Customer service is like a dance of which your skills are paramount, but your customer is novice at best. And they’re leading, intentionally or not. You don’t get to break out your best moves until they prompt you to do so because you have to make each step, every sway, all of your movement responsive to their direction. Throughout the song, they can’t be left behind on the dance floor, stepped on, rushed, hindered, embarrassed, confused.
Your customer is your princess in a room of suitors: this is your one chance to keep her in your arms. You’re a spectacle of grace, skill, knowledge, touch, and light. But this isn’t about you. It’s about her. It’s about ensuring she shines in front of her subjects and always remembers this dance.
Only then, can you be king. And kings can leave the ball to conquer grander things.
Customer service can also be a brutal battlefield- your customers ever priming their arsenals with demeaning remarks, piercing glares, impatient disturbances. The shield of manners and patience can only protect you so much before you break. Follow the lead of your generals and seasoned comrades as you craft innovative weapons and tools, own your weaknesses, strategize your methods. Then you can meet your customer blow-for-blow with empathy, solutions, and delight until you reach victory together.
As a valiant warrior, you may return to your place of honor among your people, more adept for the next battle. Or you can harness your laurels to reach new frontiers with mystifying feats that promise your lion’s share.
You know how children believe their teachers live at school? I feel like customers often subconsciously regard food service employees in the same way. Sure, we tend to be in the lowest income brackets, but guess what- we're consumers, too! I also go through awkward moments of finding how the line works or if I need to swipe my card or hand it to the person working the register. I'm very empathetic to your frustrations about long lines and waiting. I don't take any delight when my order is wrong or when I'm told Taco Bell discontinued the Quesalupa or that the bar is out of sangria. Often when I place my order, they have questions for me to verify what I am requesting. Sometimes I'm embarrassed, confused, or unsatisfied, too. But you know what I'm not- like ever? A jerk. Or an arrogant, severely under-informed know-it-all. Not just because I am a decent human being, but because it doesn't do me or anyone else any good.
Your bad attitude is also likely to complete backfire and blow up in your sour face- and that's not limited to being decaffed or someone spitting in your food or another unethical response people who are often degraded day in and day out come up with to respond in kind to the dignity they were denied... But back to the point. Being rude, or down right cruel even, is a good way to slow down operations and hinder productivity. That should be common sense.
Recently, the unthinkable happened: our drive-thru broke. None of us had experienced that before and our shift supervisor was on hold for an hour, while trying to get other pressing work done, to find out how to reset it. In the mean time, I was instructed to put a sign on the box to let customers know they can order at the window. This worked when we had an average of one car every 3-5 minutes, but when the late/post lunch rush hit, it didn't go over well.
It takes about 20 seconds for espresso shots to pull and milk to steam, so a good, tenured barista can crank out up to 40 drinks every half hour. The longest warming time for a panini is about 80 seconds. We use all of this machine time to run around, take orders, collect retail items and pastries, and help on the bar. There's a method to the madness and if we could defy the laws of physics for our customers, we most certainly would. So whereas we can usually get a drive-thru customer on their way within 4 minutes in the very early afternoon, especially with a small order, I'm pretty sure our customers were in our line 20 minutes that day. I was a mess because I couldn't do anything about this. I had to deal with the situation as it was. Most people were kind and understanding. As I mentioned in my previous post, rude customers are the exception and not the rule for me as a Starbucks barista. By the time we finally found out how to reset the thingy magig (I dunno, I just work there.), the last two customers were irate. One even followed up the order with "Can you hurry?! I'm late to a funeral!"-- I ended up throwing a baby tantrum in the back of the house because it upset me so much.
The next time I saw this customer, I apologized. I felt later that it was insensitive to tell a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one "Trust me, we're doing all we can." with several disbelief eye blinks before walking off. Regardless of whether or not I got the apology I felt (and still feel) I deserve, or if that seed of kindness I plant ever reaches fruition, I wanted to do the right thing. The response was unwarranted, unfounded "advice" that made me feel like a scolded slave more than any other moment in all my years in customer service: You should have had someone outside taking orders on the phone! That was just ridiculous! I've never been in a drive-thru that long...
Again, I had to walk away. But at least this time A, I'd taken a Vyvanse that morning so I was pretty much physically incapable of shedding tears of anger, and B, there was plenty of Frappuccinos for me to make to get away from the conversation without abandoning my team. I've learned it does no good to present a verbal case for my competence, education, capability, and just value as a person to a customer- not because they don't care, because most certainly do, but because it's not situationally appropriate or beneficial. But there's something I need society to recognize:
Don't be so arrogant as to assume you understand the carefully designed operations of a multi-million dollar establishment to the degree of being qualified to make managerial decisions or assumptions from your view in the drive thru.
