Archive for November, 2008

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)

… [NOTE: IT APPEARS CRAIGSLIST HAS REMOVED THE RANT; I'VE POSTED IT BELOW.] (Chicago Craigslist)

—–

From Your Starbucks Barista
Reply to: pers-296401321@craigslist.org
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 http://starbucksgossip.typepad.com/_/2007/03/starbucks_baris_1.html, 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).

Originally Posted November 2007

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Note: This is a restored post, originally from material posted in November, 2007.

This document was translated from the Georgian by Paul Manning of the Anthropology Department at Trent University at the request of Zaza Shatirishvili. The original Georgian text, as a .pdf document, is available here. Responsibility for all and all infelicities of translation are my own. I hereby attest on the strength of my own reputation that this letter was written by a prominent opposition intellectual, Zaza Shatirishvili, greatly respected in Georgia, who was personally witness to the events of the 7th of November.

To: Mikhael Saakashvili, President of the Republic of Georgia

We the undersigned are appalled by the violent attacks on peaceful protestors in the streets of Tbilisi by Georgian Police and Special Forces units and the closing and apparent vandalizing of opposition television channels Imedi and Kavkasia by Georgian Special Forces, that occurred on November 7th 2007 (see appended letter below). These actions we condemn as being disproportionate, without any sort of moral or legal justification, and in contradiction with any sort of civilized system of laws or values of the kind that the current Georgian Government frequently endorses publicly. The attacks, involving beatings, tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets against peaceful protestors, according to reliable witnesses (see below), do not represent forms that are widely used in such circumstances in ‘civilized, Western’ countries, as the Georgian Government has been claiming. We further condemn the declaration of a state of emergency and ask that this be rescinded immediately.

We also find it difficult to imagine what possible legitimacy could be conferred in these terms on the closing of independent television broadcasters using riot troops. We cannot accept that freedom of speech prevails, as the Government has been claiming, when most independent media outlets are silenced at gunpoint. We ask that full freedoms of the press be restored immediately and that the channels Imedi and Kavkasia be given immediate and full restitution for any damages they may have suffered personally or in terms of property from the raids on their offices.

The Georgian Government’s attempt to locate agency for these popular manifestations in nefarious schemes and conspiracies of external (Russian) and internal ‘agents’ and ‘spies’ we find to be utterly groundless and frankly absurd. If evidence exists that this was the case, the Georgian Government should produce such evidence from outside objective sources with no linkage to the Georgian Government.

We leave the Government claim that the protests were interfering with routine sanitation work in front of Parliament without comment, as surely it needs none.

Furthermore, we suggest that a Government that itself came to power by peaceful street protests should be prepared for the possibility that these legal expressions of popular will and freedom of speech may be turned against itself in turn. In this sense, the ‘Rose Revolution’ has turned out to be much thornier than the Shevardnadze regime, which, we note, responded peacefully to the precisely identical protests that carried you to power. The only threats to the constitutional order of Georgia would appear to reside in the Government’s own actions, as displayed on the streets of Tbilisi on November 7th 2007.

(This petition was written on behalf of members of the Georgian Opposition. The translated letter is appended below. An original pdf version of the letter in Georgian is available from the translator at request)

On the 7th of November at 8 in the morning in Tbilisi an attack was begun against peaceful protesters and hunger strikers in front of Parliament. Behind a group of city sanitary workers followed police, who attacked the hunger strikers. At the same time, the police smashed the cameras of the television news reporters and assaulted them physically.

This action continued, approximately, until 9am. Citizens outraged by the attack began to gather in front of Parliament. The entire territory lying in front of Parliament was full of police. They did not give the protestors the opportunity to gather in the street in front of Parliament.

By 12 noon already so many protestors had appeared, that the they could no longer be contained on the sidewalks and they poured into the street itself. At this point the police began an attack on the crowd with truncheons.

At 1 pm Special Forces troops appeared with a vehicle armed with water cannons. Masked and equipped with truncheons and guns firing rubber bullets, the troops began firing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters into the crowd. The protestors had their hands raised, to show that this was a peaceful protest. Under the influence of tear gas, many protestors retreated. At this point the Special Forces mercilessly began to assault the protestors and fire rubber bullets into the crowd.

Many Georgian and foreign television companies were broadcasting these actions live. Neither Georgian nor foreign journalists could themselves escape from the attack. As a result of the attack up to thirty journalists of the independent television company ‘Imedi’ were hurt in this or that manner. The police and Special Forces smashed their cameras, attacked them physically as well as insulting them verbally.

Outraged by this second attack, people came out from all over the city. Their number by 4 pm was reached approximately 50 thousand. Opposition leaders moved the protest from Rustaveli Prospect in front of Parliament to area of the left bank road on the Kura river, so that the demagogic rhetoric of the Government could not be used to the effect that the protestors were disturbing public order and cutting off streets from traffic.

