9 Ways to Show Baristas You Love Them

“Listen to the customer. The customer’s always right.” This is one thing you’ll hear if you work or have worked in the service industry. These jobs are hard. There are a lot of stigmas about working in the service industry, like having to put on a happy face and help a customer, even when they’re being a pain in the a**. I know this first hand. I have worked in the service industry for over six years, as a Starbucks barista. Being a barista, whether it’s at Starbucks, Caribou, Bordertown Coffee, or any other coffee shop, I think, is one the most aggravating jobs in the industry, especially because we’re dealing with people who can get a little grumpy because they need their caffeine fix.

But every day, we’re forced to bury our frustration in smiles and understanding. It gets exhausting, and sometimes we need to vent! Since, most college students fulfill their love and need for caffeine at a coffee shop near campus, I think it’s time for everyone to step into a barista’s shoes and hear our side of things. Specifically, what drives us crazy about our job.

1. Know where you are.

First things first, when you walk into a coffee shop, make sure you know which one you’re in. Now, this might seem a little silly but you have no idea how many times I have been standing there, in my Starbucks uniform and people ask me, “Is this a Caribou?” No, it’s not. Which explains why I’m wearing a Starbucks uniform at a Starbucks.  This is also important when ordering. A Caribou barista that I talked with said one of her biggest pet peeves is when people come in and order a Venti, Grande or Tall drink. Those are exclusively Starbucks sizes. It’s equally as frustrating when someone orders a “Frappuccino” at Caribou and a “Cooler” at Starbucks. The barista probably knows what you mean, but it gets confusing.  

2. Be clear about what you want.

As a barista, it’s our job to get you the drink you want, how you want it. That being said, please, when you’re ordering, speak clearly and loud enough so we can hear you. Look at us. Don’t be on your phone or talking to the person next to you. We can’t read your mind. If you aren’t clear about what you want or how you want it, we’ll ask you a million questions trying to figure it out. That can get annoying when we have to repeat and clarify your order three or four times. We want to make sure we get it right. Help us.

3. Be wary of the "Secret Menu."

For people who go to Starbucks on the reg: Most of us don’t have the secret menus memorized. Forgive us. There are so many drinks and it’s really hard to remember them all. Please do us a favor and write down the recipe or have it memorized. We’ll be happy to make it for you. If you aren’t sure about something, don’t assume. Ask us! We like when people ask us questions. It saves both of us from a lot of confusion. Don’t know how many shots are in a certain size? Just ask! This way, we can avoid messing up your drink and make sure you don’t have to wait longer for us to remake it.

4. Be understanding.

We’re not perfect! We make mistakes just like everyone else. If we mess up a drink or it doesn’t taste right to you, let us know, but please be nice about it. There are so many recipes we need to memorize and we get so busy that we make mistakes. We don’t purposely mess up your order and we’ll make it right but you need to be nice about the mistake. Most of the time it’s our fault and we will make your correct order. We also tend to run out of things, whether it’s a flavor or syrup or a cup size. Sh*t happens. Please remember that it’s not our fault that we ran out. Don’t get mad at us. It’s an inconvenience for us too. We’re the ones who have to tell you that we’re out of things. That’s not fun.

5. Patience is a virtue.

A lot of people don’t understand the number of things we have to do as a barista, like prepping ingredients, washing dishes, refilling cups or lids, making sure the lobby/seating area is clean while also getting drinks to the people who’re waiting. We can only go as fast as our machines and hands allow us to. It takes time to steam milk, pull espresso shots and blend your drink. We also have a lot of prep that goes into each drink. It gets chaotic. Barista Tip: If you’re ordering blended drinks (Frappuccino, cooler, etc.) for a group of people, get the same flavor. We can blend them all together and you’ll get your drinks much faster than if you order different flavors.

So please, if you’re in a rush and are worried you won’t get your drink in time, don’t tell us to hurry up because you have someplace you need to be. We make drinks in the sequence of when they were ordered. There are other people that are ahead of you. Plan ahead. The best solution is to come back and get your drink later so we have enough time to make it. Telling us to hurry up won’t make us go any faster. You’ll probably piss us off more than anything and some barista’s might actually go slower. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  

6. Timing is important.

If there’s a long line and all the barista’s are busy, it’s probably not a good time to peak over the espresso machine and ask us for a glass of water. We have no problem getting you a glass of ice water. We’re glad to do it! But when we’re really busy and frantically running around, we’d rather you wait until we’re a little less swamped. There’s a drinking fountain around the corner that can fulfill your thirst temporarily. Another unspoken rule is that you shouldn’t come in and order a drink when it’s less than five minutes until we close.

You’ll be able to see the frustration on our faces. We have many things to do leading up to when we close and even more things to do after so we’d like to be able to close on time. We can’t do that if you order a minute before we’re about to close. Please try to come before that. We’d really appreciate it.

7. Don’t tell us how to do our job.

This tip goes for anyone you’ll ever meet. It isn’t a good idea to tell someone what their job is or how they should do it. We’re trained baristas. We know what we’re doing. Don’t stand there and lecture me about how I’m making your drink incorrectly. You’re not a barista. Give us our space that we need to work. You wouldn’t want someone doing that to you, would you?


8. Manners Matter

This is common sense. Use your manners. When we say, “Here’s your drink” or, “Have a nice day,” please smile, say, “You too”, or do something to acknowledge that we said something to you. Don’t just take your drink and leave. Thank you’s mean a lot. When asking us for something, say please. It’s common curtesy. If you think that we did a good job and you’re able to, please tip! A barista at Bordertown Coffee, told me one thing that drives her crazy is when she gives customers a couple cents back in change, and they don’t throw it in her tip jar. You can probably spare that thirteen cents she just gave you. Every penny matters to baristas, especially when most of our money comes from tips. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant and not tip your waitress, would you? Same principle.

9. Respect Us

We’re here to serve you and make sure you get what you want. The key is to not act like we’re your servants. We’re not lesser than you because we’re the ones making your drink. Show us a little bit of kindness and respect. A barista at a Starbucks on campus told me he feels like customers see him as a machine who’s just there to make their coffee. Treat us like the human beings we are. You’re more likely to have a better drink and a better experience if you treat us with respect. Most of the baristas that you’ll come across on or near campus are probably students just like you.

All of those might have sounded a little bit harsh, but they’re true and those things drive baristas from any coffee shop crazy. I don’t want you thinking that we hate all of the customers that walk through our door because that’s completely untrue. Most of the baristas I talked to love their job because of the people they get to see and interact with every day. It’s just a few people who mess it up for everyone. I love talking to the regulars who come in. I ask about what’s new with them or how their day is going. It makes my job more enjoyable and many other baristas would agree with me. My number one tip for you as a customer is to talk to your barista. Start up a conversation. We love that stuff. It can be something as simple as the weather or asking us a question about the menu. Most of the time, if you have a pleasant conversation with us, we’re more likely to remember your order and make it correctly. Just remember, a happy barista means a better drink and experience for you.