Wednesday, August 29, 2007

No Need to Make Your Barista Cry

I think some of you Dear Readers have worked in the public sector before (at least, if the comments the other day are any indication). If you have, you know that most days you will have at least one customer who gives you something of a metaphorical or an actual headache. You know this is going to happen, and so you grit your teeth when it happens, and try not to swear or slam lockers or "accidentally spill" scalding beverages in their general direction. Then, ideally, they leave, and you look at your colleagues and roll your eyes in a "could you believe that person?" sort of way, and get on with your life. Or, if you're really in tune with Jesus that day or something, you might even manage to genuinely smile at the person and not say anything mean about them later at all.

And then some days you just can't countenance it.

Last Friday was one of those days. The deal was not a big one. This lady wanted a tall one-pump-vanilla latte. Really not hard. Really pretty much impossible to mess up. Particularly when your espresso machine pours automatic shots. But it was the end of a rather intense day, and the woman desiring this elementary drink had clearly not brushed up on her diplomacy and tact. Maybe ever.

I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that, not only was this woman displeased with her drink--twice--but she was very abrasive about it. I made the drink a total of three times, and the last time I handed it off, I suggested another way she could order it so that maybe she would like it better. "No," she said abruptly. "I always order it this way, and everybody else makes it just fine."

Implication: You don't know how to make this drink. I don't know who "everybody else" is, because I didn't recognise her, and I recognise almost all our customers if they've been in twice. But apparently "everybody else" knows how to make tall one-pump-vanilla lattes, and I don't.

She stalked away with the drink she conceded to (which I found out she brought back two hours later, telling my colleagues that I "never make her drink right"). After she left with it, I burst into tears.

This stuff happens. We have off days. Customers have off days. Today one of our all-time nicest customers had a completely over-the-top rude moment which almost knocked the wind out of me, I was so astonished. I didn't cry then--I was too shocked, and also, I know it's completely out of character. Like I said, sometimes it's not a big deal.

But sometimes, you find yourself doing things with your life that you might not have thought important, and then those things are all you have, and it hurts when people tell you you're bad even at those things. It doesn't really matter what the things are. It's just a good reminder that to treat people with dignity, I guess. Even if they "only" return your shopping cart from the parking lot to the supermarket. Or--gulp--maybe even if they're rude customers who undermine your sense of worth for an afternoon.


Heather said...

How displeased can someone be with a cup of coffee?
People have become too picky. They don't like that they don't have control with the rest of their life, that their spouse is nagging or withdrawn, that their boss is demanding and displeased, whatever it is, so they decide to take control of one thing: their coffee. In the movie, You've Got Mail, she makes some comment about people who have no decision-making ability suddenly able to be decisive at Starbucks. Tall! Non-fat! Latte! Just like that. I think the same goes for taking control.
That's what I think.
Sorry she was rude. You want me to beat her up for you?

Jenn said...

Sigh. I just don't get people sometimes. Thanks for the reminder that we need to treat them all with grace, even when they really don't deserve it.

Craver Vii said...

You should do an Ed Debevic's thing where the workers yell at the customers instead... and then get tipped for it.

Jenn said...

Heather--I think you have hit the nail on the head. (Also, I know exactly the YGM quote to which you refer, and I love it.) No need to beat her up. 'Cause then I'd probably get grief for that, too . . .

Jenn--I don't get us either. Today I was talking to some lady while waiting to get my oil changed, and she told me that the last time she had her car overhauled, this woman in a cast drove into her car and smashed it up. The mechanics made the cast-woman stick around until the woman with the smashed car returned from an errand, and when she did (with consternation of course, having seen her smashed car), the havoc-wreaking woman said, "Where have you been?! I've had to wait here all this time because THEY wouldn't let me leave!"

Craver--you have no idea how often I have dreamed of such recourse.