Disclaimer: I will come off sounding like a huge bitch in this blog. Although my feelings of annoyance are slightly exaggerated here for comedic value, all crap I put up with that is mentioned here is true. All my tips are well thought out, and it's all excellent advice. Enjoy :-)
So, as I’ve mentioned previously, I left my job at my quaint little cafe about six months ago. I now work at a major coffee chain where, believe it or not, people aren’t as rude and socially inept as they were at the place I used to work. I like almost all my customers now… with a rare few exceptions.
However, before I left my last job I decided to drag my little brother into the black hole of bitterness and frustration that is working in the service industry. Yep, he took my old job. And I can honestly say, I don’t think he’s ever been happier. Wait, did I say happier? I meant much, much more depressed. Why would I inflict this kind of cruel and unusual punishment on my one and only sibling, you ask? Well, partially because he had been looking for a job forever and needed money (why does anyone take a crap job?), and partially because when I started working there, it only took about six months before I was enrolled in college again and making an entire life plan. I can only hope he has a similar epiphany. Nothing makes you get your shit together quite like working for $8 an hour and getting bitched at all day.
So every now and then, I’ll get a phone call from my brother on his cigarette break that usually begins like, “Oh, my God, you would not believe this customer I just had…”
Most of the time I listen and laugh with him, and it’s nothing I hadn’t heard or seen before. Last night, however, I got a particularly entertaining phone call which prompted me to write this entry, tip #14: Consider the ambiance.
The story goes a little something like this:
A man walked into the cafe; we’ll call him “eccentric.” But in reality he was just batshit crazy (I try to be appropriate and PC sometimes). He ordered a sandwich and sat down, and within a minute or two my brother noticed what sounded like music coming from the man’s table.
"Umm… Excuse me, sir," says my timid, doesn’t-want-to-piss-anyone-off little brother, "but are you playing music?"
"Yeah," says Crazy Eyes (I’m not sure if he actually had crazy eyes, I wasn’t there. But I’m going to assume he did.)
"Well… Do you have headphones?"
"Oh… well, can you turn it down please? There are a lot of other people up here…"
The disgruntled man obliged at first and turned it down, but then decided it was a better idea if he just moved farther away from my brother and turned it back up.
Naturaly, the customers sitting at the table next to Crazy Eyes weren’t pleased with that. They also asked him to turn the music down, telling him it was bothering them. He retorted with some bullshit statement like “Well, your voices are bothering ME, so what do you wanna do about that?”
At this point, my brother’s coworker had to step in because she has no problem being a bitch (Totally kidding! I love you Jess) and asked the man again to turn down the goddamn music. He continued to make a scene until the manager of the bookstore downstairs finally asked him to leave. Jesus.
You’d think this kind of post wouldn’t even need to be written. “That man was obviously nuts,” you might say. “No one would go into a teeny tiny, practically silent cafe and start playing audible music.” Oh, but they do. And they do it a lot.
I found that story to be a particularly good example of these instances because the guy was so goddamned entitled about the whole thing. Like in his head he’s going,”I just spent six whole dollars on a sandwich, of course that means I can do whatever the hell I want up here.” But we all know that’s not true. Or at least, some of us do.
Now, there may be some cafes where it’s so fucking loud no one can tell if your music is on full blast. So that’s fine, whatever. But this specific cafe is overlooking a bookstore. People come there because it’s quiet. It’s not a hip, bustling place with crappy indie music playing in the background (like where I work now). So it’s like, the loudest thing in the entire freaking store if someone is playing music on their phone speakers.
Basically all I’m saying is to try to analyze the kind of place it is before doing something like Crazy Eyes. My rule of thumb is, if you don’t have to raise your voice for the people at your table to hear you, it’s probably not a good place to visit without your headphones.
I keep forgetting to blog about this one. It makes me nuts. This serious breach of customer etiquette usually goes hand in hand with the indecency I covered in Tip #2… because people who commit one of these offenses are usually totally rude enough to do both.
As you may have noticed, many of my rants have to do with politeness. It’s because it’s a dying quality. When I was growing up, my parents always taught me to say “please” and “thank you,” while these days parents let their kids order me “Give me that cake pop!” without so much as a “Johnny, what do you say?” So, I have a feeling the major manners issue this world has is not going to get any better.
Anyway, I digress. The subject of today’s post: People who tell me what they want before I ask them what they fucking want.