What this customer did not understand is that having someone outside to take orders on the phone means they couldn't be inside doing other work. We'd like to be omnipresent for our customers, too, but darn the humanity! Having someone on the phone inside receiving orders has a hand tied up unable to assist with drinks or gather food items, barely able to complete the POS transaction at the window. Also, literally playing telephone with your orders in this kind of atmosphere just sounds like an accident waiting to happen. So now we have more drinks to remake. This doesn't sound like it's getting anyone to the funeral on time (I'm a horrible person...).
And here's the catch- there are 3 people on the floor this time of day. It's all that is necessary to meet the forecast sales volume, but not enough to allow for two people to be completely monopolized into a role of about half a barista. Also, this leaves no one to take care of our cafe customers in a timely manner or restock and do prep for future customers. Our store is a very, very small store with a large sales volume, so just-in-time inventory and carefully laid out production areas are the only way we can meet demand.
So how this would be visualized...
Just call someone in, you say? Sure, we'll just get one of the high schoolers to leave their AP Chem class to come make sure you get your little drink. Or we'll have the mom bring her 3 month old baby in a Boba wrap under her apron. Or the barista working 3+ jobs to keep their head afloat can leave their other job. Or the grad student who asked off in order to finish his final paper. Or the one who is meeting with a new client or potential retailer for her business. They live at the store, anyway. They live only to serve...
Okay, I'll cut back on the snark...
Here's the thing, as a grad student also desperately trying to break into freelance work, I cover shifts and stay late or come in early way more than I know I should. I often sacrifice my best interest to ensure Starbucks in Trussville is well staffed for nurturing the human spirit and ready to host a warm atmosphere. This isn't a completely unique approach of mine by any means- my partners all jump to help as much as they can, often putting things like school, sleep, family, church, significant others, and health on the back burner. (I've left a date before to respond to an SOS... I'm lucky that didn't end things.) At the other establishments I've worked at, this has been the case to an extent- they didn't care as much about our customers or store performance, but they cared about their coworkers. Its miserable to be understaffed, whether someone calls in or the forecast was missing information or an unforeseen tragedy strikes. If you have never worked in this industry before, or you couldn't stick it out beyond a few weeks, you will never understand how deep it cuts when an unsatisfied customer implies you are lazy, incompetent, uncaring. How do you feel when you pour your heart (and sweat, blood, and tears) into your work only to have outside forces trample it and then you're berated as inferior? Okay, now imagine this happening repetitively- I'm talking every few minutes. If you can't imagine it, you see my point- you don't know what it's like to be in our no-slip shoes. If you can, you see my point- kindness will get you caffeinated with world-class service and smiles.
Again in reference to my last post, I get past these blood boiling moments only because of the abundance of brief inspired moments I get to co-create with such a beautiful variety of humans on their way to do so many great things. The customers who get it are the ones who treat placing and receiving their order as a respectful business transaction with a valuable individual with ambitions- excuse me for getting cheesy and philosophical, but they're the ones who sonder as I sonder. They look through the drive thru window and see a student, a parent, an artist, an aspiring entrepreneur, a skilled craftsman... even if they don't know a single thing about me, they know I matter and I know they matter. Even if they order a Frappé instead of Frappuccino. Or our drive thru gets slowed down while we remake that french vanilla cappuccino into a latte when they learn a bit about espresso beverages. Or they add 2 drinks and a sandwich to their order at the window. Or it takes 30 seconds just to read all the modifications to their mobile order drink. But just like the little child that so sweetly asks for that second story book during bedtime when your eyes are already fluttering and body exhausted, it's hard, but you know that enthusiasm and trust just makes your heart go thump-thump. The look of pure joy when I hand that #PSL to the sweet little old lady who got confused in my drive thru and ordered at the window more than makes up for any inconvenience. I wish I could break the laws of physics and develop super powers and grow a third (maybe fourth) arm and move mountains for my customers. But none of that would validate our right to dignity more than our sheer existence already does.
Even those arrogant jerks matter and I will continue to attempt to kill them with kindness until they one day do respond in kind. I'm choosing to believe that the lady who triggered my tearful, wall-hitting tantrum does not intend to be so cruel. I'm choosing to recognize her value in spite of my disappointment so that I can treat her with the dignity and respect she deserves. I ask that she, and everyone, does the same for the customer service professionals she encounters.
