to keep your store clean and in order. Doing your job is not mine.)

10. See the person making strange movements around various pieces of machinery, squinting, smelling, pouring, moving fast, and calling out orders?

That’s the barista. Don’t ask them anything — for the Wi-Fi password, can you get more milk, more ice, what time is it? — because they are quite obviously busy doing something else. If you want your drink in a reasonable amount of time, leave them alone and let them work. Find another PBTC to direct you to the napkins. (Seriously?? You are calling me a dick because I asked an employee a question? Sorry to have asked the rock star a question. They were the only person available seeing as you were busy scorning the sun-glassed customer at the register)

11. Unless you have a question about coffee!

Or why your drink tastes so good! Then that barista will probably be delighted to explain more subtle nuances in the art of pulling shots than you knew existed. Ask them all about water temperature, coffee dosage, coffee origins or pouring techniques, and watch their eyes light up! (So the rock start can multi-task? Or, just not about menial things like how to help me?? I thought you just said not to talk to them “about anything“. Can I be honest? I really don’t care about how Levi’s makes my jeans or how you make my coffee. I just want it to taste great. You know, I did just spend $4 on a cup of coffee!!)

12. Good coffee is expensive for many reasons.

Accept that if you want an excellent drink you will pay a little more for it. (That’s why I am here – I just wish your great coffee came with great customer service. I’d come more often if you didn’t carry a chip the size of Gibraltar on your shoulder. The only reason I come now, is because no one has opened a shop near you with as good of coffee AND great customer service. Matter of fact, just good coffee with great service and I’d be GONE!)

13. If it’s 7:55 am, I’ll assume you’re on your way to work and in a hurry.

If you’re even the smallest bit kind (eye contact is really all it takes, which is a ridiculously low standard) I’ll do my best to anticipate your order and get you in and out right quick. (I am still floored at the attitude you have. I have to be the one to initiate kindness of any kind, and make sure you see it, for you to do what should be S.O.P. at any business that wants to stay in business. You really are missing the whole point of customer service. Maybe you should be an accountant…who works alone…all the time…in a home office…where you don’t have to deal with dicks like us. Or anyone.)

14. Related: if there’s a bit of line, might I suggest using the time you’re waiting in it to decide what you’d like to order?

All the folks behind you who just want a small black are slowly seething as you arrive at the register and start hemming and hawing. And I, the PBTC, must stand awkwardly twitching, non-verbally apologizing to the irritated mass behind you. (Maybe you should get another register to help alleviate the 30 minute line. Or maybe you should help me, kindly assist me with my order. That is unless I am such a bother. Nevermind, I’ll get my coffee at Starbucks where they understand customer service. The coffee may not be as good as yours, but it is good enough and they treat me well.)

15. However, if you truly have NO IDEA what you want, or if anything on the menu or in the store is confusing in the slightest, ASK.

It is my JOB to guide you to your personal beverage nirvana. I have had everything on the menu at least a zillion times, and, more importantly, can recommend things that aren’t listed. I can suggest cappuccino modifications that will ensure you a lifetime of your own perfect legal addictive stimulant. Just ASK. (You tell me you “need my money“, that you on purpose have “confusing space and secret-coffee-language“, that I am “not to talk to the barista…unless, it’s about his world“, “that I should have already decided while in line” and that you are “twitching, apologizing to the people behind me” and now you expect me to ask what you what should I get? Is this a trick?)

16. It’s not EXpresso.

We do judge you for that one. (Already addressed this one. Wow, do I feel the love!)

17. We also judge you for ordering an extra-hot drink.

Most shops steam milk to somewhere in the 140-150 degree range. Why? Any hotter and the milk begins to break down and scald. It smells terrible. Plus, the metal pitchers we use get too hot to hold and the milk becomes bubbling lava foaming its way out of the pitcher. Perhaps consider investing in a high-quality thermos if you want your drink to stay hot all morning. Insisting that we re-steam your drink to 200 degrees tells us that you don’t care about our safety and you don’t have taste buds. (Where do I start? Oh yeah, I love my lattes extra hot. I’ve never had a shop that used pitchers without handles or complained of “bubbling lava”. Is this something new? I don’t want a thermos or I would have brought one. Put it in a cup. Whether I have taste buds is non of your fricking business and I didn’t know that 200 degrees, instead of 150, was such a safety issue (don’t you serve 200 degree coffee?). Oh, that’s right – this is all about you. I forgot. I’m such a dick. Thanks for reminding me!)