I shall set the scene for you. It’s about an hour before closing. I’m washing things furiously (probably because I’ve been caught up in my “move everything off the counters to clean them and lose track of time while I make a bigger mess than there was in the first place”) and I’m behind schedule. A customer walks up and, since I’m very observant, I turn around to see them approach the register. As I turn the water off, before I’ve even said “Hello!” and acknowledged their presence, I hear: “I want a double tall non-fat latte, extra hot no foam.”
First of all, I wasn’t even keeping you waiting. Second of all, you don’t even know for sure that I saw you. Third of all, I’m not standing there with a cup and a marker in my hand, to copy down all of your crazy specifications. In fact, even if I were able to grab a cup and a pen right before you said all that, your cup would be soaking wet because I wouldn’t have been able to dry my hands yet. And then you’d complain that I gave you a wet cup of coffee.
Since I’m a seasoned veteran at remembering long drink orders, of course I can remember that you want a double tall non-fat latte extra hot with no foam. But, a lot of baristas can’t. By the time they’ve turned off the sink, wiped their hands, and walked over to the register to grab the cup to mark up with your order, they’ll have forget what you said. And then you’d give a big *siiiigh* when they asked you to repeat it. Hey, it’s not their fault you spit out your order before they were ready.
Look, sometimes at my job I can’t be sitting at the register, pen poised and ears alert, waiting for the one customer I get every 30 minutes to give me their order. So, be patient (and I’m only requiring minimal patience… maybe 15 seconds, tops) while I dry off my hands, and come over to ask what you would like. And I even promise to do it with a smile, as long as you don’t act like it’s a cardinal sin I wan’t ready the instant you walked up to me. Do me a favor and wait for me to give you the queue that I’m ready for you (it’ll sound something like “What can I get for you today?”) and we’ll get along just fine :-)
One day, the espresso machine at my old cafe broke. Obviously, that’s a bit of an issue. But, since it was the middle of the day and we were very slow, it wasn’t the end of the world.
While we waited for the espresso mechanic to come turn a wrench for us, I made a nice sign informing our customers that our espresso machine was out of order. And, knowing that so many people don’t know which drinks have espresso in them, I made a list of drinks our customers could still order.
My first customers to come in after the epic failure of our espresso machine completely overlooked my big, bold, bright sign right in the middle of the counter. *sigh*. So I told them, “Hey, just so you guys know, we can’t do espresso drinks right now. If you’ll take a look at the sign…”
Of course, they didn’t. The first one says, “Ok, well can I just get a latte?”
"Um… well that has espresso in it."
"Ok, an Americano then."
"…that also has espresso in it."
*gets frustrated* “Well, what can I get then?”
*fake smile* “If you’ll just take a look at the sign…”
This went on all afternoon. Out of 15 or so customers, I remember exactly one of them bothered to read the sign. And let me remind you, it is not hidden. It is not understated. It is big, it is loud, it is bright fucking red.
There’s a similar problem at my new job. It’s a grocery store, and like many grocery stores it has more than one entrance. However, some people think it’s appropriate to shoplift from our little, meager market (it’s definitely not Safeway), so after around 10 a.m. when the coffee shop crowd dies down, we lock one of the automatic doors so people can come in but not go out. Basically, to make it more difficult for assholes to rip us off.
I’ll admit, it’s weird. It’s kind of confusing. And everyone knows how annoying it is when you try to walk through an automatic door and it doesn’t open. It’s almost like when you expect there to be one more step on the staircase and there isn’t one. It’s just… so wrong.
But the thing is, we have a good reason for locking that door. And it’s not like there’s no sign or anything to direct people to the other exit. In fact, there are multiple signs. One (in gigantic, bold lettering not unlike the aforementioned sign I made at my other job) says “NOT AN EXIT” and is positioned oh-so-cleverly at eye level. So, basically, it’s kind of impossible to miss.
Buuut that doesn’t stop people from walking towards the door at full speed with their shopping cart, only to screech to a halt at the last second. Or sometimes not.
Once people realize it doesn’t open, they start looking around frantically for someone to explain this injustice! An automatic door that won’t open?
Of course, if they’d just look for a second at this demon door that defies them, they would clearly see it says “NOT AN EXIT.” The hilarious thing is, most people’s young children notice the sign before their parents do.