Running a drive-thru makes for many interesting stories. Some cause my blood to boil, some prevent me from being able to speak from laughter, and many just light up my face and soul for days to come. What happened this morning is among the later, but still completely different.
Customer: *pulls up to the window searching briefcase and nooks and crannies in car*
Me: Hi! Having trouble there?
Customer: I can’t find my wallet! Can I pay you with a check?
Me: No, I can’t take a check, but I can give you your drink and let your day go up from here!
Customer: Really? Are you sure? Is that okay?
Me: Absolutely! I really want you to have your white mocha on your way to find your wallet.
Customer: Wow! Thanks so much! What’s your name? *sees nametag* Rebecca, I will be back!
Me: That’s what I like to hear! Have a great day!
I always give a customer their drink or food if they realize they don’t have their funds or their card declines. It’s literally a Starbucks policy the empowers me to do this as my discretion and I’m just going to have to throw away the item anyway (or give it to the next customer). It happens a few times a week at most, really. Obviously it elicits a smile and sincere gratitude every time. Sometimes the customer comes back and requests to pay for their order, we assure them it’s not necessary, but they insist so we concede since that will make them happy, I guess. I can understand wanting to pay for or earn what you get. But I'd rather someone that kind and genuine come back just to get another fix. "Surprise and delight" is a brand relationship asset.
Apparently he was so blown away that I gave him his drink anyway he came back and tried to offer to buy me a drink (which partners get for free while working) and then just requested to speak to me when he found out buying a drink for me was fruitless. The shift superviser covered the drive-thru while I was gone.
I wrote my previous Bare Barista Threads post last week to tell the love story of sorts I have with Starbucks, from the enticing romantic notion of creating the "Third Place" three years ago to the current white knight meets revival effect on my contentment and joy. But like all great love affairs, the protagonist and antagonist are not always separate entities and happily-ever-after isn't as consistently harmonious as one would believe. Building a company on the principles Starbucks holds true is one thing; it's not a "once and done" model but a ceaseless art form to maintain- to nurture- for years to come. I'm not ready, and I dare say I don't think the world is ready, to see us come this far just to lose our soul.
For my graduate class discussion every week, I can't help but tie in what I've learned and loved about Starbucks to every single element of strategic marketing that comes up: value proposition, long-term customer relationship management, dynamic pricing, etc. This pattern of mine is not unlike my undergraduate experience; I see no implication of this passion of mine changing in a way that will keep me quiet on the matter anytime soon, if ever. Recently, this statement came up in a video about Goodwill Industries:
“Ultimately, they operate more like a Target than a thrift store. And when you think about it, they have to [innovate]. Because their mission is more than just making a profit.”
This simple bit of narration in the video really rubbed me the wrong way. Sure, Goodwill is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but their mission statement and business model are closely replicated in the private, for-profit sector. Because, as I cannot stress enough, profits and human decency are not mutually exclusive. Just like Goodwill needs to keep their programs afloat through sales, Starbucks, Target, and pretty much all other stores need to secure revenue, for both their shareholder's and their employees alike. Further, holding a job you can grow in is also a strong player in career development- especially when holding that job 20 hours a week qualifies you for full reimbursement on your first bachelor's degree every semester. So in all reality, even for-profit businesses have a stake in doing more than making profit.
Consumers are not concerned with helping a business meet their bottom line but how their product/service will be of value to them. Marketers busy themselves with understanding what will enrich the lives of their customer and how to ensure their target market is aware of such. When this is done well, fully realizing and utilizing knowledge of internal and external factors, goals are met. But when you miss something, performance suffers and a ripple effect permeates the entire organization. And then the market and beyond (more on this later).
It was late last spring when things got rocky between me and Starbucks- and every other partner in the United States. If you are a Starbucks customer, “regular” or casual, you may have noticed a shift in the experience in the stores during the since then. Lines are longer, drive-thru times are up, cleanliness is neglected, and you’ve probably gotten the stressed grimaces of your barista more than the expected warm smile and friendly banter.
Though Starbucks is consistently recognized as one of, if not the, most ethical company on the planet by the Ethisphere Institute and other organizations, partners felt as if they were the severely neglected pawns of yet another a greedy, dismissive megacorporation. In spite of our best performance yet early this year, we fell short of the revenue expectations. I remember being completely underwhelmed by our sales volume during our Frappuccino Happy Hour in May and the snide comments made by my “tall coffee” regulars about the change in the loyalty program in April. How corporate responded took me completely by surprise: labor practices were changed in a way that intentionally severely understaffed stores, resulting in the consequences felt by customers mentioned earlier.
