Be Nice To Your Baristas

While sitting in Barnes and Noble last week, sewing away, I watched two older women, possibly in their fifties, leaning against a display case of brightly-colored ceramic coffee mugs and tumblers.   While chatting on her cell phone, one stopped paying attention and knocked down a ceramic Wonder Woman tumbler, sending it to the ground and shattering in tiny pieces.

The woman on the cell phone who knocked over the item picked up the largest of the pieces and threw it away, still chatting on her cell phone.   One of the employees, a pleasant barista named Rachel, came quickly with a broom and dust pan, sweeping up the extra pieces.

Wonder Woman Apparently Wasn't So Wonderful After That Fall

Wonder Woman Apparently Wasn’t So Wonderful After That Fall

Why bring this up?   Because I watched appalled as this woman kept chatting on her cell phone, never once said sorry nor offered to pay for the piece, and walked away with her friend after a minute or two of watching Rachel clean.

This honestly did upset me a bit.   Did she really just have the nerve to not even apologizing for breaking something, doing something that was clearly her fault?   She didn’t offer help, nor compensation.   Just a cell phone chat, a stare and a walk-away.   For this post, I want to share with everyone how to be nice to your baristas, a concept near and dear to my heart since I am friendly with the baristas at my Barnes and Noble.   This applies to tea drinkers, coffee drinker and anyone that has ever sat in a cafe, watching the world go by.

If you can tip your barista, please do so.

These people have gone through training to serve you the best drink that they can, worked hard to find out what would best suit your taste buds and your wallet and manage to keep track of your grande-skinny-low-fat-low-sugar-macchiato with an affogato shot, three pumps of hazelnut syrup, two more shots of espresso with a chocolate whipped cream on top.   They know how to brew your tea and steam your milk.   These people deserve at least a few cents in tips.   Keep in mind that not all companies allow you to tip your baristas, as I have found out.   However, if you can, I’m sure that it would be appreciated and you will be greeted with a much friendlier smile the next time around.

They’re people, first and foremost – treat them as such.

So, your drink order did not come out exactly right.   Maybe they’re going too slow for your taste and you have a big business meeting in five minutes.   Or maybe your drink is slightly hotter than what you expected.   Please don’t take it out on them!   Any screaming, scolding or irritations expressed otherwise do not belong in the line.   Unless your complaints are merited, such as your barista talking on their cell phone or ignoring you for friends, understand that they are doing the best they can.   If they aren’t, then take it up with them quietly or with their managers, not a public hen-pecking.

If you spill something, help.   If you break something, apologize.

I went to Barnes with my friend and, as she spoke with her hands, making her wild movements, she managed to hit her tea off the table and onto her lap and on the floor.   After checking herself over for any burns, she and I got to work right away grabbing napkins, looking for paper towels and getting help to clean up.   When the barista came over with his mop, we apologized to him.   He took the apology and even offered to re-make the drink for my friend.

Notice anything about this story?

I’ve known this particular barista, Mike, for quite a bit now, torturing him with questions like what are the letters of the Greek alphabet and what items contain gluten that my Celiac friend should avoid.   He has been nothing but helpful and friendly and I always enjoy seeing him behind the counter.   Because we keep friendly, help him out and chat with him, he treats us in kind.   It’s amazing what that small token of kindness can do.

Small actions matter.

Reusable mugs are wonderful.   They help save the environment and they add a bit of pizzazz to the drinking experience instead of sipping from a cardboard cup.   The same with eating a warm cupcake off of a ceramic plate as opposed to a plastic take-out container.   However, those plates and mugs don’t clean themselves.   If you use any of them, do your baristas a favor and bring them back.   It seems simple but it saves your baristas from having to run around the store picking up after you.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

When I went to Barnes and Noble, I went up to Steve, one of the baristas, completely exhausted and on a budget.

“Hey, what’s up?” he asked, recognizing me as the tea lady.

“Question for you,” I said.   “What is the most caffeinated drink that you can get me in a tall for $5?”   After a few basic questions and a bit of rumination, we arrived at my perfect drink order for the day.

This sounds like it can be annoying when, in fact, you’re giving the baristas a chance to flex their drink prowess, showing off their knowledge of the beverage counter and giving you their recommendation.   I see that as a great form of flattery.   Not only that, each person will have their own opinion of what would be your perfect drink, keeping your palate refreshed.

Keep these handy tips on your mind as you order your next drink and add to it, if you would like.   Feel free to even comment with your own additions!

Your barista will thank you.