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Barista! The Refill Bandit

Even the simple things can be infinitely complex when you work for a worldwide corporate coffee chain. Take our refill policy, for example. Corporate HQ requires that patrons seeking refills haven't left the store since their initial purchase. And refills are only good for an hour after the initial purchase. And refills aren't free; we charge 50 cents per.

Still, my store is particularly liberal when it comes to refills, which after all only apply to plain coffee. Despite Corporate's edict, we let our regulars come and go all day long and still qualify for refills.That's just the kind of folks we are. But as the saying goes, no bending of the rules goes unpunished, and some people feel it is their purpose on this earth to abuse any privilege extended them.

One regular, for example, pulls up to the store several times a week in his shiny Lexus sports utility vehicle. He is a squirrelly twerp, with beady eyes and skinny lips. He approaches the counter with his head down, and cannot even look me in the eye as he holds out a sparkling clean, never-been-used paper cup, and asks for a refill.

When you take the cup from him to give him his "refill," he says, "Double-cup that." So basically, he brings in a clean cup, usually first thing in the morning, orders a refill, and then has the additional balls to request that you set him up for his next duping.

Then last week, he showed up with two brand new white cups and got two refills, which is absurd seeing as how we have been drowning in red holiday cups for almost a month now. He obviously brought the cups from home - or maybe he figured that he was getting a refill, even if his original purchase was a month ago.

If this guy really had to cut corners, he'd forego his daily, overpriced corporate coffee. But maybe the cup with the familiar logo on it is too much of a status symbol to give up - like his Lexus. I wonder if he bargains for refills at the gas station.

As part of my never-ending efforts to shame my less grateful customers, I force eye contact on him whenever I can. Somehow I think it will help him evolve.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of the inflated prices we charge at my store. Sometimes when I'm working the register I'm almost too embarrassed to tell some customers how much their order costs, because I sure as hell would be bent out of shape paying $4 for a drink that didn't contain any trace of alcohol. But when someone pulls up in a luxury SUV and can't splurge the extra dollar for a full-priced cup of coffee, well, that person deserves no mercy.

Every job can you teach you something about human behavior, but working in a place like this does provide an extra layer of insight. How people respond to the seemingly little things like refill policies says a lot about their characters. Just like the yuppie moms who let their children run wild through the store without any sense of awareness, most of my customers don't pass the test.

*

SOY NOTE: For as long as I've been around the company, we have used Silk vanilla soymilk for our drinks; presumably the same stuff you can buy on the shelf at the grocery store. My astute, soy-drinking coworker, Janice, noticed that the packaging on the boxes we receive at the store have an unsuspecting label that says "Exclusively formulated for [us]." Janice did some research and found that our soymilk includes more sugar than Silk's normal vanilla soymilk.

I explored further and found that in the average box of Silk vanilla soymilk, a fluid cup contains 7 grams of sugar. In our specially formulated version, for every fluid cup, there are 13 grams of sugar. Almost double the sugar! And completely unbeknownst to the many customers who choose soy (and pay more for it) as a healthier option.

As if we weren't already hyping one blatantly addictive substance, we're hiding sugar in places people wouldn't even expect to look - just like all the rest of fast food joints. Only we do it under the guise of gourmet and charge you twice as much to get addicted. Pretty sweet, huh?

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 stories here.




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Posted on December 11, 2006


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