Obviously if you’re working in retail or food service, you’re going to have some complaints about the way people behave. It’s fun and/or cathartic to bitch about these things to people in similar jobs. Basically my entire text message thread with my sister is us complaining back and forth to each other about the shit people do, and it works because the shit people do is the same everywhere.
But it’s not as easy to complain about these behaviors to other people, or to people in general, or on a blog or whatever, because first you’ve got the people who will respond by saying, “Well, I do that.” And there’s an expectant pause where you’re supposed to tell them no, no, it’s fine when you do it. Or, “Well, I do that, I guess you hate me.” Which is irritating because maybe I hate you and maybe I don’t, but if I do it has nothing to do with this one specific behavior you engage in, and if you don’t do it, you almost certainly do other stuff in your life that I don’t care for, same as I do in mine. Something can annoy me without me hating every single person who has ever done it, and something can annoy me without me hating anyone at all, but rather hating the repeated behavior. Like, okay, I’m going to give you an example and if you get your feelings hurt, I’m really sorry. Here is an annoying thing people do. They order together, then play fight over who is paying, going back and forth and back and forth and both waving their cards at me, saying, “Take mine!,” “No, don’t take his, take mine!”
First of all, I will tell you, one time I got in one of these credit card battles with my friend, years ago, and I lost when he told the waiter, “Don’t take hers, she’s saving up for the methadone clinic.” So maybe consider going right to that if you find yourself engaged in this sort of skirmish. Second of all, I can’t tell you how very, very little I care whose card I take. I will take the first card that lands in my hand and run it and be calling for the next customer before the battle can begin, if I can see it coming and cut it off at the pass like that. Now, the people who do this are not assholes. In fact, they’re all very likely very nice people. And it doesn’t really bother me. But it happens a lot, and I am working, and I am not at all invested in who is paying for your drinks. Just give me a card and move to the side.
This isn’t something that makes me angry or makes me visibly roll my eyes (they’re rolling on the inside) or hate anyone who does it. I don’t. It’s just one of those little things you see over and over and maybe commiserate with someone else in the same line of work about it, and go on with your day. I don’t spend all day thinking about it, I don’t slam into the house and regale my husband with my irritations. It’s a thing that happens a lot, you notice it, you sigh, you move on.
That brings me to the second kind of people who will respond, the people who are MORTALLY OFFENDED that you get annoyed by customer behavior, because this is your job and they are your customers, and how very dare you. To those types of people, I just want to say, come on. Shut up. Being annoyed by a customer doesn’t mean I’m anything less than polite to them. Disliking a certain common behavior doesn’t mean I’m spitting in drinks. It’s part of the job, yes. We all have parts of our jobs we don’t like, but it seems like only customer service people are supposed to not only accept these things as part of the job, but also either enjoy these things or get the fuck out. And again. Come on. Shut up.
ANYWAY, those are two of the reasons it’s just generally not a good idea to bitch about this kind of stuff on your blog. People get offended for various reasons, both reasonable and assholeable. But I have been thinking about something people do, something that can get real awkward for both parties involved – you and me. This mostly applies to food service people, I assume, and maybe even especially to baristas. Since it gets awkward and potentially embarrassing for both parties, I figure it’s safe to tell you so that you can be spared the potential pain yourself.
In any kind of food service, there’s a lot of turnover. If you have a place you visit multiple times a week or even every day, you’re going to see a lot of new faces over time. That’s common, I guess. But it’s when you get used to seeing the same people over and over that you get into trouble with this situation. Especially because remembering the faces of the people who serve you isn’t exactly top priority. And I’m not saying that like, damn, people are assholes, they don’t even recognize me after I’ve made them coffee? Of course not. Why would you? There’s only so much space in a person’s head and memorizing the face and name of a person you interact with for two minutes is not top of the list, and that’s FINE. This is definitely true when a rotating cast of people wearing the same clothes occupy the same spot on different days. You don’t have to remember. You’re not expected to remember.
