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More on barista rants at Starbucks

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

In case anyone was wondering whether the nexus of key words ‘Starbucks’, ‘Baristas’ and ‘Rants’ would uniquely identify my paper in Language & Communication (check my CV page), it turns out that Starbucks baristas are probably both the topic of more rants by customers, and in turn able to give out more rants about stupid customers, than, perhaps, any other category of service worker.  That is, in fact, what motivated my article, the impression that Starbucks workers both exhibited something paradigmatic about service work, and about the discourse genre of rants, but also that there was something irreducible and specific about service work at Starbucks, something specific in particular about the branded lingo of Starbucks, that exacerbated the dilemmas intrinsic to service work.

One could prove this point by punching those keywords into google and exploring the generous helping of links and rants of various types you would get.  But one rant in particular stands out, a rant originally on Craigs List that I did not see when I was collecting data for the article, one that was deleted from CL but has become infamous in the internet.  It is the paradigmatic rant of the pissed off barista, so much so that the average ‘care bear’ barista writes comments to disavow tghat they have ever been angry at customers because they just like people, you know? (You know the type, the kind of person who thinks that being pissed off about workor customers is really a personal attitude problem, frankly, such people are a free gift to capitalism, capitalism does not need such people to function and exploit, they are freebies.)

Anyway, here is a post about this uber-rant taken from another site where it was reposted:

March 20, 2007

Starbucks barista: We’re not your friends (but your tips are appreciated)



From Your Starbucks Barista
Reply to:
Date: 2007-03-18, 11:08PM CDT

To all of you silly, sad caffeine addicts who line up like lemmings for your overpriced lattes every morning: there are some things you should know.

1. We are not your friends. We are usually not your neighbors. In most cases, we absolutely loathe you, but we are outwardly friendly — because we are paid to do so. You are not getting special treatment, and we really don’t give a shit about your last vacation or your new baby or your real estate problems. We ask how you’re doing because it’s a way of making conversation, and we are pressured to make conversation in this line of work. Now, there are some customers who are genuinely liked, but they’re few and far between. If you have to think about it, you’re probably not one of them.

2. Oh, you work from home? We are not your water-cooler break. We may be the only humans you have interacted with for days, but do not expect us to be interested in your stupid home business or your racist, sexist, totally unfunny commentary. Get your drink and get out.

3. Enough with repeating the George Carlin Starbucks order joke! It was funny the first time we heard it. Maybe. You are probably the four hundredth person to say it to me, expecting me to laugh, and I guarantee that you’re going to be disappointed.

4. Tipping is greatly appreciated. While Starbucks does provide great insurance and other benefits for its employees, and sometimes even a decent hourly wage, baristas are not guaranteed a certain amount of hours per week and NEVER get full-time hours. So: we have great health coverage but can barely buy groceries. Our tips help augment our meager paychecks. If you don’t want to tip, don’t – but quit bitching about it. I’ve noticed that the complexity of your drink order is quite often inversely proportionate to the size of your tip. The rudest and most difficult customers NEVER tip – usually the stay-at-home-moms wearing fifty grand worth of diamonds, yammering into their trendy pink KRAZRs and paying absolutely no attention to their horrible offspring (who are wreaking havoc in every way possible.) Bitches.

5. SKIM MILK is the same as NONFAT MILK. Do not order a “skim nonfat latte” – it’s redundant. Similarly, don’t say that you want a “grande skim latte” and then correct me when I call out “grande nonfat latte.” You bitch. Which brings me to:

6. We are trained to call out drink orders in a particular way. This helps to ensure that we get all of your stupid, nitpicky details correct. DO NOT
• Correct me (see above)
• Tell me as snottily as possible that you “don’t speak Starbucks.” That is quite possibly one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard.
• Keep asking me, “Is it decaf? Did you get that? I ordered decaf. Are you sure it’s decaf?” F+CK YOU. Yes, I got it.
• Tell me how to make a drink. I know what goes into a mocha. You probably couldn’t make one if someone had a gun to your head.