The sign, as obvious and conveniently-placed as it is, of course doesn’t stop people from getting pissed off that they can’t use that door. Once they notice it (or, once I yell across the store “Excuse me! You have to go around!” because I know they’ll never notice it), they look at me (quite indignantly, if I do say so myself) and do one of two things. They’ll either make an exasperated grunt and walk over to the other entrance (maaaybe 30 steps, max), or they’ll sit and wait for someone to walk in the automatic door so they can slip out. They often end up waiting at the door for way longer than it would have taken for them to just walk around.
Anyway. The point is, a lot of your everyday questions will be answered if you just read the sign. And please, don’t berate me for what the sign says.
Even if it tells you that you have to get 30 seconds of exercise and walk to the other exit.
So, I realize that when you’re out running around or meeting with friends that you probably don’t look at your watch every five minutes. That’s cool, I don’t expect you to.
What would be nice, though, is if you gave it a teensy glance before you walk in somewhere where you’re about to order something.
Walking into a clothing store with 15 minutes before they close isn’t the end of the world. Those people are probably mostly done organizing everything and, unless you’re the tasmanian devil, you can’t do that much damage. It’s kinda different at a place that serves food and drink, though, which I would think would be semi- (if not incredibly) obvious.
Here’s the deal (I feel like I say that a lot…). When you work at a place that serves food and drinks, cleaning up isn’t a 10 minute job. In fact, we start pre-closing at my job 4 hours before we close. 4 hours. That should give you a hint as to how much work is involved. There’s sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, cleaning counters… to name the easy things. Long story short, there’s a lot involved in closing and usually, there aren’t 10 people working at once to get it done quickly. At my new job, I close alone. So, when 10 people come in at a quarter to closing and all order complicated drinks, not only do I have to make them all myself (and usually get roped into several more because I don’t get around to dimming the lights at the right time. SInce I’m so fucking busy.) I then have to clean everything I just messed up. Everything that I’ve spent the last two hours cleaning and sanitizing.
Now, I’m not trying to tell you to never walk into a place that’s closing soon. Just be mindful of what you order. LIke, for example, a blended drink that requires me messing up several different areas of the store isn’t my favorite thing to make at the end of the night. It’s awesome when people keep it simple and just get coffee, a latte, tea, etc.
I’m not going to flip out if you come in at 5 till and order a frappucino. That’s fine, whatever. But, what I don’t like is the attitude I get when I either tell someone we’re closing soon, or that we’re already closed.
There’s absolutely nothing I can do about that. I don’t make the hours, and I can’t change them because you “have a headache and just really need some tea.” That’s a real argument I got a few weeks ago. Look, it’s nice that you’re already off work and just want some coffee (or whatever), but I’m stuck at my job until well after 5:00 and it’d be really nice if I could get home at a reasonable hour. FYI, there are probably 5 coffee shops within a mile radius that are open late. Thanks!
Ok, this one is really starting to get to me. Because it happens so damn often.
So you go to a cafe and order something, right? Chances are you know what it is that you ordered. Even if you’re trying something new and aren’t really sure what it should look like, you would probably at least remember the name of what you ordered. You did just verbalize it, didn’t you?
So it’s beyond me why people get such a strange look on their face when I give them what they ordered. These days it’s not so bad because I call out the drinks instead of bringing them to people’s tables (although calling out the name, as mentioned in Tip #9, has its own problems), but at the cafe where I used to work this reaction people have really threw me for a loop. I’d walk over to table to set down the drinks/sandwiches/salads with the people who ordered them (and of course I know who got what, because I have a memory that lasts more than 30 seconds), and as I set it down I’d say the name (not unlike they do at every cafe/restaurant in the whole freakin’ world). This is when I’d get the furrowed brow, the slight frown, the inquisitive eyes that clearly said “this isn’t what I ordered!”
Of course, it is what they ordered. I know it and they know it. So why do they make that face?
I haven’t come to any decisive conclusions on this one, but my best guess would be that people just forget what they ordered 3 minutes earlier, and try to remember by looking confusedly at what I just gave them. To these people I say: do some brain exercises, your memory could use a little boost.
If you’ve ever been to any kind of coffee shop, you know that unless you order drip coffee, your drink isn’t ready instantaneously. It’s usually required that you hang back for a minute or two while the lovely barista (me :-D) makes it for you. During this time, you might chat with your friend, find a seat, or set up your home office in the middle of the store (that is, if you haven’t read any of my other tips on here and don’t know how annoying that is). Whatever you do, I don’t really care, as long as you’re not sacrificing goats in the corner or playing your music full-blast without headphones (we’ll cover that one, one of these days) AND as long as you pick up your drink when I call it out.