18. If you add an inch of cream to your coffee, the coffee will not be as hot.

There is nothing I can do about this. (Umm, yea. Not sure what your point is, unless you are yelling at me again for something I did…I’m sorry…what did I do now??? I’ll try to do better…please…I will…really.)

19. Tips: they’re pretty awesome.

I absolutely believe you should not tip if the service is terrible, or even it’s just meh. But if we’ve done our job well, if we’ve treated you with respect and kindness, if we’ve correctly read the vibes you’re giving off and either chatted with you or left you alone (both totally valid; I get that we’re not friends and you shouldn’t have to pretend to like me) and if you leave the shop happier than you were when you came in, please think about tipping. (This isn’t a restaurant. You aren’t make $2.39/hr. Tips are my choice, right?. And since we are being so ‘gut level honest’, your whole attitude sure isn’t earning you any.)

It is immediately clear who has worked in the service industry and who hasn’t by watching tipping practices. Everyone who has ever stood on their feet all day serving people never hesitates to throw that extra quarter our way. (I was ready to tip you, but then read I this article.)

20. And even if you don’t tip, respect the tip jar.

We have earned that money. Don’t reach in to grab the quarters you need for the parking meter. (I put in a $5 bill, and took 2 quarters back. you shouldn’t be so paranoid.)

21. I’ll try really hard not to weird you out with the fact that I remember your name and what you drink every day.

But seriously, you come in every day. If you remember my name in return, you’ll take our relationship to the next level. (I don’t want a relationship. I don’t care what your name is. I give you money. You give me coffee. Do it well and consistent and maybe I’ll keep coming back. Then you can earn MY respect.)

If not being a dick is your goal and you do all of the above, congratulations! You’ve made it! But why set the bar so low? Aim for being the super-awesome customer we love, the “regular”! Want the PBTC to call you by name when you walk in, ask if you want your usual, and generally treat you like you’re awesome? (If being successful is YOUR goal, then try treating me with respect, realize I pay your wages, I have other options, and that you have to earn my money every day. I don’t have to drink the best coffee in the world. Matter of fact I can get used to second best pretty quickly and not blink an eye or miss you for one second. My goal was not to impress you or prove to you I am not a dick. Because that is not the way quality, successful, profitable and long standing companies act. They realize they exist for the customer, not the other way around.)

22. Then be awesome. (Now THAT’S funny. I couldn’t write for like 5 minutes. My throat still hurts from laughing.)

Pay attention to the layout of the store and how the lines work, learn our names, and maybe ask a few questions that indicate you see the PBTC as POTS (people outside the store), too. (If you had invested more money into the creation of your store, rather than trying to adapt the previous clothing stores counter tops into your counter tops, maybe your floorplan would make sense to me. Besides, once again you forgot the point that it is your job make it easy for me, not the other way around.)

23. Above all, please remember that if there’s something wrong with your order, your drink, the service, or any other aspect of your customer experience, I do want to know.

Really. I even want to make it right, as immediately as I can. No one does this job because they want to spread doom and gloom. (Wow, could have fooled me. This entire article was doom and gloom to any customer who ever had the misfortune of walking in your shop.)

It’s just coffee, yes. But it can be much more, and chances are pretty good that the PBTC truly enjoy chatting with you, sharing what they know and love about the things they make and sell, and like being a part of your daily routine. The best customers don’t sweat the small stuff that doesn’t matter and appreciate the human beings who do. (Why don’t you create applications we can fill out to see if we can pass muster and get hired to be your customers? Your focus on “how I can be the best” and “how you are so pathetically treated in your job” is sick.)

And we appreciate you, good customers. Thanks. (After reading this list I’m not sure there is a single person who could make you happy and ever fit your definition of a “good customer”.)

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Wow, can I say I have never been so embarrassed for such a pathetic excuse of customer service attitude in all my days. Let me apologize to any coffee shop customer who has had the misfortune of being served treated in such a way by any coffee shop anywhere. The whole attitude of this article screams “it’s all about me” when great customer service says “it’s all about the customer”.

