I often reflect on the various turning points in my life that lead me to a major life event. I'm not that into contemplating "alternate dimensions" that result from different decisions as much as the statistical probability of a result I'm experiencing or have experienced. How easily could my life have been drastically different and at what points did my direction veer strongest that way?
"Sonder" has long been a pretty important part of my vocabulary. But I think it misses something all the more powerful: what happens when you engage one of these "extras" cast in your life? Personally, I prefer more rounded characters than flat-- dynamic cameos, if you will. Even those who make the briefest of appearances in your life can greatly enhance your reality if you are willing to let such a moment transpire. It's pretty uncomfortable to start this, but once you make it a habit, well, at least I have personally found that it deeply enhances every day.
Yesterday on the way to my shift, I had the most incredibly pleasant experience at Arby's. The kid running the drive-thru was just so professional, efficient, and just downright delightful. I'm an easily satisfied customer but I'm extremely difficult to delight in this way. I left so inspired to provide my customers the same level of service I was given so they could feel as uplifted as I did. I wouldn't say my drive-thru performance as far as engaging and delighting has hindered much, but my entire mood has been impacted by my financial and career struggles as of late. Just while doing his job, he truly helped me view things differently, even just for a moment.
Sure enough, I was assigned the drive-thru when I got to work a few minutes later. I personally enjoyed far more of my interactions than usual, in spite of the Unicorn Fiasco that was fizzling out. I definitely had far more truly and deeply inspired moments amidst the already great evening. A few began with asking about their day while one of my partners were making their drinks. One was from a beloved regular with a quite complicated drink praising me for how quickly I remembered her order over the past few weeks. Another was a lady just as amused as she was disappointed with the unicorn shortage who valued my insight. Yet another was a couple I had the opportunity to introduce to the Clover and Rwanda Maraba, my most favorite Reserve Roast. It's actually quite rare for me to get to share my passion for coffee with a customer who shares the same enthusiasm; usually we just connect over our mutual appreciation of caffeine and sugar. Any of these interactions alone would have made my night. But for all them to happen has been a fantastic motivator for me, even still today as I reflect on it.
As a disclaimer, we were pretty slow and overstaffed, so last night allowed for more of the human connection than most typical Starbucks shifts do. Usually I don't get the opportunity to come back and ask what their day has in store or ask them where they got their top. But I seized it because of the sincerity of the transaction I made with that Arby's kid. I do hope he goes far in life and I will very likely make runs through their drive-thru instead of McDonald's for a while.
I've made friends and even business connections with people I met from the other side of the counter. I've learned and inspired and walked away with so much value added to my life, if not as much as I would like in my bank account. I really can't fathom how some baristas could become so burned out on this concept and it's potential. Coffee is a great catalyst, but not like the people who love it. And even those who don't. Those Frappuccino lovers are still important, too...
So I encourage anyone and everyone to open your life to the passerby's and extras and enjoy the dynamic human beings they are each and every day. Sure, you never know when you'll meet your soulmate or future business partner or learn something that really magnifies your perspective. That's all important, even though cliché. But also allow yourself to bask in the inspired moments, or even instants, you share with strangers and acquaintances, in the possibility each of them holds. Embrace humanity and watch all the improbable, beautiful reality that unfold around you because of it.
By the way, I'm just getting started with the cheesy existentialism. I hope you're enjoying and stick around.
Starbucks has done a lot of impressive stuff over the years, beginning at it's dawn awakening disenchanted coffee drinkers across the globe to the romantic experience of a premium brew and genuine passion, to continuously increasing the standards of employee engagement and benefits, to saving this most sacred of nature's nectars. All at insane profitability.
Because of the sustained (or regained) success of this corporation, one would assume they know what they're doing. You can almost never make everyone happy. They've definitely pissed off a lot of people as people like myself continue to fall in love with the Siren over and over again. But they're obviously doing something right and even when I was most confused last year when we had that little Gold/stock price/labor crisis, I had faith in what I'm so honored to be a part of. But this whole Unicorn Frappuccino fiasco has me really stumped.