In the neighborhood of Riqe, where absolutely no pretext existed that there was a disturbance of the constitutional order, Special Forces units appeared at 4:30 pm. They set up a blockade on three sides around the protestors and fired water cannons, tear gas canisters, and rubber bullets into the crowd. The crowd panicked. A stampede rboke out. Countless people fled in different directions and everywhere they fled they encountered Special Forces troops. The Special Forces drenched the fleeing people with water cannons, pursued them and mercilessly beat them. A portion of the people rushed into the courtyard of the Metekhi church situated in that vicinity. The Special Forces brought the water cannon vehicles up to the courtyard of the church and directed the water at these people, at the same time firing tear gas. One group of these people, falling into a panic, rushed onto a boat docked on the Kura river. So many people gathered on the boat that there was a danger that the boat would capsize and the boat operators closed the gate. A small number of people fled into a pharmacist’s shop, from which the Special Forces dragged them out and beat them mercilessly.

At approximately 9pm Special Forces entered the building of the television company ‘Imedi’ [‘Hope’]. At this time the company was beginning a broadcast examining the day’s events. The journalists managed to say live on the air that there were Special Forces in the building, and then the signal was cut. Five minutes later the signal of the second independent television company, ‘Kavkasia’, was cut.

This, as it was happening in the Television company ‘Imedi’, was broadcast already live on the air fairly objectively by the Government’s Channel I and by Rustavi 2, connected to the Opposition. According to these broadcasts, the Special Forces rushed into the building and threw the company workers and guests invited for the broadcast on the floor. They aimed automatic rifles at the heads of many of them. They took away the cellular phones of the Imedi journalists. When they cut the signal the Special Forces also destroyed a large portion of the broadcasting apparatus.

A state of emergency was announced only an hour ago. The Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli announced the president’s decree. Later the Minster of the Economy read out the decree about the state of emergency, according to which a state of emergency already exists across the territory of Georgia.

Attacking a peaceful protest three times in one day, invading the television company Imedi and cutting the signal of television company Kavkasia not only departs from the framework of the Georgian Constitution, but also represent truly vandalistic actions – actions carried out with mind-boggling cruelty and lack of proportion. All this departs from sound reason.

Two words need to be said about this, that the attacks of the 7th of November are a logical continuation of President Saakashvili’s chosen course: there does not exist in the country an independent judiciary, from the police there has taken place a display of complete ruthlessness—in the last year 37 young people have been killed by Special Forces operations, whose culpability cannot be justified.

Especially worthy of note was the murder of Sandro Girgvliani in February of 2006 by high ranking members of the Interior Affairs Ministry, about which society learned through the help of television company ‘Imedi’. Precisely from that time began the Government’s opposition to what is up to the present time virtually Georgia’s only independent television company.

At the same time, it must be mentioned, that the Government of Georgia systematically violates the property rights of citizens – illegally taking possession of homes and other kinds of property.

It is also noteworthy, that the Government has for a long time now sought to implant a conspiracy theory about a ‘great conspiracy’ directed against Georgia, that is directed by Russia. For a long time now Government representatives have been using against political opponents terms like ‘Traitor to the Nation’, ‘Russian Agent’, and so on. There is a complete ‘Agentomania’ [sc. Obsession with the existence of foreign agents—translator], which reminds us of the Stalin period Terror and the ‘Spymania’ [sc. Obsession with the existence of spies—translator] of that period.

The behavior of the Government bears almost all the signs of a kind of ‘Neo-Bolshevism’. The Government’s main ideologue, Member of Parliament Giga Bokeria and his partner, the so-called Non-Government Organization ‘Liberty Institute’ representative Levan Ramishvili systematically make announcements to the effect that ‘The people are dark masses, from which the Government must create a new (kind of) human being” [Obviously paralleling the Bolshevik avant guardian attitude towards creating ‘Homo Sovieticus’ from the backwards masses of Russia and other Soviet States—translator]. At the same time, these same people announce that they intend to remain in power for 80 years, much like the ‘Institutional Revolutionary Party’ [PRI] in Mexico.

Dear Colleagues, I want to especially note, an an active role was played in giving a foundation to this ‘conspiracy theory’ and Spymania by Gigi Tevzadze, Rector of the Ilia Chavchavadze State University and Philosopher, Sero Ratiani, a high ranked member of the same university, Giga Zedania, a professor of philosophy of the same university, the political scientists Gia Nodia, Nodar Lodaria and others. Chavchavadze Uniserity is employed in the Government’s ideological service. After yesterday’s attacks each one of them announced publicly that “the Government has the legitimate right to violence.”

Generally, in Georgia’s academic world an atmosphere of terror prevails. Independent intellectuals are either marginalized, or consider working in an academic world ruled by the State an insult to their dignity and rights.

And finally, we need to note, that the American State Department announcement about the need for ‘dialog’ sounds cynical, inasmuch as Georgia’s Parliament lengthened its own term of office by 7 months completely illegally and by an absolute violation of the Constitution. Precisely for this reason the people of Georgia demand – as the only possible source of legitimacy— the holding of elections within the time frame of the Constitution.

When the Government goes beyond the boundaries of the law and violates the Constitution, when the Government implants an atmosphere of Terror, — this becomes a tyranny.

For this reason too, the most sacred duty of the people of Georgia is that they restore justice and declare civil disobedience.