Wednesday, 26 December 2012

When I Grow Up...

A little over a year ago I started this blog as part of a university project. One that literally forced me to take on a project I had wanted to start for a long time I just never had the confidence or (as I thought) the subject matter to write about. Over the past year I've learnt that there are a few challenges that come with writing blogs:

1) What am I going to write about? 
Once I decided the subject matter of this particular blog I felt like it only took a few posts to summarize the main comedic difficulties and the rewards that come with working in retail. However, as anyone knows there are always new challenges and new rewards daily. Which brings me to the next challenge.

2) Will I remember what I wanted to write about?
"Inspiration" surrounds me on a daily basis. However, would it stick with me after working eight hours, going to class for another three, and after completing homework? Well, as you may have guessed - since my last post was over three months ago, the answer is no.

3) Will I make time to write?
Our lives are busy. I don't care who you are, there is a constant hustle and bustle to keep up with work, school, friends, family, news, etc. Clearly I neglected this last option. Or when I did finally sit down to write, the situation didn't seem relevant anymore.

4) Will anyone read what I write?
Just because I write it doesn't mean anyone will read it. Unfortunately the claim in  Field of Dreams, "if you build it, he will come" may only apply to baseball diamonds. So how do you attract a crowd, how do you keep one interested, how do you inspire loyalty, how do you expect to grow - especially if you're only posting every three months.

With these in mind I took the time this holiday season to go back and re-read all the posts I had written in the last year - yes all TWELVE of them, I write sarcastically, and I'm reminded of the best parts of my job.

Bitching and complaining and putting a comedic spin on stupidity is something I love to do. It makes the stressful days and the "are you kidding me right now" moments tolerable. However, I am reminded that for the past four and a half years I have learnt a lot about people in general from my role as a barista. There are some customers that I have served, loyally, every morning for the past four and a half years. When some customers do not come in in the mornings, we worry that something is wrong. It is the same customers, in the same order, every morning. We may be busy or we may be grumpy or we may be sick - yet these people keep coming back. I always joke that I see some of these guys more than I see my own family. But in all honesty I probably do.

On top of the majority of great customers I encounter daily, I also manage an amazing group of young people that as they learn more and more about the job they do what they can to make my life easier. Sure, over the last couple years we've "lost a lot of good 'men' out there" (Wedding Crashers) but we've also gained some great ones as well.

In honour of the holiday season and in hopes of another year of The Chronicles of A Coffee Kiosk, I would like to formally thank those customers and staff that, in a world where each day is a battle, make each one survivable. When I grow up, I can only hope that I become a regular somewhere that treats me with such respect and individuality as my team treats you.

In closing I would like to offer a quick reminder: if you go somewhere, anywhere, and they are out of what you wanted to buy or something you were looking for is discontinued or the place is closed, etc. REMEMBER: if this is the worst thing in your life, you're life is looking pretty darn good.

Thank you customers and thank you Team. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

"A general is just as good or just as bad as the troops under his command make him."
- General Douglas MacArthur


*Keep your eyes open for some new projects coming your way in 2013. You won't want to miss them.*

Friday, 7 September 2012

White Noise

Today has to have been, hands down, one of the worst days I have had at work in the entire 50 months that I have held this job. While the rageful emotions are still fresh in my mind, let me explain why:

Put yourself in my shoes. Your alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning and as much of a struggle as it is to get yourself out of bed, you do. Groggily, you go through your morning routine, make a cup of coffee (something I would later find out was the best decision I could've possibly made), get ready and leave the house by 6:15 a.m. Arrive at work around 6:20, walk in the doors, head to the kiosk only to find a dishevelled, disconnected, empty ice machine and a legitimate flood so bad that it has seeped through the walls and spread to the floor outside the kiosk.

This is probably the last thing you want to see at 6:30 a.m. on a Friday morning - our busiest time of the week. I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. So after a few deep breaths, I tried to find the positives and thought to myself, "Okay, okay. I can make this work. No ice. Whatever. I can still do hot beverages." So I proceed to put "Temporarily Out" stickers over the cold beverage menus and figure, it's gonna be some lost sales but what can you do. At least I can offer some alternatives. So, in my new positive, staying sane, approach, I go to start brewing my first pot of coffee: hit the brew button and.....NO WATER.

