Sunday, July 4, 2010

How to Not Be a Jerk in a Coffee Shop

Lifehacker just ran a post entitled, "Get Things Done at a Coffee Shop Without Annoying Everyone", quoting tips from a businessman who recommends:

* Learn the names of most of the baristas and also take time to have a conversation with them. It helps build a human connection.
* Make sure you buy coffee or something at least three times a day.

As a [reluctant & circumstantial] barista, I couldn't care any less if you remember my name. In fact, I'd prefer it if you never even read the name tag I am required to wear, if only for the one time a customer called me by my name on the street and it was totally creepy. I don't even care if you don't engage me in conversation (in fact, please don't if it's because you feel like you have to -- I don't need your condescension). My expectations for our interaction are not high. Basically, I would like you to not be a jerk. Since this can be complicated for some people, I am including, as a response to the above article, by own tips on How to Not Be a Jerk in a Coffee Shop.

#1- Clean up after yourself. It is amazing how many people cannot manage to move their dirty napkins and wrappers to the garbage can three feet away. It's even more amazing how many people feel entitled to leave huge stacks of books, plates with tons of leftover food, half-empty coffee cups with lipstick marks, and stuff spilled all over the table.

#2- Don't be creepy. I'd rather you didn't call me by my name, but if you feel the need to, please at least don't hit on me. Don't mistake me doing my job for interest. Realize that you as a customer and me as a barista places a power dynamic on our conversation in that I have to be polite to you, even if you are rude.

#3- Don't yell. I understand that for you, our interaction is more about you exerting control over one small portion of your life when the rest of it seems to be hurtling out of control. I will allow you this. But in the event that something about your order does not seem right to your exacting tastebuds, there's a polite way to say it and a rude way to say it (and many other ways, I'm sure). Sneering derisively, "Ew! Why is there cream cheese?! What kind of freak eats toasted bagels with cream cheese?!" is not going to win you any points.

#4- Don't assume that I'm stupid because I'm making your coffee.

#5- Don't throw money down on the counter, especially when it's a bunch of change and I have to pick each coin up off the counter. (If you have strict religious beliefs that would be breached if our hands accidentally touched, I'll give you a break on this one.) Don't hand me bills and then after I already have your change in my hand say, "Oh! I have change!" and then get mad when I won't take it. I'm the one who'll be in trouble if my register's off.

#6- Do teach your children to have good manners. I heard a mom correct her six-year-old-ish son on a throwing-money-on-the-counter habit, and it made my day. More often than not, well-mannered children seem to have well-mannered children -- and the rude, money-throwing, screamy children are imitating their rude, money-throwing, screamy parents.

#7- Do not, under any circumstances, talk on the phone while you are ordering. Unless you are on fire. In which case, you should probably take care of that before you get coffee anyway. Hot tip: if you are telling your friend on the phone, "Yeah, uh huh, I had a turkey sandwich for lunch and now I'm getting coffee! Now I'm ordering!", there is a 99.9% chance that your friend does not care. If your friend is in the remaining .01%, your friend has a 100% chance of being insufferably boring. Find a new friend! There are many places to meet them (though I recommend against dark alleys).

In truth, I don't really care how much stuff you buy in order to feel justified in sitting all day. It doesn't affect me; it's not like I see a penny of that. I just care about treating people like human beings, and being treated like one myself. I understand that it can be a wonderful thing to go and sit somewhere and read and have coffee, or sit down and catch up with a friend, or write, or whatever -- I like these things, too, and I respect your right to be able to do them. But you're still in public (yes, you, on your laptop with your hand in your pants -- there's a time and a place, and let me assure you, it is neither now nor here), so you might as well behave accordingly. I'll let you have your daily dose of caffeine-fueled escapism; just let me go back to doing my job and pondering the everlasting question on my mind: "Don't you people work?"

1 comment:

  1. "Don't you people work?" I, too, wonder this all day long! Though I suppose if I didn't have to work, I'd be spending my day in a coffeeshop as well!