I may as well continue! DON’T:
• Lean on the hand-off counter, effectively blocking any of the people who ordered BEFORE you from getting their coffee.
• Take your drink, rip the top off, gulp down one-third to one-half of it, and then ask me to “top it off.”
• Snatch the first drink to come up, because of course it’s yours! You’re the only f+cking customer in the place! You ordered a grande latte and this is a Frappuccino, what does it matter! You got there first!
• Scream at me because you don’t want whipped cream, when you never specified that.
• Get all pissy when I ask if you want whipped cream on a nonfat mocha. Because some people do, the drink usually comes with it, and we are here to serve your demanding ass.
• Come in wearing a floor-length fur coat and, when asked if you need a bag for your purchase, say no because you want to “save some trees.” Please save me the forehead bruise.
• Hold your two-year-old up to the pastry case and ask him to choose something. Grown men (well, stupid grown men) are struck dumb by the variety at times; no toddler will be able to work out what he wants in under three days. Select something for him and move on.

7. If you are yapping away on your cell phone when you get up to the counter, TELL THE PERSON ON THE OTHER END TO HOLD ON. Do not try to communicate what you want by hand gestures. Do not stare at me blankly – YOU approached ME. Especially, do not roll your eyes at me and heave a sigh before bitchily telling me what you want while still babbling into the phone.

8. If we’re out of the sippy-cup lids and have to give you a regular old flat lid with a tear tab (this occasionally happens) – do not freak out and scream at the manager that it will spill and ruin your “very expensive car.” Buddy, I’ve seen that car (you double-park it outside the front door almost every f+cking day) and it’s not all that, so get off your f+cking high horse. And if you have enough money for that pricey auto, either buy a decent travel mug with a locking lid, or get the f+cking car detailed if something spills. And maybe lay off the caffeine. Asshole.

9. If you order a Frappuccino, I will hate you even more.

10. Quit bitching about the names of everything. Yes, there is a “tall” size. No, it’s not the smallest size – that would be the “short.” Somewhere along the line, it got dropped from the menu, but can still be ordered. It doesn’t make much sense to me either, but I didn’t come up with the nomenclature for this shit. Order by the names on the menu, because I’ve had people ask for a “medium coffee” and get inexplicably pissed off when I give them a grande. Which is a medium coffee. If you eat at McDonald’s, you put a “Mc” in front of just about everything – get the f+ck over yourself and get used to it.

11. Keep your f+cking $1200, four-foot-wide Bugaboo stroller out. Of. The. Store.

12. If you are one of the seriously annoying, mind-bogglingly stupid Change People, it’s very likely that I’m restraining the urge to beat you senseless. Especially if you say something like, “I have twenty-four cents, if it helps…” – you are not helping anyone. F+ck you and your exact change. Don’t giggle and tell me how heavy it’s making your bag and that you need to get rid of it. How about this: remove your spare change from your bag or pockets daily. Throw it in a change jar. When the jar fills up, cash it in. So simple, anyone can do it!

13. When you order “three shots of espresso, over ice, in a venti cup, extra ice” – WE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING. You’re stealing, because you pay a lot less for that than you would for a latte, and then you fill it to the brim with milk from the condiment bar pitchers. You probably eat at buffets all the time and surreptitiously stuff your shoulder bag full of food, too. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but you really should learn it: if you can’t afford something, don’t f+cking buy it. Asshole.

14. Just because I work at Starbucks doesn’t mean I’m stupid. If I had a penny for everyone who treated me like a complete idiot because I work in the service industry, I’d be a retired billionaire by now. I probably scored higher than you did on standardized tests, am better-read, better-educated, a better writer, more articulate, more interesting, more observant, and better-traveled. However, because I am an artist (as are many of my co-workers) I don’t make the kind of money that the lawyers, doctors, and CEOs of the world do; this does not, however, make me a second-class citizen. So stop f+cking treating me (and everyone else who works at Starbucks) like one.

15. Have a nice f+cking day, you bastards!

(I reposted this from, items 3, 6, 10 draw particular attention to the way customer attitude about formulating drink names in starbucks branded terminology becomes tedious.  I feel somewhat vindicated that many of my observations, cast, it is true, in more anodyne language, have been vindicated.  As for the carebear baristas whose comments on this post at the above site seek to refute it, well, what can one say, there are always those who see in disatisfaction with existing conditions an ‘attitude problem’, a tendency which is to be explained somewhere else at some other time).