In order to prevent any more flooding in the kiosk they had to turn the water off last night. Tears. Then rage. Full out "don't get in my way, don't talk to me, don't even look at me or I'll slit your throat," rage. A little heads up last night would have been nice.

At this point I knew there was no pleasing anyone. So in quick-thinking, I made some signs apologizing for the inconvenience but due to equipment malfunction the kiosk would be CLOSED. Not only did I post these signs on EVERY entrance but also right on the screen of my till. Places you would think would be the most obvious.

You'd think.

So, 7 a.m. rolls around and the store opens, my kiosk still closed, and I am getting my stuff together - making stock lists, writing orders, getting paperwork together - so that I can head to the back (storage) and still try to be productive while the kiosk is closed.

I shit you not, every single person that came into the store with hopes of having coffee this morning had to have been either drunk, an absolute idiot, or completely illiterate. You may think I am being a bit harsh but here's just a few examples of what customers said to me:

"Do you know your lights aren't on?"
Oh, really? No. No I didn't notice that I was standing here in the absolute pitch black. Thanks for letting me know.

"Are you open?"
Yes, that's exactly what the big, bold letters on the CLOSED sign say. Thanks for asking. You're actually the first to inquire.

"Are you serious?!"
No. I'm just kidding. Jokes on you, any second Ashton Kutcher is going to pop out and tell you that you've been Punk'd.

"So, you don't have, like, any coffee or anything?"
Well, since the sign says closed, and I just told you that I have no running water, I can promise you on my life that I do not in fact have any coffee. None hidden, none hoarded away for myself. I have ZERO coffee. Zero anything. Hence the CLOSED sign.

I could go on but I feel like you're beginning to get a sense of the sheer stupidity I was dealing with this morning. I feel that I have lost all faith in humanity.

I love that when something goes wrong, customers immediately react and look at me as if it is solely my fault. Like that's right ma'am, you caught me. I totally wanted to ruin your day by making my kiosk not work -- even though I still had to be here at 6:30 a.m. ON A FRIDAY, to stand here and get bitched at by morons like you. But you're totally, 100% correct, it is MY fault. Gotcha.

In sparing a few more detailed wrong-doings of this morning, I'll wrap this up in letting you know that it was not until after 1p.m. that we finally got the kiosk up and running, which was just on schedule - the end of my shift. It was probably good timing though, because if I had to listen and try to react respectively to one more moronic question from a customer I can honestly say I was split seconds away from smacking someone upside the head and saying "that's for asking stupid questions."

So, ladies and gents: read the signs, don't ask stupid questions, and always remember, equipment malfunctions are not your baristas fault but are only a problem for them as well.

T.G.I.F. It's time for a drink.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Know Your Role

My sincere apologies for the long overdue post. Got caught up in the hustle and bustle of summer vacation and really haven't been too inspired to write any posts. Until today.

For the past couple months, every so often I would come into work to an absolutely outrageous account of a customer interaction relayed through one of my staff. I've heard stories involving everything from a customer literally shouting in one of my employees faces to others demanding free beverages because our outside tables happened to be dirty. For anyone that works in retail or around people, you know that there are just some people out there that can never be pleased. There is always something to complain about for these people.

I am a firm believer in treating people with respect: coworkers, friends, family, and customers alike. So, for the past few months, every time I have begun a shift and heard one of these stories involving power-hungry ignorant customers that feel the need to ride their high horse into our kiosk and take out their unsatisfactory feelings on the teenage employee (who is working alone, nonetheless) it literally enrages me that I wasn't there to stand up for my staff. 

Today that changed.

Quick back story: last week I came in to one of my employees rather flustered, understatement, because a lady had ordered a drink and proceeded to order my barista to remake her drink ***SIX*** times because it was not up to the customers standards - although the barista was making the beverage absolutely correct in regards to company standards. But hey, the customer is always right, and this lady knew this.

So this morning, when a rather self-righteous looking/acting woman walked up to my till and proceeded to order an extra-large, dry cappuccino, I knew without a doubt in my mind that this was the lady. Now, I would never act out of line with customers, as I mentioned I really am a firm believer in treating others with respect. 

So, I took the lady's order, called it out to my coworker, and handed her a cup so she could start making the drink. I hadn't even had a second to take a breath and this lady was virtually climbing across my counter to shout a very detailed how-to lesson to my employee on the correct way to make her drink. 