But on the SAME NOTE, you can’t expect those people to remember you, either. And that’s kind of comforting in a way, like when you were younger and buying like, 8 bottles of lube and a gross of condoms and was worried about what the cashier would think. Maybe he went home and told his spouse, “hey, someone bought a fuck ton of lube and condoms today,” but maybe not. And he almost definitely won’t recognize you if you come through the line again another day. And he probably wasn’t thinking about you as soon as the next customer came up. That’s comforting.
If you go into the same coffee shop several times a week, you’ve probably got a regular order, and maybe the person who works there knows your regular order, but sometimes those people change. Actually, often those people change. But if you’re consistent, pretty much everyone will eventually nail down your usual order. But consistent to me probably means something much different than consistent to the average coffee customer, right? Say you come in twice one week a new person is working, and you order the same thing both times. Then the next week, you come in again, and you say, “I’ll have my usual.” Don’t. Don’t do that. You’re setting up the awkward moment where I feel like I’m supposed to know what you want and don’t, so I can’t just punch it in and start making it like you’re expecting, and I have to tell you, actually I have no idea who you are or what you like to drink so you’re going to need to tell me. And I feel like I have to fall all over myself apologizing, saying I’m new, saying I have a bad memory, whatever, anything to ease the brief awkward tension where we both realize you think I should know who you are and I don’t know, and me wondering if you’ve confused me with the other girl who used to work here but looks nothing like me.
If I see someone come in and I know I’ve seen them before, I might say, “Hi, how are you. Remind me what you like to drink again?” to kind of avert that moment. But chances are if you’re not an every day, same time, same drink customer for many days in a row, it’s not going to stick for quite a while. I mean, eventually it does. When I’m making a big chain of drinks and this one older man comes in, I pop his iced coffee cup right on the end of my line and he reaches around the register to lay down $3.05 for me to get to when I get to.
OH SPEAKING OF THAT MAN, he’s the sweetest, he’s really kind and gracious and says how much he appreciates me and compliments my multitasking skills. He reminds me a bit of Mr. Rogers, if you can imagine that, always with something kind of meaningful to say and just really nice. So I’ve got this mental backstory going on that he’s probably a serial killer, and I can’t seem to shake it every time I see him, but you know, if he is, he’s probably really successful because he’s just so nice, who would even suspect?
(ME. I SUSPECT.)
Anyway, this is my point. It’s all right if you don’t recognize that it’s someone new behind the counter, but if you’re not very certain this is the exact same barista you’ve been seeing every morning for a year, maybe just state your drink order to be safe. And if it is a new person, and you recognize them, maybe don’t order with the phrase “I’ll have my usual” until that specific person has confirmed verbally, at least once, that she can recite your order from memory.
I dunno, maybe it’s not awkward for customers to say, “I’ll have my usual” and be met with a blank stare. Maybe that doesn’t bother anyone but me. But I am telling you anyway, just because I’m nice and I swear if you say, “I’ll have my usual” and I have no idea what it is, I am definitely doing a panicked mental inventory, trying my very damndest to remember it for you, because everyone likes to feel like they matter or make an impression or that their presence is noted, even for something small like a latte, and I would spare a person that tiny deflation of ego (you don’t remember ME?) or embarrassment (I didn’t even recognize that I’m talking to a different person than I usually do and I am an asshole) if I can.
I promise you though, if you do go, and you go often, and you order a consistent drink, they WILL grasp it fairly quickly and you’ll shave like 45 seconds off the whole transaction. More if you have a fussy drink. (Which are fine. It can be as fussy as you want, I promise.) ALSO if you go often and you order a consistent drink, like, say, you German man with the tall non-fat latte, and then one day order a tall mocha TOTALLY OUT OF NOWHERE, I will definitely say, “HEY!” and give you a disgruntled look. A good-natured disgruntled look. But notably disgruntled.