(Disclaimer: Forgive me, Katie, dear Starbucks employee. This is not directed at you, of COURSE. I’m just opinionated about coffee issues. Uhm, as we all know.)
We’re at a Starbucks this morning. It’s a little crowded. The barista on bar steps in to help with the overflow and asks MB, “Can I start something for you?”
Good. Fine. This is standard coffeehouse practice when things are busy. At least give the appearance that we’re here for you, working for you, blahdie blahblah.
MB orders our two small coffees. He actually orders them as smalls because he refuses — REFUSES — to say “tall.” The barista corrects him, which is, uhm, annoying, kind of makes me want to smack him, but not part of this story.
MB pays and we stand there. We don’t have our coffees and we don’t have our money anymore, either. I’ve already discussed this backwards practice here.
Clearly, the barista who asked what he could start for us has started nothing for us. We wait several moments. One of us waits patiently; one of us does not. I leave you to decipher which is which.
Then MB says, “Oh, they’re doing a traveler for someone and they’ve run out of coffee.” So that’s the reason for the wait.
A “traveler” is basically a huge to-go container of coffee. (I don’t know what Starbucks calls them.) Offices order them for meetings, conferences, etc. They’re a pain in the bottom, I ain’t gonna lie, because of how much coffee they take to fill them. Still, there’s a way to manage the situation and not run out of coffee for the rest of your customers. Whenever we filled them at The Beanhouse or at my own coffeehouse, as we were decanting coffee into the traveler, we instantly started brewing on top of that. Pour and brew, pour and brew, or, yeah, you will be out of coffee for several minutes. Which is what happened today. It’s not the end of the world, obviously, but as a former coffeehouse mistress, I notice these little details. I can’t not notice them. And since Starbucks is this huge corporate entity, I guess I have higher expectations of their customer service or their ability to finesse a tricky situation.
Another problem: None of the baristas told us what was happening. We figured it out because we’ve been in that situation, but other customers were standing around not knowing what was happening.
To me, this is a no-no. My employees were taught to communicate if something had gone unexpectedly awry AND to offer another option. Not to communicate shows contempt for the customer. One may very well have contempt for the customer, but one must try to smile and hide it.
For instance, here’s a possible happier ending for our scenario today:
A barista steps in and speaks.
“I’m sorry, but we’ve run out of coffee for the moment and need to brew. Can I offer you an Americano instead, no extra charge?”
“What’s an Americano?” the customer might ask.
“Well, it’s espresso and hot water. So basically, you’re getting a really strong cup of coffee. I could add more water or leave more room for cream if you like.”
Ta-da. Options. Choices. People hate waiting because, well, we’re all big impatient babies. I am. But doing that soothes customer irritation, makes them feel cared for, and gives them a sense of control over the situation.
I mean, sure, we eventually got our coffee, but NOBODY soothed us. And we NEED us some soothing. Who will soothe us?? I WANT TO BE SOOTHED!!
So call me, Starbucks.
I’m just here to help, mmkay?