Hell. To. The. No.

This is not okay with me.

This is not how you talk to people.

That was my breaking point. I, as calmly as I could, interrupted the lady and nicely reassured her "it's okay, she knows what she's doing." Well this was OBVIOUSLY not an acceptable thing to say. The customer starts going off again - "well, every time I get this drink the barista just pours the milk into the cup and DOESN'T scoop only foam."

"Actually, Ma'am, that is the correct way of making a cappuccino. So every barista you have encountered is just making your drink the proper way, the exact way they have been trained to." So before you try and give someone who has been doing this job for over 4 years, who has made thousands of cappuccinos, a lesson on how to do their job - educate yourself.

- I may or may not have ended my advice session before the comment about educating herself.

So to this customer, and any other power-thirsty, self-righteous, ignorant, person that decides taking their life frustrations out on some harmless barista that is just trying to do their job right, let me offer up a few solutions to this problem:

1) If we are really negatively affecting your life that much don't come back. 

2) Buy your own espresso machine and learn how to make your drinks yourself. Once you can do this perfectly, then you can criticise others.

3) Treat people with respect. We literally are doing the best we can. We are not out to sabotage you. We are not purposefully making your drink wrong. Mistakes happen and if you let us know - in a kind manner  - we will be more than happy to fix the problem immediately. 

So people, know your role and remember your manners. They will get you a long way...and ensure your coffee is caffeinated. ;) 


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Tell Me What You Want. What You Really, Really Want.

It truly amazes me what people will do for a deal, or rather what they will buy when something is on sale. People hear the phrase "half price" and they swarm like a fat kid on cake. Some days I truly feel like I am selling crack, not coffee.

So, as with any type of sale or promotion where people will be saving money, you run into situations where people that don't have a hot clue of what the product is that is on sale want to take part.

"So, what's half off?"
 - Our cold blended drinks.

"Oh, so can I get a chai latte?"
-No. COLD BLENDED DRINKS.

"So what's in there?"
-Well, you can get it with or without coffee, milk, any syrup flavours, all blended with ice and topped with whipped topping or not.

"Oh. So they're just cold."

YES. THAT IS THE EXACT ACCURATE CONCLUSION YOU SHOULD DRAW FROM MY EXPLANATION OF OUR COLD. BLENDED. BEVERAGES.


Forgive me if I am a little short with you. But while I try and maintain my sanity while answering the same question hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of times over, it would try anyone's patience.

Now that you understand WHAT you are ordering, please, be sure to use your rolled up magazine to point at the menu board that is at least 5 metres away from you and say "I'll take that one."

Are you kidding me right now? I just listed 35 different flavour combinations and customizations you can order but yeah, you're not being vague at all.

So while you stand there and proceed to contemplate your life decision to get the biggest size of a beverage you've never even heard of before, excuse me while I go vodka-up my coffee.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Creepin' It Real

I'll keep this brief. This is a shout out to all my favourite creep-tastic customers. While majority of the people I encounter on a daily basis truly are awesome (regardless of my previous rantings), there are a handful of those that are just a little bit off in terms of point-of-sale interaction.

I can't say that this happens every day, but I am sure my co-workers would agree that it happens enough. We've all had our share of customers that:

  • Intentionally make a point of caressing your hand while they pass you their money.
  • Look deep into our eyes as we're handing over their coffee with a look of "all-knowing", like they know our deepest, darkest secret (and at this point, since we have just returned from having our back toward them, we're all wondering "Do I have something on my @$$?").
  • Or just strait-out misinterpret our kindness/awesome customer service for flirting. 
  • Some have even gone as far as to ask us out on dates, even though they are old enough to be our fathers. Or attempt to snap a picture of us at work. Really? Because I'm sure you were just going to upload that to your instagram album of "places I went today". 
Come on people. We're just trying to do our jobs. Just because I smiled at you and suggested you have a great weekend is not secret barista code for "I want to rip your clothes off and have you father my children." 

I promise. 

So as always, let's keep it classy. 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Line Dancing

Whether you're new, ignorant, or just plain stupid, after the morning rush I dealt with today I feel it is time to get back to basics and discuss proper line up etiquette.

