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Barista! McCoffeeland Looms

Just about two months ago, I wrote about my distaste for the company's policy of externally hiring people to be swiftly molded into managers, at the stress and expense of the baristas and the whole store in general (customers included, I might add). My inspiration to rant about that policy was our New Year's gift from Corporate - an awkward and misfit assistant manager whose very presence added a tense stillness to our noisy bustling days.

I recall mentioning that a barista's life is not for pussies. Rather, it takes a certain accrual of experience gained not by reading about hypothetical situations with characters named Tony Coffee Cake or Jose Espresso, but by actually getting burned, stained, and lid-lacerated hands. (Those lid lacerations, by the way, are just ever-so-slightly worse than paper cuts, if you can imagine. )

I have not gone far into detail about how the assistant manager affected our store dynamics. But let's just say it took us weeks just to get her to pronounce "dolce" correctly.

And so, while I will spare you the gory details, I must say we were all correct and hardly surprised when she abruptly resigned. She peaced-out quicker than the fat kid in dodge ball.

It only took a few baristas a single day to figure out what Corporate could never deduce: she wasn't up to the job. But hey, what do we know? We just make the lattes. And sell the machines. And talk to the customers and memorize their personalized drinks and dazzle them with our wit. And listen. And create that ever-crucial cozy environment. And wake up at 3 a.m. - known to the rest of the world as "nighttime" - to get ready to open the store. And steam the milk to 177 degrees without ever so much as muttering the word "douchebag," despite the nagging desire to write it boldly in Sharpie on the guy's fucking cup.

So, in other words, we know more than Corporate thinks. Experts can be hired to try to fix the drift from authenticity that Head Bean laments, but the real experts are already in-house - working for a living. Perhaps Head Bean ought to consult his baristas. Perhaps Head Bean ought to promote from within instead of hiring from without. And perhaps the ongoing sterilization of the company would be different if the baristas hadn't been gradually sterilized themselves, right alongside the homogenization of the product and atmosphere.

One of my co-baristas puts coffee stickers on her wrists every day to conceal the tasteful tattoos of her parents' names. Another co-worker caught official grief for piercing his lip and wearing a clear retainer that looked like a tiny blemish. For an ever-growing and forward-thinking company, it seems absurd to humor the potential wrong-rubbing of the minority of the population that is still offended by body modification circa 2007. Especially at the cost of accelerating the company's rapid approach towards Mc-sterility. We already have breakfast sandwiches. Next up: indoor playgrounds and a do-gooder mascot!

Despite my differences with the company, I want to help Head Bean before he is up to his ears in colorful plastic balls, realizing that his initial desire to replicate the inimitable vibe of an Italian cafe has turned into an international trouncing of all that was distinctive and unique to begin with. Not to suggest that Head Bean can't just fill his indoor pool with hundred dollar bills and go for a light swim when he is feeling blue; but if he is truthful in his memo, something has to give.

So, Head Bean, I am here to help. I am the ears, eyes, and mouth from the bottom of your company, with invaluable knowledge of what works, what doesn't, and what needs improving. I am educated, yes, but more importantly, experienced and competent. I am the most social and humane misanthrope you would ever meet. I have been a favorite barista of your devoted customers for three years without ever breaking stride, even amidst all the ego-bruising and soul-sucking that comes with working for a giant corporation. I have ideas to mend your wounded company, if you would only listen. And if not, I was thinking you might have a new position opening up soon. Just send me the mermaid costume. I am great with kids.


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.


Posted on March 15, 2007

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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