This created a major cut in individual hours for most baristas and shift supervisors across the country, leaving many struggling to make ends meet and worrying about losing benefits as well. We felt the blow of something we could not control and had only a minute influence of and responsibility for. Petitions were drafted, barista blogs went viral, Buzzfeed got ahold of the story- then our CEO, Howard Schultz, made a personal call to the barista behind the petition. He promised to “make it right”- the language we use at the store level when it comes to our commitment to a perfectly crafted drink.
Now, you may start to notice a rainbow forming at Starbucks, as baristas can now have colorful hair and our dress code is incredibly liberalized from just black pants or khakis and a white or black shirt and several nit-picky rules. Beyond the surface level, I hope our customers are starting to feel the improvements as we are. Everything is not back in order as far as morale, hours, etc., but it is obvious they are getting better. Howie is, in fact, making it right. Starbucks is making it easier to pick up shifts, giving a generous bonus to tenured partners of 2 years, and raising wages (again and more). The staffing policies haven't seemed to change, but I can see how everyone, from my shifts and store manager to Howie himself are scrambling to make sure we get the hours and benefits we need.
I tell this story to explain a first hand account of the potential consequences of non-optimal marketing strategies. The marketing decision makers and implementers in Seattle let their partners down, to be completely honest. We, baristas, are still reeling from the financial impact in our paychecks and tips but corporate employees have a salary and do not feel the consequences of their work the way we do. However, we can prosper when Starbucks profits. In one of his books “Pour Your Heart Into It”, Howard Schultz makes this statement:
Starbucks’ marketers steered off course and in the process left hundreds of thousands of us behind.
Just like Goodwill, Starbucks has to. Their mission is more than about making profit. They have to do something right before they can make profit and often the right thing changes.
One of the values of the Starbucks mission statement addresses this concept perfectly and is becoming a mantra of mine: Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
Society recognizes certain careers as more noble, vital, or impactful than others. Most see doctors, nurses, teachers, politicians, etc. in this light, but I've come to see marketing professionals in this way. What we do and how we do it impacts society, real individuals, through markets on a large scale- more so than any other profession. I'm sure most people in marketing don't view their work as a moral calling as I do, but approaching it in this way, in a way that is sustainable and problem-solving for many, is statistically lucrative. Your customers- a company’s life blood- are neglected when your employees are overlooked as mere human capital, marginal costs. When it comes right down to it, we are pawns in their games.
Pouring my heart (blood, sweat, and tears) into cultivating my customer service ability and coffee craftsmanship is a robust approach to a successful company, but the real striking power moves are completely and totally out of my hands- for the moment. We can uphold the brand and culture of Starbucks, but my smile and latte art isn't going to keep this ship afloat and on course if the marketing team is not designing loyalty programs or implementing ad campaigns that will lead to mass satisfaction. Or if the number of baristas we have covering each shift are not humanly capable of completing our production and cleaning task lists while getting several dozen (to hundreds) of transactions completed each hour in a warm, welcoming, "lean" manner. If you take away the sails of your trade ship, your profits drown with the crew.
I didn't answer the call of the Siren to be in the coffee business, but to be in the business of people and sell coffee.
Though the top-down mistakes made this year deeply hurt me and left our customers less than delighted, I see this era for Starbucks as a wake-up call of how much their values actually add value to the company and not the end. In his letter to us this summer, Howie wrote "striking the delicate balance between profit and a social conscience is a responsibility I take personally". I believe his sentiment wholeheartedly and this clearly demonstrates the character this man holds that makes me love him so, but I have to disagree the "balance" is "delicate"-- being profit-driven without social conscience is not how Starbucks came to such fruition and is not how we will keep this company alive.
So dear, sweet Howie, please never forget that Starbucks does not get to be socially conscience because it profits. Because we are socially conscience, we can continue to profit and prosper together. Your partners know our worth and still believe in all of this, but we can find love again if we continue to be forgotten.
I trust you. It's not over yet.
I first heard the call to put on my green apron in spring of 2013. I had a great job at Panera that had been worth the 35 minute commute since September. I was not a regular at Starbucks by any means, but I randomly found myself there more and more studying for my incredibly difficult economics classes. One day my sister took me through the drive thru and I was blown away by the genuine, yet incredibly fast, connection the barista running the drive thru and at the window made with me- from the passenger seat. I was honestly moved on some sort of spiritual level.