Be Patient.
Most of the time there is only one of us working - sometimes, like this morning, two. We are doing absolutely everything humanly possible to get you in and out and on your way to work as quick as we can. So, standing with your arms crossed, three people deep in the lineup at a coffee kiosk at 7:45 in the morning, giving me a look like you are going to slit my throat may be a tad inappropriate. Relax. I'll be able to work quicker and will be a lot more polite to you if I am not fearing for my life.

Also, it is completely beyond my control if the idiot at the front of the line decides to stand there and debate whether they want a small or medium, a coffee or a latte, with or without sugar, and what type of milk. I will make their order as fast as possible but until they actually, verbally, communicate with me what that is - it is beyond my control, so get over it. If you didn't have time to wait in line, make your coffee at home.

Be Prepared.
To the idiot at the front of the line that spent the last seven minutes texting instead of deciding what you want to order: make up your mind and do it quickly. Not only are you being vastly inconsiderate of the four people waiting behind you, but you may actually cost me my life. Not to mention you will more than likely be the one that complains about how they had to wait so long for their coffee this morning.

Be Respectful.
Awesome that you and your BFF decided to stop for a latte on your way to class but if you are going to stand at the till, when it is your turn to order and proceed to carry on a conversation - with each other - gtfo. Seriously. How bout you two and the moron that just joined the coffee ordering debate team join forces and never come back. My feelings really won't be that hurt.

Be Realistic.
If you are going to show up at a busy coffee kiosk at 8 am during the Friday morning rush and order 10 drinks for the entire office, don't you dare tap your keys on the counter, sigh under your breath, or roll your eyes at how long it is taking. Seriously, even if there were 5 of us working, you'd still be waiting.

FINALLY:
Don't be talking on your cell phone when it is your turn to order.
Don't roll your eyes at me when I repeat your order back to you to ensure it's right.
Don't take fifteen minutes to count out exact change in nickels and dimes.
Don't complain about the prices.
Don't complain about how my coffee is too strong.
Don't be a douche bag.

Remember. We are the people you come to see to get your day started. We have control over whether your drink is actually made with sugar free syrup or non-fat milk but most importantly we're the ones who control whether it's caffeinated or not. Now, I'm not saying these types of things ever happen. I like to think every customer walks away with exactly what they order. But before you decide to step into my line up please make yourself familiar with the preceding requests. It will make my job and your wait a lot more bearable.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Holiday Hiatus

I have to apologize to my long list of followers (sarcasm) but most importantly to my blog. I feel like I have neglected my first born child. I have been on somewhat of a technology hiatus since slightly before and after going to Cuba for a beyond needed week of holidays. Like all good things, that too had to come to an end, so here I am.

Getting back into a routine can be one of the most challenging things in life, if you let it be. Aside from maintaining my blog I think I've been doing a pretty good job so far. Things are back to normal at work, all caught up on paperwork and fun that I missed while on holidays. And the customers, well, they never change.

I think it's important that I say: if I have one more person talk to me like I ride the short bus, whisper their order to me, or throw money at me when they're paying I may resort to violence.

Listen up people:

I get it. You've probably gone to another coffee shop and had someone mess up your order. It's happened to everyone. But that doesn't give you the right, or the apparent sense of entitlement most of you have, to talk to me as if you're speaking a foreign language to me. If I interacted with you the way I wanted to I can assure you, it would be a wake up call. Although you may think it, just because you order a drink with 37 customization - just because you can, not because you actually like the taste of it - this does not make you an expert. Grow up.

To the people who like to whisper. SPEAK UP. Don't talk under your breath, don't mumble, and don't avoid eye contact. Unless you want to be going to the next kiosk with the short-bus tone because I made your drink wrong due to your obvious lack of communication skills. This isn't a guessing game. We're not playing hot or cold. Speak up. Speak clear. Annunciate your order and it will be made right. Every time.

Finally, I am not a stripper. I am not shaking what my mama gave me. I'm not even showing an ounce of skin. I am dressed in head to toe black. A turtle neck even. So I am not quite sure what gave you the impression that throwing your money at me was an appropriate idea. Learn some manners and etiquette. Either resting your money on the counter or lightly placing it in my hand is sufficient. I'm not sure how you would react to me throwing your 1.96 in change back at your face but I can imagine it wouldn't end well.

My hope is that all you d-bags, I mean customers, have some sort of epiphany before the next time I see you and you get your acts together. But, I won't get my hopes up because  as anyone in customer service/retail knows: the customer is always right. *Insert fake smile here*