Being successful (long-term profitable operation) comes by treating the general public with excellence on a daily basis no matter how we are treated in return. It is our opportunity to brighten the customer’s day. The customer who may have just found out their father was diagnosed with cancer and left their sunglasses on to hide puffy, red eyes. The customer who’s phone just rang from a client who just signed a million dollar deal or a best friend who just got engaged. The regular customer who just needed to access wifi for a few minutes to get out that big proposal because the wifi at their house isn’t working. The customer who has never had an “expresso”, never heard of a “grande” and who’s eyesight isn’t good enough to read a menu that is cryptically scribbled in font too small to read anyhow and just wanted to ask the barista a question.

My guess is that I and my staff have been frustrated a thousand times by things either written above, or things similar. But, my point is that it is our job, our opportunity, is to set an example of kindness, respect, and the attitude of a servant in what we do every day, and to brighten the lives of the hundreds and thousands of people that come through our store every day. We are the ones with the opportunity, not the customer. We are the ones who need the customer, not the other way around. The attitude of this article shows through every sentence. In their mind, the world revolves around them, not the customer.

9 Comments

  1. Molly:

    Whether you realize it or not, you just completely proved her point. Your attitude towards coffee shops and the people who work in coffee shops is disgusting and completely arrogant. What a waste of time- both mine for reading your idiotic comments in blue- might I suggest spell check before you post something? And a waste of your time for writing this crap in response to a well written blog post. You have clearly never worked a service job for minimum wage, and had to put up with people’s arrogant attitudes day after day. Oh and again, proof read. How embarrassing.

    • Megan:

      Thank you, Molly. You restore a bit of my faith in humanity. I’ve been a barista since 2007 and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  2. Excellent article. Customer service is something severely lacking in many of today’s establishments. I am constantly shocked by how members of the industry forget they are part of the “hospitality” industry.

  3. I started in foodservice when I was 16. I worked grunt job for years at minimum wage. I worked in a number of restaurants and worked with many, many co-workers who ranged from wonderful people to downright nasty and pathetic folk. I’ve seen waitresses who were wonderful and some that were selfish and gossipy. I had co-workers that were nice and some that threatened me. I had a boss that was a tyrant and watched him berate and verbally and physically abuse employees including me. And this is not unique to coffeeshops, this is life. You can find it in any industry, any business and amongst any particular group of people.

    My attitude towards people who work in coffee shops? Over the last 20 years I have been served by hundreds of coffee shop employees. I have great respect and appreciation for hard working, great attitude, coffeeshop employees (I also happen employee a whole bunch of them). But, having a great team doesn’t happen by accident. It takes selecting the right people, training them well, having high standards, enforcing those standards, getting rid of bad employees and lots and lots of hard work and time.

    I know that some customers are idiots, we see them all to often. But, idiot customers are no excuse for being a winey, gossipy, two-faced employee – coffeeshop or other – a person who is sweet and nice when someone is sweet and nice and then a nasty, gossipy bi$&^ when anyone doesn’t know “how to not be a dick in a coffeeshop”. They gossip about other employees and their boss and their owner, spewing their cancer, infecting everyone around them. All those people are time wasting, malicious, thieves who steal from their owners, from their co-workers and anyone who happens to not fit their idea of “wonderful”.

    I don’t know how you got to your conclusions from what I wrote, nor how I proved her point. You may have misunderstood her, or me. But, either way, I hope you are not spreading cancer at your coffee shop – which is a whole lot more embarrassing then any spelling error.
    Jack recently posted..How Not To Be A Dick At The Coffee ShopMy Profile

  4. Garry Haraveth:

    GREAT article – unfortunate that you had to respond to such crap in the first place but well done!

  5. jimmer jallop:

    Wow, must of been Molly’s coffee shop!

  6. Hey Molly, I am looking for some used equipment. When your shop tanks let me know, I’m paying 15 cents on the dollar

  7. JDW:

    Attacking a minor spelling mistake is a clear indicator of not actually having a point or counter argument. That being said, it is advisable that if you correct spelling errors to not include fragmented sentences in your own response. It is also advisable to keep your arrogance within the cramped quarters of your mind.

  8. I would hope that the original post was a tongue-in-cheek piece. If so it wasn’t as funny as it could have been.
    If not I hope the original author finds a nice job as a guard in a North Korean prison camp.
    Thanks for sharing, Jack

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