Julia’s post of yesterday rekindled thoughts of my idyllic days as a barista at the coffee shop I no longer frequent. I am now even worse than a coffee snob. Never having had a need for the caffeine content, or a particular fondness for extra flavor or richness, I began my job as a coffee hater and ended as a purist. Apparently the “oracle” doesn’t understand the mysteries of good coffee, as it declared me lame. If I’m going to bother with a cup of coffee at all, it had better be good, and it had better not have any milk or heaven forbid, sugar, in it (Josh would take exception to this, since I don’t mind it cold). If I’m going to bother with an espresso, or very rarely, a cappuccino, it had better be from a 13-second shot. And also not be corrupted by any sugar or sweetness.
But this is not the point of my post. A comment at Julia’s reminded me of perhaps the most obnoxious part about working in that place, a trait shared perhaps by most service-sector jobs – the surveillance. The secret shoppers.
When I worked as a barista, I had a certain persona. A very cheerful, chatty persona, not all that different from my everyday self, but passionately maintained through several levels of stress. One summer, I transferred to the busiest shop in the country. We had three bars and were crazy hectic almost all the time. I was working one of the bars when it suddenly broke, caught on fire, and spewed hot steam all over the arms of one of my co-workers. You might imagine that in the first few seconds of this event we were somewhat freaked out. As I was trying to decide in a split-second what to do about both my screaming friend and the flames, a customer impatiently said, “where is my Caramel Macchiato?” I think I may have asked her to please wait a moment with a touch less cheeriness than is apparently required – but looking back, not nearly as angrily as she deserved. It turned out that my coworker had second-degree burns on her arms. The store took responsibility, covered her costs and made up for her lost pay.
But me? I got in trouble. The “customer” was a secret shopper. She in no way acknowledged what was happening in the moment I asked her to please wait a moment but only put on her little form that I was “slow” in getting her drink to her and less than friendly in my banter with the customers. My shift-manager, the incompetent that he was, suggested that I take a retraining in customer service.
9 years later and I’m still resentful.