Now, these days I work at a new cafe where this isn’t as big of a problem (but it’s still a problem). But, at my old cafe, it was pretty much procedure for the customer to order their drink, sit down, and then ignore me while I called it out 5 times before finally breaking down and bringing to them. I wouldn’t normally reward that kind of obliviousness with premier service, but the boss told me to.
Sometimes, though, I’m too busy to bring out every drink that someone forgot to pick up. All I can do while slaving away at the espresso bar is call it out, again and again and again. And what happens to hot, delicious espresso drinks when they sit for minutes on end? They become cold, and much less delicious. And guess what? That’s not my problem.
I’ve had people on more than one occasion complain that, after letting their drink sit on the counter for 10 minutes, it was “too cold” or that the espresso tasted “old.” Uh, yeah. That’s what happens when you live in your own little world and somehow forget that your ordered coffee at a coffee shop.
I imagine it is for this exact reason that Starbucks now calls out your name when your drink is ready, instead of just calling out the name of the drink. That, and the fact that people often take drinks that aren’t theirs. Which brings me to my next point…
Don’t take drinks that aren’t yours. This also falls under the “Pay attention” category. At my old cafe, this wasn’t a frequent occurrence, but at my new job (Let’s call the company… Barstucks) this kind of ignorance is rampant. It happens at least once a day, where we’ll get to the end of the line of drinks we’re making and some poor soul is still standing there, wondering where their decaf soy no foam triple tall mocha is. “Oh, but I remember making that [how could I forget…], how odd!” I always tell them.
Well, as it turns out, people choose to ignore the name of the drink I shout out as I put it on the counter, and automatically assume: “Oh, well I just ordered and walked over to the pick-up area so the first drink that’s set down must be mine!” Do me a favor and don’t be so goddamn self-centered. I don’t know if you noticed, but there were 5 people ahead of you and unfortunately, we can’t make drinks quite as fast as you can say the name of it. Except in the case of the decaf soy no foam triple tall mocha.
This happens a lot, and let me tell you how to avoid getting a gross soy decaf whatever-it-is instead of your quad shot espresso. Just a few simple steps:
1) Look at the cup. Is it big? Small? Chances are, if you got a quad shot espresso (something that takes up about an inch and a half in the cup), we’re not going to put it in a 20 oz cup.
2) Once you’ve determined the cup is the right size for what you ordered, take a looksee at the little boxes on the side where the barista wrote the specifications of your order (if you’re at Starbucks. I mean Barstucks). Yes, I know you don’t know our secret code for writing down the drinks (as one lady so nicely pointed out one day as she was trying to find her drink in a sea of other drinks), and far be it from me to divulge the secrets of the almighty Barstucks. What I can tell you is it’s pretty fucking obvious. If you see an “M” in the box labeled “drink”, it’s probably not your espresso. Looking for something with an “E” might be a little smarter.
3. When in doubt, ask the barista. Yeah, we’d rather you figure it out for yourself, but if you can’t we’d much rather you ask than walk away with the wrong drink, forcing us to make it again and throw away the one you left behind.
In conclusion, pay a-freaking-ttention. Thanks!
It’s a very common scenario; there’s a line a mile long, we’re understaffed, and it would just be fabulous if we could move things along as quickly as possible.
This is what gets me, and it happens so often it’s almost funny. A person finally gets to the register after standing in line for several minutes, and when I tell them their total they look at me with big eyes and then say “Oh!” and proceed to dig through their wallet for a minute and a half to pay for their shit.
So… I don’t know where all these people are going where they get free coffee, but where I work customers have to exchange money for the good/service they get. This is how an economy works.
Here’s the deal. We have a menu on the wall above the register, as I’m sure almost every other cafe does. While you’re waiting in line for two or three minutes, go ahead and glance at the price next to the thing you’re getting. Maybe you could even take the appropriate amount of money out of your wallet, and have it ready when you get to the register!
It helps me, it helps you, and it helps all the pissed off customers behind you. So next time you see a long line ahead of you, be productive. You’ll be out and on your way so much faster.
Most of us are familiar with the policy: “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” No, I don’t get a ton of people who come in with no shoes or shirt on. What does happen, though, is people come in and get so comfortable, they actually take their shoes off. And I’d say 99% of people who do that aren’t even wearing socks.
So, I get it. You’ve had a long day, your feet hurt, they’re sweaty. You want to air them out. That’s not a crime… but it’s something you should definitely do in your own home. Or car. Or whatever.
