People wonder why baristas so frequently come off as haughty, snotty and holier-than-thou. Well, they have a reason – it’s because they’re taking more social liberties than their positions afford. Why? Let me tell you why – I was a barista for about a year, and I worked in the food service industry for upwards of 7 years, so I feel that I can give an apt explanation to this ultimately simple phenomenon. Baristas come off as haughty, snotty and holier than thou because they don’t like their jobs. There are, of course, many qualifiers here – unreasonable customers do exist, people can be rude, people can treat you as just another mechanical part of their morning routine on the way to work, etc. But all of these aspects of being a barista come with the territory of working a food service job. After all, what food service employee doesn’t expect to get a bad customer every once in a while? What barista expects every customer to be versed in the Italian names for different combinations of milk and espresso? And so the simple fact is that when you get a pissed off barista, s/he is pissed because s/he doesn’t like thier job. That said, I’d like to offer – in the vein of the original article – Some Tips To Coffee Shop Baristas.
1. Do not think I am a shitty person for not tipping you. Dude, sorry, but I don’t owe you anything other than the money for the overpriced latte you just sold me, and I’m not going to feel guilty if I don’t drop my change in your tip jar. Please don’t try to dictate how I spend my money. If you think it’s a social obligation, fine. You should definitely tip, then. Just don’t assume we share the same values, and don’t proceed to think I’m a bad person if I don’t believe the same thing as you. (Who does that sound like? Oh yeah… Hitler). If your logic is that you “deserve” tips because your boss doesn’t pay you enough, well then – that sucks, and your boss truly does suck if s/he expects the customers to make up for how much you “should” be getting paid. Why should your pay rate be the customers’ responsibility? Why should we have to make up for the fact that your boss doesn’t pay you what you think you should be paid? Shouldn’t that be dealt with by… your boss? I tip most of the time, and when I do, it’s because I want to, not because I feel guilty for exploiting a suffering human being. Give me a break. If that’s the logic, we should be tipping migrant farm hands and sweatshop workers. We should be tipping McDonalds employees and the people that work in CAFOs.
2. Do not think I am a shitty person for leaving a paper cup on a table. I always bus my table when I leave a coffee shop, but expecting me to bus my own table is something you can’t do, because I’m not employed by your coffee shop. I am the customer. You, as the barista, are the one whose responsibility it is to maintain the cleanliness standards of your fine establishment. If you feel like some sort of slave to customers because you have to clean up after them – well, that seems like your problem, and an unreasonable one at that, because your job description most likely includes “bussing tables that were not bussed by customers.” If you detest people who don’t bus their own tables, I think you just shouldn’t be a barista, because you obviously just don’t like your job. Honestly – you’d be a lot less stressed out, because there will ALWAYS be people that don’t bus their tables. Or, rather than quit, you could just accept the fact that some people are not going to bus their tables as an inevitability, do the job for which you’re being paid, try to stay positive, and take a less black/white stance on good and evil in regards to human behavior in coffee shops.
3. Please don’t act like I’m bothering you when I ask about the currently nonfunctioning wireless internet that you advertise with that large sticker on your door. Look – I know you know a lot about pouring milk in fancy ways to create floral patterns in coffee drinks, and it’s really special that you’ve mastered the art of mixing espresso and milk together. I know you want to think that that’s your only job – the Stoic Elitist Barista Who Knows The Right Way To Make a Macchiato – but the fact is that you have a WiFi sign on your glass door, which implies that when one pays for a coffee, the purchase also carries with it use of your wireless internet. But your WiFi isn’t working! And I came here because you’re the closest coffee shop that has WiFi, and I like, really need to do work that requires the internet. But I just bought a coffee and you’re giving me the “Uh, seriously? Are you seriously asking me this? God customers are so stupid” look. Why? Now I’m stuck here, four dollars in the hole, and I’m really regretting having tipped you. Please take mercy on me and go reset the router.
Coming from a fellow barista and veteran of the food service industry (I’ve worked as a line cook, in fast food, as a server, as a busser, catered banquets, etc.), I can tell you, baristas, that if you just take these tips into consideration, your life is much less likely to contain emotions such as “butthurt,” “frustrated,” and “silently raging about inevitabilities.” And, hey – if cleaning up after people isn’t your thing, just quit. Of course – it’s not that easy, but you can definitely start looking for something else, and eventually, through persistence, you may find a position that you won’t bitch about so much.