The opening at Panera caught my attention because of the quality of the customer service, the food, and the non-profit stores. But these experiences at Starbucks were so much more than how well I was taken care of as a customer and how much I enjoyed my bagel. The transaction was just an opening for human engagement and this is what Starbucks has cultivated and capitalized on and cultivated and capitalized on… Neither of which could happen without the other and I wanted nothing more than to be a part of it.
My hiring process consisted of me blowing up the phone asking for the store manager (who remains the most incredible boss anyone could hope for) until she made time for the most efficient interview ever: it took all of maybe three minutes for her to recognize my passion for and ability to create what Starbucks calls “inspired moments”.
Turns out high capacity human engagement, with people who get it and people are just there for their coffee (and very clearly don't recognize the individuality and value of the kid providing it for them) alike, is incredibly demanding. Due to this and a few other personal factors, I left within a year- after putting my notice in the second time since the first time my manager asked me to stay. She knew I was being an idiot even when I did not. I was released from the bonds of the siren to my own dismay.
It took me 18+ months to stop resisting and I was rehired in January. At nearly 25 years old with a bachelor’s degree, this sounded like my worst nightmare. But I honestly don't remember ever being happier than I have been this year [you know, in spite of the shit show that is the POTUS election and other news…]. I’m at my store almost every single day, whether I’m working, doing school work for the graduate course I just started, job hunting, or just making an excuse to go by to get my tips or the new schedule so I can see my partners and my regulars. The community centered around our little establishment combined with getting to do something I’m really good at (and always finding ways to improve at) everyday has been the best consolation for my crushing debt burden and living at home.
When I say “I’m just getting through each day”, that shouldn’t be taken as a complacent Eeyore-esque aside. My job is exhausting- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m struggling to manage a variety of health problems that cause fatigue, ranging from sleep apnea to a vitamin D deficiency. When I’m awake for just a few hours outside of work and grad school reading/writing, not a lot of workouts or housework get done, much less consistent job hunting or professional development. Then there are the usual struggles of being an adult child in your parents’ home…
I have such big dreams and strong ambition for my career in spite of this little limbo I’m caught in. But slowly but surely I see myself getting there and I’m learning to recognize my limits, not push them to my own demise, and keep enjoying my short human existence.
Three months before returning to Starbucks, I had a series of mental breakdowns that lead to walking out of a well-paying (but miserably unchallenging) job and having two car accidents within a week and then becoming a tearful hermit for two months before I discovered and resolved the medical cause of the roller coaster I was living- birth control. During the time of my college graduation- for which I was in bed with a stomach virus instead of walking-, I pretty much hit rock bottom. The worst part of the entire situation was being a lonely extrovert; I found out who my friends were based on who put forth extra effort to spend time with me when I was car-less and just let me cry to them to show they cared.
Being a partner again has been so much more than a “for now” gig for me. What I’ve needed the most after the darkness my life was last winter was meaningful human connection. The Starbucks mission statement is this:
My job is to create inspired moments- that is the value I was hired to deliver. But this has been what has revived and sustained me- caffeine for the human spirit.
Pouring my heart into it with you for the past 8 months has left my heart overflowing.
One cup, one person, one neighborhood is how this company was built. Whatever is happening at corporate, this is how we keep the dream alive. Teamwork makes the Green work.
After over half a decade in customer service, I've theoretically heard it all. But occasionally the same-old-same-old will catch my attention in a new way. Conversations with the theme of "I know it's not your fault- it's corporate/management/government/etc." have left my morale dangerously low a couple of times in the past week. But it was my fault, or at least my opportunity and responsibility for recovery.
The first time was in reference to a complication with a Rewards discount- he wanted the discount he was offered with an email notification but didn't want "the hassle" of logging in to the app on his phone again after the update to redeem it. (That's understandable- the password requirements pretty much mandate a blood sacrifice.) But in urge to valiantly defend my brand by explaining that Starbucks is limited by the rules of current mobile application technology, I was dismissive of his needs as my customer. I was very wrong. Sure, I was diplomatic and polite in my language and manner, but that means nothing. I may not be able to take ownership of how the loyalty program is designed or how mobile security functions, but I am responsible for validating concerns and bringing light to the situation. A marketing technology lecture from a barista at 7:30 in the morning is not how that is done.
