Sunday, September 14, 2008

Some Starbucks Thoughts

I had meant to write this for several days, but recently I celebrated my 6 year anniversary of being with Starbucks (I know, it's a long time). I have seen pretty much everything, from people stealing tips to several cars in a row offering to pay for the drink behind them (in a Pay It Forward kind of way). As such, I thought I would write down some insights I have gleaned from being there so long. Some are positive, some are negative, some are funny, some are pathetic. Hope you enjoy!

1) Everyone has a story. There is no way to be around people without finding out something about them. Each person has had unique experiences and life events that have shaped them into who they are today. Maybe they were in a war, traveled the world, survived a disease, etc. All people, regardless of background and behavior, have something to say.

2) I don't think I can ever get used to being at work at 5:00 in the morning. I know some people can, but it's just not for me. However, it is pretty awesome to be half asleep and at work and not really know where I am until about 9 or 10.

3) There is a real difference in Starbucks coffee and the stuff they sell for a couple bucks per bucket at the grocery store. Call me a coffee snob, I don't care. I have gotten used to what fresh beans taste like, and I don't think I will ever pre-grind my coffee again. The few extra bucks per bag is well worth not having that nasty aftertaste in my mouth.

4) Rude knows no color, economic status, race, gender, etc. It's not just obviously rich people who can be nasty and mean. I've come to grips with the fact most people just don't know or care how hard the people work. People will get mad and upset over so many things, and I've gotten to where it just doesn't surprise me anymore. Next time you go to Starbucks, make sure you're nice to them, they work awful hard for fairly low wages and are under constant stress.

5) My favorite customers are the ones who come in because they enjoy it, appreciate a good product, and who are interested in trying new things. Typically, they are the easiest to please, in the best moods, and the most understanding when things go wrong. Thank you.

6) People who are on their cell phones have no clue how obnoxious they are and how much we as employees hate that. The only person important enough to be on their phone 24/7 is the President, get over yourself, your brunch appointment can wait 5 minutes while you place your order. That's why I make extra noise working the bar when someone comes in on their phone, stop it, we hate it.

7) Instead of getting mad at people who are easily angered by everything at Starbucks, I have developed a new sense of pity for them. With all the things that could go on in someone's life to cause them grief and stress, blowing up over your latte is quite childish and petty. I understand you pay a lot for it, and sadly mistakes do happen. It's no excuse to be a jerk, speak politely, and I won't blog about you later. :-)

8) Benefits outweigh job enjoyment. The situation we are in as a nation with health care being so outrageous causes many people to make sacrifices of sanity and satisfaction to be able to take care of their family with good medical insurance.

9) Some of the people I've worked with have been very unique and been able to offer great insight and wisdom during some weird and rocky times in my life. One advantage to working so early or so late is low customer traffic during those times, and it affords a great opportunity to talk about more than coffee tastings, promo numbers, and all the other stuff that goes into the job.

10) While I think it is a great company to work for, I think that profitability and falling sales have prompted the company to make some wacky decisions lately. There was a push to "get back to the coffee" which was quickly followed up by several non-coffee drinks and a new breakfast line. I guess the almighty dollar outweighs corporate image and standards.

11) I can say a lot of quasi-Italian words and phrases, and it always works pretty cool to impress people to be able to speak Starbuckseanese.

12) I've learned that white and black polo shirts will never go out of style and can always be gotten cheaply during school uniform season.

13) Comfortable shoes are very important to doing a job well. If you're on your feet for 8+ hours a day, you learn to find good shoes that give both comfort and support (highly recommend slip resistant shoes too).

14) 30% discounts on top of 10% extra during Christmas means automatic gift ideas for everybody I know.

15) Old, returned, or chipped coffee cups given to me by my old boss are some of the best cups I've ever used. And for travel mugs, I've learned a metal thermal cup will keep coffee hot for almost 10 hours!

16) People automatically like you more when you give them a pound of beans or offer to pick something up for them.

17) Sometimes hiring practices confuse me, especially when it comes to supervisors and managers. It should go to the best candidate, not the biggest kiss-up or because they're "available."

18) I think I will always hear the coffee timer beeping for the rest of my life, every hour... er... 30 minutes now.

19) People will overpay any amount to get some cheap piece of crap as long as it says "Starbucks" on it, especially during Christmas. The same coffee maker at Wal-Mart for 1/2 the price, go figure...

20) The company went from being a unique commodity to becoming the McDonalds-Abercrombie of coffee, and sadly it is taking store closings to get back to being something less ubiquitous.

21) Store performance is top down, without good management and direction, no amount of suggestive selling or lame gimmicks will help people do their job better.

22) People don't know how little we make, and therefore do not tip. I know it doesn't look like we work hard, but it's nonstop for hours. It is quite exhausting to work a full 8 hour shift. Leave some change in the jar, for most of us those tips are our gas money.

23) 99% of the customers don't care about growing regions, taste profiles, pastry pairings, etc. They just want something good, delivered to them in a timely fashion from a smiling partner.

24) People who call in 30 drink orders have no idea how much we dislike them. Keep in mind before faxing it in that most of them will get cold by the time they get back to the office or the whipped cream will melt.

25) It still ranks as one of the better jobs I have worked, for any number of reasons.

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