By Victoria Rouch
HONK! As if the drive-through commotion isn’t loud enough with the kids in the car at the speaker shrieking at each other, now some impatient jerk things laying on his horn is going to make the line move! Nobody likes dealing with a difficult customer. The popularity of the saying ‘The customer is always right’ doesn’t help things much, either. If the customer is always right, they are always happy. However, in the retail industry you find out that the customer is hardly ever right, and even if you abide their every whim, they are usually not very happy. Working at Starbucks I deal with these people every day. There are four types of difficult customers that I deal with daily at Starbucks. These include slow customers, impatient customers, angry and rude customers and the occasional creep.
Slow customers are the least difficult. They order slowly, they come through the drive through slowly, and they are slow to pick up their drink. There is a couple that comes through our drive thru every night. They stop at the speaker and wait about a minute before saying, slowly, “I’d like a tall skinny cinnamon dolce latte with breve and one pump of white mocha.” Then they sit at the speaker for about 30 more seconds after we’ve taken their order. They then drive up to the window. We all know that by ‘skinny’ they mean ‘with whipped cream’. They also usually want another drink the same way, they just don’t order it until they get to the window because they’ve forgotten, most likely because they are stoned. This causes the line to get backed up because we have to make a whole other drink that should have been started before they even drove up to the window.
Impatient customers are usually the ones in a hurry, or those that are under the impression that their order is more important than everyone else’s. A lot of customers make it a habit to stop by Starbucks on their lunch break or on their way to work. If I am late for work, I don’t stop. I drive as fast as possible to get to work so I’m not late, and so I don’t get fired. These customers come in, even when the drive-thru line is overflowing and the parking lot is jammed full. There is one girl that comes in and orders a venti caramel macchiato with lots of whip cream and an extra espresso shot. Espresso shots take at least 18 seconds to come out of the machine so that is time consuming in itself. She will then order some cookies, which we have usually run out of by the afternoon shift, go to the bar and wait for her drink, and stare down whomever is making it. She will roll her eyes and sigh “I’m late for work can you hurry up?’” Another impatient customer I dealt with recently was a trucker whom ordered a coffee with a shot of espresso and steamed milk. His drink was next in line to be made.
When I picked up the drink just before his he looked at me and yelled, “Oh, we’re gonna play that game are we?!”
I was so shocked! I calmly said “Sir, this drink was in line before yours, so I’m making if first. Yours will be right out.” He just huffed and puffed something about having to get on the road, and I stifled the urge to spit in his drink as I handed it out.
Most of the time the customers whose drinks I really want to spit in are the angry and rude ones. There is a man who comes in every day named Paul. Paul gets a grande coffee with light ice and refill after refill after refill of the same drink. When I take Paul’s order he doesn’t speak to me; he just assumes I know what he’s getting. If I ask him what he wants, just to make sure he doesn’t want to change it up a bit, he talks down to me and throws his Starbucks Gold card across the counter. Another rude regular is a woman named Lisa. We all dread having to deal with Lisa. She always asks us to do ridiculous things, and if we don’t do them, she gets ridiculously mad. One day she asked Abby to put her drinks in a paper bag so they wouldn’t make a mess in her car. Obviously Abby thought that was a dumb idea so she handed Lisa a bag so she could do it herself. Lisa then called corporate to complain that we were not making her drinks correctly and that we are rude to her. As awful as Lisa encounters are, the worst experience I’ve ever had with a customer was with a man traveling with his family. One day his preteen daughter came in and ordered a venti Vanilla Bean frappucino with caramel. Now, when you order a drink with caramel you will get it with caramel flavoring. I made her drink in this way. She took it and left. A few minutes later her father came storming in.
“This isn’t what she ordered! Make my drink right!” The assistant manager, Tina, tried to explain to him that the drink he was holding was exactly what his daughter had ordered.
“No, it’s usually brown, it’s usually brown.” he kept saying. Finally we realized he wanted caramel drizzle inside the cup and on top of the whipped cream. I graciously remade his drink after suggesting he order the drizzle next time so we knew exactly what he wanted. The next day the same family came through the drive thru and ordered a vanilla bean frappucino with caramel. Guess what I made! When the man got to the window and the drive thru barista handed out his drink, he lost it.
“This isn’t what we ordered!” He screamed through the sliding window as it tried to close on Tina. “It’s really sad that you guys can’t get this right!” Tina tried to reason with him, and then tried to tell his daughter why she had received her drink incorrectly again. The man yelled “Don’t yell at my daughter!” At that point Tina burst into tears. Sue, the store manager came to the drive through and gave the man five certificates for free drinks just so he would leave. I am always thankful that he was just travelling through and that I don’t have to deal with him on a regular basis.
Rude customers seem like terrible people until you associate with the creepy ones. There is a man that comes into Starbucks every night in a dirty orange sweatshirt. His white hair is always a mess and his eyes never rest on one spot, like they’re chasing an invisible fly. We are polite to him but as soon as we hand out his drink he will stand and stare at me for a good three minutes. He used to try and talk to me about anything and everything but lately I have stopped acknowledging him, because if I engage him he will stay in the store for 20 minutes. Yet another encounter I had with a ‘creepy’ customer was when I went on break a couple weeks ago. I grabbed my free drink from the handout plane and went to sit in the corner. As soon as I sat down a middle aged man with glasses walked up to me.
“Do you go to the university? He said.
“Do you go to the college out here?”
He then continued, “Oh okay well I just wanted to say that I’m a pastor and you should keep Jesus Christ in your life and have a good day.” And then he left. I immediately got up and walked to the back room where I sat down on the stool. I told Sue what had happened and she promptly told me that man is a sex offender. I will never sit in the lobby again.
Probably the creepiest man I have ever encountered at Starbucks was the homeless man that strolled right up to the drive through window between me and a customer’s car, trying to exchange his coin rolls for cash. I had no idea what to do so I called my shift supervisor, Brett, over. Brett hurriedly exchanged the coins and got the man out of the drive through as quickly as possible, then hurriedly apologized to the appalled customer. After this ordeal we finally opened the rolls of “dimes” only to find out that they were actually pennies and the homeless man had swindled us out of fifteen dollars. Brett called the police to warn them that people were doing this kind of thing, and as he was on the phone the man stumbled over to our ‘Thank You’ sign and peed on it.