I'm used to the hustle of satisfying a disappointed customer in February who fell in love with the Caramel Brulée Latte during the holidays or is a few months too early for the S'mores Frappuccino (one of the very few I get excited about) and is too distraught to be pleased with just another drink. Partners become masters of remedying the moment with sincerity, perception, and intricate knowledge of their craft. As a marketer-in-the-making, I understand the net gain of seasonal drinks as well. But I'm so baffled by the huge promotional efforts for the Unicorn in tandem with our "25 per day for a 5 day LTO". The correlating inventory and labor hours were clearly nowhere near enough to satisfy the reality. [You're welcome. --Captain Obvious] My store sold out long before sunset on the first day; the other stores in our district were out by the end of the second day. Our manager called in TWO reinforcements to recover for closing Wednesday after everyone worked an extra long, hard day. I showed up to a drive-thru line rivaling the worst days of Christmas with only 4 of my partners running the show (normal 7am-9am peak rushes require 7 baristas on the floor, holidays require 9 for much longer and less predictable hours, for reference) and the other reinforcement showed up in his fatigues straight from the army base. There wasn't time for fetching his other uniform; we needed him.
The phones at all three stores I pick up shifts at have hardly stopped ringing since the launch with people looking for this "magical" beverage and causing a negative impact on operations. Meaning I can't make a Frappuccino, write on cups, clean, or brew a pot of coffee while I am taking back to back calls. The whole thing has been a shit show. [My apologies for the language, but the inflection requires such.]
There is definitely plenty I do not know about marketing research and forecasting and business strategy in general, but I can definitely tell you I only need to be conscious and able to read the smoothed-average sales of similar drinks to tell you that we would sell easily more than 200 Unicorn Frappuccinos each day. I mean, I don't have statistics software or 40 hours a week of my time dedicated to determining an optimal equilibrium; which, of course, may not necessarily be the goal. Assuming that supply would last 5 days is laughable. The only logical conclusion is that the shortage was intentional, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why. I also cannot figure outanything else to Google to find out why... Suggestions or answers are highly encouraged. I'm losing sleep over here.
In February, I returned from a month "off" that included trips to DC, Florida, and New Orleans, then immediately moved out of my parents' house and into a house in Birmingham with some great friends. I had over two months of my bills saved and thought I could make it stretch a little further if I kept my belt tight and kept working at Starbucks. I also had a promising interview that came out of nowhere upon returning from my travels. A job that would sustain me economically but also leave room in my schedule for my own ventures. Everything seemed so bright. I was blinded with rose-colored glasses and now things are getting gloomy. Exciting, but gloomy.
There wasn't much room for me on the schedule at Starbucks when I got back. At the time, I didn't care too much because I'd just been offered a job that would pay me 3-4 times as much as I brought in as a barista. I just picked up weekend shifts and went about setting up my new place as quickly as possible so I would be ready for the "immediate" start date I was promised. I made a very big mistake of loosening my belt and even celebrating a few hundred dollars away like a total idiot. But the weeks kept passing. I started taking any and every shift I could, which totalled to 2 full-time weeks and 3 almost full-time weeks. I started grocery shopping at my parents' house. I would have forgotten the taste of beer and wine had my roommates and neighbors not been so generous.
The start date kept getting pushed back to the point of indefinitality. I felt like such a pest trying to find out when I could start. When I could stop deciding which credit card payment to make and start buying my own groceries and wearing my beloved clothes and paying my full part of the rent. Finally my recruiters gave up on that job for me and presented me other options. But now I fear the next round of the same has begun. I'm significantly less trusting than I was a couple of months ago, so I know I am being hasty to worry. But I feel so powerless over my own life. I thought I'd finally reached some form of independence. I wish I could just wait indefinitely for the right job. I wish I could live off of my income as a barista. I wish I could just work on my business ideas. But this is the real world where scarcity exists.
I suspended my job hunt for grad school and personal ventures last year because getting hundreds of rejection emails and walking out of disappointing interviews was destroying my morale and proving to be wasted effort until I was ready. I'd recovered from that last blow, but this situation makes it VERY clear to me why so many people just stop trying to find a job that will build to the career they've always dreamed up for the the reliable income of bartending and customer service.
TO BE CLEAR, I have the deepest respect and assume the very best intentions of all the recruiters and employers I've been working with. I doubt there is a malicious bone in any of their bodies and they aren't aware of the mess I got myself into by being so trusting and assumptive. They don't mean to have me as a lost piece of paper in a pile of clutter, but that's not really something they can easily change. I know I have plenty of priorities that keep me from things and people I'd much rather dedicate time to. It happens. My concern is how much it happens to job-seekers and new hires all of the time. And we wonder why there is a "talent shortage" (ahem there isn't) when candidates are endlessly burned out on the game and cease to see the value of keeping up the hunt.
(formerly "Bare Barista Threads" and "Memoirs of a Pizza Girl")
With a year of delivering pizza, two and a half years as a barista, and some more time in the trenches, I have plenty of stories, thoughts, and musings. The days that threatened to break me all the while built me. I want to help others in my profession view their work as an opportunity, too. This is my soap box.