It seems like everyone likes Starbucks. But behind the counter it is a different story. I talked to Raphael, a long-time Starbucks barista in Los Angeles. He shared with me the seven worst things about being a barista.
1. The new barista training in Colombia.
All baristas must travel to Columbia and help harvest beans by hand for two weeks. At night they take classes in the different types of beans like Rust-Bucket Red and Choco-loco Cocoa. They get 5 hours of sleep for the whole time they are there.
2. Giving each other nicknames.
Every new crop of baristas is tasked with giving each other nicknames that they will be called for their entire employment with the company. Raphael’s nickname is “Trucker Hat,” due to an unfortunate fashion choice he made on his first day of training. Others in his class were named, “PB and J” and “Gatling Gopher.” He declined to explain these names.
3. Learning to call out customer names.
Starbucks trains their employees a very special way to call out customer names. It must sound helpful and upbeat, but have a hint of superiority. It’s a delicate balance, and veterans claim it takes months to perfect.
4. Wearing a helmet.
Due to new federal regulations, all Starbucks baristas must wear officially approved helmets. “I don’t mind doing what I can to help increase workplace safety,” Raphael said. “But, it makes it really, really hard to get phone numbers from attractive female customers.”
5. New delivery service.
In order to keep up with Amazon and other new companies using mobile app technology to provide fast food and beverage delivery, Starbucks began testing a new delivery service at Raphael’s location. “I really didn’t like it,” he said. “You have to run up to the door of the customer, deliver the coffee and get back into the delivery vehicle within 17 seconds. It’s difficult as it is, but if you inadvertently step on a child’s toy or tricycle, you’ll add 4 to 5 seconds to the trip. If you are ever over the 17-second limit, you are immediately delivered a video message from Howard Schultz telling you that you have only two more chances before you are let go. However, on the good side, he does say that will get a good recommendation to work at Burger King.”
6. Mooching relatives.
“Maybe one of the most annoying parts of working at Starbucks is every friend and family member wants a free product. Hey, I don’t come to your retail store and ask for free running shoes.”
7. Birthday songs.
Finally, Rafael described another of his huge pet peeves about working at Starbucks: singing birthday songs. “I don’t mind making the customers happy. But coming around the front of the counter in order to sing the Happy Birthday song to a customer just wastes our time. I’m happy it’s your birthday, and I’m glad you are a Starbucks customer, but please celebrate your special day somewhere else. You’re slowing down the line.”