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Barista! Back in the Grind

I am out of the muck. I have suffered through the last of the workshops, role plays, ritual whale sacrifices, and workbook scenarios that challenge me to solve crises such as the one in which my imaginary customer, "Jose Espresso," chips his tooth on a nutty pastry and for some reason comes crying to me about it.

I think I handled Jose fairly well by explaining to him that any time he puts anything into his mouth, or even gets behind the wheel of a car to drive to his local coffee shop, he is putting his life at risk. Then I explained to Jose that our company cannot solve all of his problems; only his caffeinated ones. I mean, does the pastry label say "nut" on it? Then you gotta be alert, Jose. Let's be honest, the nuts weren't exactly incognito in that Nut Bran Nutter Nutty Bar.

Recalling the steps of my handy customer-recovery acronym, I smoothed over the Jose situation by Encouraging him to return; highlighting for him all the nut-less items in our pastry case that might be safer for him to chew next time. And finally, I brought it all home by threatening Jose not to sue. Legendary service indeed.

But like I said, I'm done with all that hypothetical stuff. I can't just turn the page and make the battlefield pastry case go away. It's there. The beheaded muffins, the fallen lemon loaves - that is tangibly my problem now. And the customers are real too. Jose Espresso? I have to be nice to that prick in real life.

I have to stand there calmly (preferably with a smile), for example, as customers order food by pointing apishly at their pastries of choice. "One of those," they say, as though a directional gesture from their angle does shit for me at my angle behind the register, askew to the pastry case. The pastries have names for a reason. And you don't have to actually tap the glass case at any point during this transaction. I bet fish hate you almost as much as I do.

But anyway, there aren't too many Jose Espressos coming into my store. Despite our diversity-loving mission statement, I have the privilege of serving an exciting assortment of white people with money. The only hue variations among my customers are some unnatural shades of tan. I don't know how many white people would admit to this, but I swear all my customers look the same.

The same Coach clutches, the same Polo jogging suits, the same uneven hair part that looks freshly golf course windblown, the same country club pullover windbreaker. The same bratty kids in pastel North Face fleeces; the equally bratty toddlers, with their hot cocoa fingers on every surface in the store. I can't distinguish one rich white person from the next. Luckily they all order the same thing too. They think I find them memorable. Really, I'm just taking an educated guess based on the drink orders of the last fifty customers that looked just like them. How did I know you wanted non-fat milk!!? Because you're a soccer mom.

Which brings me to my favorite customer phone call of the week. During the Saturday morning rush, a woman called wanting to get a coffee to-go box filled with hot chocolate. When we told her we could not do that, she argued in disbelief. Was I sure? Oh, well let me see if our company changed the policy since I told you no three seconds ago. No, I guaranteed her, we did not do that. But the kids are freezing on the soccer field!! she pleaded. I was suddenly more than delighted to reiterate the term "coffee traveler" to her before hanging up the phone. What I really wanted to suggest was the term "layer," but I thought better of it. I'm still working on the enrichment part of my job. It's a lot harder than Shane led us to believe.

Maude Perkins is The Beachwood Reporter's pseudononymous service industry affairs editor currently serving time as a store supervisor for a large, publicly-held corporate coffee chain. Read more Barista! here.



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Posted on October 21, 2006


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - An Odd Call From Bermuda.
SPORTS - All Is Not Forgiven, Bears.

BOOKS - Turning Points Of The Civil War.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Baxter's IV Bag Shortages.


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