Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yeah, I'm spiteful like that.

Starbucks; definitely not locally owned and operated.
Image source here
This morning I went to Starbucks and got coffee. I’m not expecting you to throw a parade or anything.I drink a lot of coffee so a trip to Starbucks is not out of the ordinary.

But in truth, I hate Starbucks. Yeah, they started in Seattle and I’m from the Pacific Northwest so yay us, but I still hate them. They are a corporate chain and I would much rather go to a locally owned coffee shop that has real character. The problem is, that there aren’t that many locally owned coffee shops around. I mean, I have some in Baltimore that I go to, but out in Salisbury, the armpit of the Eastern Shore (which is really the armpit of the East Coast), I haven’t really seen one yet. Come to think of it, I haven’t even seen a Starbucks. Which is weird, because they are on every street corner. Maybe we just don’t have many corners in Salisbury. They decided to do away with them because they were too much of a temptation for prostitution and selling drugs. Or maybe nobody on the Eastern Shore drinks coffee. They don’t need to be awake because nothing really goes on out there.

So Starbucks. Sometimes, you just need some goddamn coffee. Sometimes, you wake up on your friend’s couch, after 13 hours of drinking beer and you just need some coffee before the hangover really sets in. Sometimes, you wake up on a couch in Little Italy and you want to go to a fancy Italian restaurant for some amazingly delicious and ridiculously expensive coffee, but no one is open because it’s 8:30 in the morning on a Sunday and normal people are at church or sleeping. Sometimes, you just need coffee so badly that you instead walk to Starbucks and buy a giant coffee to make you feel like a real person again. Sometimes.

Since I went to Starbucks with several people, we actually talked about coffee. One of them actually KNEW things about coffee. He ordered a dry cappuccino and it made me so happy. Not because I think cappuccinos are good or anything, but because specified how he liked his cappuccino. This might seem odd to you, but having been a barista, it is actually a big deal.

Once upon a time, when Borders was still in business, I worked at the Seattle’s Best Cafe inside the store. Hooray books and coffee, what a great combination! I love caffeinated literate people. They get shit done.

As a barista at Seattle’s Best Cafe, it drove me absolutely fucking crazy when people ordered things in what I deemed to be a stupid way. Because I want to break this blog post up and make it look like I am actually writing something interesting and important, I will make you a list of the things that drove me crazy.

Things that drove me crazy when people ordered coffee; a list.

Ordering a grande. Or a tall. Or a venti. Hello, please read the sign above the counter and tell me where you are. Is this Starbucks? No. So order a goddamn medium like a normal person and give me a tip.

This is NOT a macchiato.
Ordering a caramel macchiato. A real macchiato is espresso with a spoonful of milk foam on top. Starbucks took a caramel latte and gave it a new name so that idiots like you can pretend like you know something about coffee. So again, take a look at the sign above the counter and tell me if you’re at Starbucks. Oh, you’re not? Well order your damn caramel latte, give me a tip and go wait at the end of the counter. 

Trying to pay with a Starbucks gift card. No ma’am, I’m sorry I can’t take that. Why? Because it’s like trying to pay me with Canadian dollars. Yes, I know it’s worth something somewhere, it’s just not worth anything HERE. No, it’s not hilarious that you mixed the two places up because you are the 50th person to do it today and it wasn’t funny the first time.

Ordering a cappuccino. When you just order a cappuccino, I have to wonder what exactly you mean by that, so then I ask, wet or dry? When people give me a blank look, it makes me want to pour scalding espresso on them. A cappuccino is espresso with foam. If you like your cappuccino dry, it means all foam. If you like it wet, it means a mix of foam and milk. If you don’t know the difference between a wet and dry cappuccino, order a latte and give me a tip.

Setting books on the counter that you don’t actually want to buy. I know that it’s crazy that I want to make you pay for something that you put on the counter. It’s not like this is a retail store where these things are available for purchase. I know you are just here to pull books off the shelf, read them and then leave them on the table for someone else to clean up. Maybe you should try a library, I hear you can read everything there for free. Regardless, if it has a bar code and you set it on my counter at my register, I will try to make you pay for it. If you didn’t want to buy it, don’t put it on the counter at a register. Hold it in your hand or tell me that you don’t want to buy it.

Being rude. This is try for any interaction with people, but when you are nice to me, I want to be nice to you. When you’re rude to me, guess what? I don’t want to help you at all. If you have a problem with something, be nice. It’s a lot more likely that you’ll get you what you want. If there is something wrong with your drink, kindly let me know and I will make you a new one. If you are rude about it, I will wish horrible deaths upon you as I struggle to make your new beverage as poorly as possible with the milk that is closest to the expiration date and burned espresso. Yeah, I’m spiteful like that.

Whipped cream. Now, I actually liked getting to make drinks look fancy with whipped cream and garnishes, and I thought my caramel swirls looked pretty fantastic, but there are things you need to know when you order a drink with whipped cream. At Seattle’s Best, we are taught to leave a little room at the top of the cup. We then seal the rim with whipped cream and build up from there. This means that the whipped cream sits above the brim of your cup, usually by about an inch or so. THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN PUT A NORMAL HOT BEVERAGE CUP LID ON THIS SO PLEASE DON’T TRY. It will only end in tears and a huge mess for me to clean up. If you are in a hurry and need to put a lid on your beverage and cover up my beautiful garnishing skills, just get your drink without whipped cream.

Ask me about how the food is made. Guess what? None of that food is made on premise. It gets shipped here in boxes and lives in the giant freezer in the back until we pull it out and make it look edible. This is a corporate chain coffee shop, not a bakery. If you want freshly made pastries, go someplace else.

Ask me to reheat your coffee. Yes, hot coffee is delicious, but it doesn’t stay hot. I could be a millionaire if I invented coffee that never cooled off, but I haven’t yet. Your coffee will cool down eventually and then it’s time to man up or move on. Drink it cold or toss it out. Don’t ask me if I have a microwave, because I don’t. Even if I did, I would not reheat your coffee with it because that’s gross. Reheating coffee is on the same level as drinking instant coffee; if you do it, you are not a real coffee drinker. If you want more hot coffee, you have to fork over more cash and buy a refill. It’s like 50 goddamn cents for a refill of just straight coffee, so don’t be a cheap ass. Oh, speaking of cheap, don’t forget to tip me.

So not all of the things from this list are a direct cause of Starbucks taking over the coffee world,  but a lot of them are. Starbucks is not the end all, be all of coffee, ok people? Please just keep that in mind when you get coffee.

Oh yeah, and tip your barista, unless they really suck. There are enough Starbucks locations in the world that not everyone who works there is a good barista. In fact, I’ve had some pretty awful service....but that’s a story for another post.