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Barista! How I Roll

Aside from my aforementioned resistance to suggestively sell, I have compiled a short list of other reasons that the world's finest coffee purveyors may not appreciate giving me a paycheck.

1. Whenever we are supposed to sample the latest featured pastry to the customers, I typically only end up sampling about half of what I cut up. The other half goes towards my personal product knowledge gain. I like to taste enough to be able to articulate effectively to the customers, of course. Aside from my genuine desire to be a knowledgeable employee, I am being realistic as well. You would not believe how many of our customers refuse free, bite-size samples because they are watching their weight. That, to me, is a sad existence. Especially since, as we all know, everything tastes better in sample size.

2. I ask customers for a photo ID when they arrive to pick up their pre-ordered coffee travelers. In reality, we don't even have to ask for a name to place an order for a coffee traveler. But I like the mix of reactions, and the willingness of people to reach for their licenses . . . for a box of coffee . . . especially if they didn't give a name to place the order. Heeheehee. Although my semi-insulting jesting with the customers is usually well-received, I'm sure Corporate would shudder to know I was being so, I don't know, human and stuff.

3. Last week, I got to work with my co-shift supervisor, Lillian. We never get to work together, so she allowed me to act as the "barista" for the day. Which meant I had no responsibility other than to operate the register and put my hands in my pockets when there were no customers. Something's on fire? There's a customer complaint? Ask the supervisor on duty, Lillian. I'll be over here balling pocket lint between my fingers.

My main opening barista task was to set up the pastry case for the beginning of the day. As you can probably imagine, there is a "correct" way of arranging the pastries, to maximize sales and cohesion of product.

On this rare occasion for me, I took it upon myself to organize the food in a way I found more logical. The bottom shelf, closest to the register, consisted of the 5-fruit banana muffin (a pastry that makes you wonder, Am I really eating 6 fruits, since the banana is mentioned separately?), the oat bran coffee cake and the flax braids. I tenderly referred to this grouping as "The Poop Trio." Later, I added a fruit and nut bar to the line-up and changed it to "The Poop Quartet."

I've decided that from now on, when a customer asks me for a pastry recommendation, I'm going to ask, "Are you looking to stir a movement today?" Fuck what drink it pairs well with, keep yourself regular! Just not in our bathrooms, please.

4. Finally, I don't believe in the ten-minute rule that requires the closing employees to leave the door open ten minutes after our posted closing time. This has been a sore spot for me for years. The hours on the door say we are open until 9. The scheduling gives me until 9:30 to close and clean the entire store. If we are supposed to stay open until 9:10, put that on the door, schedule me until 9:40, and I'll abide.

You want to know how I execute the ideal close?

Half-hour to closing time, the pastry case is lights-out. The tills are at par, the safe is counted.

Fifteen minutes to close, the remaining open espresso bar gets cleaned. And then we hope no customers come in and want espresso-based drinks for the remaining 15 minutes of operation. Notice I did not say 25 minutes of operation.

Five minutes to close, the music gets killed, signaling to the all-too-comfortable loiterers that the winds of their nights must blow them elsewhere. Also, the lights in the windows get turned off; as I call it, "Passersby Deterrence."

One minute to close, all lights are out, regardless of people still in store. You didn't get the fucking message four minutes ago? Now you can feel your way to the door. Thank you, come again.

9 p.m. Door is locked. The close begins, and I leave, as scheduled, at 9:30. The way I see it, I am contributing to store profit by actually punching out on time and cutting back the cost of labor.

Overall, despite our differences, Corporate and I are ultimately working towards the same goal. Enrichment aside of course, I am talking about money. They need it; I need it. They like to roll around naked in it; I like to roll around naked in it. We may disagree now and then, but at the end of the day we all just need to be fed. In which case, are you looking to shift some bowels today?

*

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. Catch up with the rest of her heartwarming tales from the front here.




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Posted on February 18, 2007


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
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POLITICS - Trailer: Swing District.
SPORTS - Ryan Pace's Narratives Are Killing Us.

BOOKS - Chicago For Dummies.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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