The second time I heard "I know it's not your fault" was in reference to the "distribution of labor". Because of a confusion taking care of a customer a head of a gentleman purchasing a newspaper in line I left him waiting longer than was probably necessary without letting him know I'd be right with him. An honest mistake, but still a mistake of my own and not corporate or management. Mine. I messed up. And so when he was expressing his displeasure with being abandoned, I apologized for the mix-up. But by that point the damage was done on both sides and there was really no recovering the situation. He had a bad experience and I was really upset about being referred to as labor- a pawn to be maneuvered by others.
Regardless of the debate of how society views individuals in my current line of work, I know that I am a 25 year old woman with a [very relevant] bachelor's degree and highly respectable intelligent and emotion quotients. I know that I fully comprehend the business model for the establishment, the labor distribution and transitions, the time management requirements, the communication abilities of my partners, etc. But shouldn't feel the need to convince each person I interact with of those things. (unlike in interviews and networking events- #helloobviousrevelations) Especially since that is apparently the mindset that tends to greatly distract me from the task at hand.
What I'm learning is that by the time I hear this phrase, from upset customers trying to be kind to me (and not get decaf...), there is already damage to the relationship I could have prevented or still can repair. We're all really in the same business of solving problems and there's no time like now to get better with the curve balls.
I often leave my car unlocked during quick stops at the gas station or store, in between runs parked at Papa John's, and while I am walking to the door on a delivery. Lately, I've also been leaving my windows down because it is so bloody hot.
Today, I took my wallet into the gas station and left my purse in the passenger seat to by gas during my first delivery. Some people would worry about coming back to an empty place where their car was or their purse snatched (The joke would be on them if they had done that- They'd have a bag full of tampons, assorted chapstick, a Sharpie, and my key chain library card and gym card.). But I came back to find $25 sitting in my purse.
I don't know if it was the drunk man behind me in line who snuck up to my car behind me and dropped it in my purse while I was pumping gas or the [very attractive...] young man who held the door for me as I was leaving the store and he was entering. Or maybe even someone else who has even more impressive ninja skills.
If it was the man behind me in line, he must have overheard my short conversation about how often I get stiffed or under-tipped with the attendant. If it was the man who held the door for me or another unseen person, I would assume he or she saw the pizza bags. Maybe someone knows how much this system needs to change and cares about the people who can actually make it happen from the front lines...
Whatever the motivation and whoever the "culprit", I am so very thankful for and inspired by their silent act of kindness.
A friend told me today that she could never, ever work in the restaurant industry, but she admired those who did. I've heard that before...many, many times. I also used to feel that way. After a couple of years in college, having a fantastic internship learning to program front end software, organize databases, and re-draft user manuals, I didn't think I would ever have to.
I took my first job in the industry at Pizza Hut as a delivery driver in January 2012 out of desperation. Two and a half years later, I truly feel that I am a better person because of this "humbling" decision, as I considered it at the time.
Before working at a restaurant, I'd worked retail, daycare, and software development, and been on numerous mission trips, but I didn't really learn the meaning of hard work until I swept and mopped a store larger than my house after doing dozens of loads of dishes. After a night of delivering, answering phones, and folding boxes.
Manual labor isn't all that bad. I am pretty sure the work is only about the same as a typical trip to the gym as far as burning energy goes. But I often need the physical exertion to redirect my energy from my emotions to productivity after the degrading way I've been treated for the past 6-8 hours of my life.
You get to see the best and worst of people in this industry. Noting that most people are not as sensitive as I am, without dwelling too much on the bad, let's just say I have cried so many more tears over how customers talk to or look at me after a mistake is made, occasionally by myself and often even the customer, than I have over any guy (...all combined).
But often enough to make all of that worth it:
The pizza girl is their favorite person when she brings joy right to the door.
The barista recites your drink order to you so you don't have to talk before your morning caffeine fix, which makes you and those in line behind you smile.
The cashier saves the day with her clever substitute for an unavailable product.
The table busser makes children smile after they find out Panera doesn't have french fries...
...the hostess, the server, the bartender, the cook... These people are the unsung heroes of our society.
Be aware of the human connection with everyone you encounter because you don't know how they have been treated or will be treated right after you. Remember names-like we do, smile, make eye contact, pay attention, ask questions when necessary, accept tactful and relevant correction, own up to your mistakes, always leave gratuity for tip-based workers and as often as possible for hourly associates who make your day that much better, and ALWAYS say thank you.
The restaurant industry is for everyone, whether you are a consumer or producer. Whatever role you play, we have to be sure to always recognize the humanity of the people we engage in business transactions with. Whether you are responding in kind or killing them with kindness, you will find yourself becoming a better person in the restaurant industry as well.
(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.