This ties in to my last tip about being considerate of those around you. I don’t really think most people want to look at/smell your feet that you’ve been on all day long. “They don’t smell…” you might argue. Doesn’t matter. The mere sight of them is something to turn most people off. And no, it doesn’t matter if your feet are pristine, because no one assumes they are.
The kicker is that a lot of people that do this also put their feet up on our chairs. Ewwww….. I’m sorry, but sanitizing the chairs after every customer is not in my job description. And that’s exactly what I have to do if you put your dirty feet all over them. Come on… Just think about what you’re doing for two seconds. Would you want me, a stranger, coming into your house and putting my sweaty feet all over your furniture? I didn’t think so.
So, if you can’t bear to keep your work shoes on for even one more second after 5, here’s a good tip: Bring some flip flops with you, so you can use those instead of being totally disgusting.
So, a few weeks ago it was a busy Friday night at the cafe. Nearly all the tables were taken when this couple came in and set up shop on one of the big tables. I waited patiently while they unpacked their laptops, books, papers and the rest of their office, expecting that they would at least order something if they were preparing to stay for what appeared to be days.
No such luck. But, I’ve already covered that problem in Tip #1. I won’t go there again… even though it drives me completely insane.
No, that wasn’t the worst offense these people committed. It wasn’t even that they brought up their own water instead of ordering a refreshment from us. What really put the icing on the cake was when the lady busts out her nail polish remover and starts taking her nail polish off! Not just in a place of business, but a place that serves food where it would be best if the aroma wasn’t acetone.
I have no idea what this lady was thinking. It was probably the same thing those women who paint their nails on the plane think when they do that. I, however, would never do that and don’t understand who is so oblivious they don’t even realize how much that stuff STINKS. I can’t take my nail polish off in the biggest room in my house without a window open; the fumes are enough to make a person loopy.
So, at that point I was beyond hoping these people would spend so much as a dollar in the cafe, so I just ignored them. But it did inspire me to write this tip, just to make sure there’s not a single other person on this earth who thinks it’s acceptable to do something like that in a public place. Relating to my other article, you are not queen of the cafe! There are other people, some of them trying to enjoy food, who probably don’t want to smell something so strong and unappealing while they’re eating. So, if you don’t see a problem with this, next time you have lunch I want you to eat it with a bottle of nail polish remover under your nose and see how much food you can choke down.
I’ll never forget this lady. One morning she came in, pushed two tables together (without asking… Which I think in itself is a little rude), spread out all her crap and proceeded to turn that corner of the cafe into her own personal workspace. Okay… Not the worst offense ever, people do it all the time and it doesn’t really bother me. But then… She pulls out her own travel coffee mug, which already has coffee in it, and sips on that instead of ordering from the person whose space she’s using (see tip #1). She sits there for hours (my boss is too much of a chicken to ask anyone to leave ever, no matter what they’re doing). Around lunch time, she pulls out a sandwich she brought with her and eats that instead getting one of our sandwiches (which would be way more delicious than whatever she had). Finally, she comes up to the register and, instead of ordering something, she asks for our wifi password. Ehhmmm… Excuse me?
Needless to say, I told her she had to buy something if she wanted to use our Internet. At that point, my boss sheepishly mentioned that outside food and drinks aren’t allowed. She looked at us incredulously, like she couldn’t believe we were asking her to buy something if she wanted to use our resources (tables, outlets, WiFi…). She informed us she’d be more than happy to go elsewhere, and gathered her entire office that she had set up in the cafe and left.
So, I don’t really care that this lady probably had a bad experience at my cafe. People come in all the time thinking they’re entitled to everything, but don’t need to contribute to the cafe economy. It’s pretty common for people to hold meetings, gatherings, etc. in the cafe, and most of them don’t even so much as ask if they can move the tables (PS: Don’t ever move furniture without asking. There are things called “fire codes.”). After they’ve moved three tables together and all sit down (chatting, loudly, unaware of those around them working and studying), we’re lucky if more than one of them gets a drink. Yet, they act like they’re the only people in the joint. I’ll go over that more in my next tip (about being considerate to those around you), but it applies here as well.
Here’s the deal. You’re NOT in charge in my cafe. Yes, in most cases I’ll do whatever you ask me, but your fate is in my hands. I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.
I’m not going to refuse service, and I probably won’t even be rude, but just know when you come in with that entitled attitude and act like you’re the boss, you’re pissing me off. Stop it.