Starbucks Employees Front Line Stories

Nick Davies

Working at Starbucks has its fair share or ups and downs. Just ask the actual employees, who are never shy about sharing their experiences on the Internet. Take a look at what it’s really like to work at Starbucks, according to the people who know best.

Rude customers are reportedly a serious occupational hazard when you’re gainfully employed at Starbucks. “Venti is a large coffee.” “Really, says who? Fellini?” “How much is that? Here’s a ten.” “Do you accept lira, or is it all euros now?” “Keep the change.” Belen Jimenez is one Starbucks partner who claims she regularly has to deal with customers who don’t know the first thing about coffee — but who nevertheless have a whole lot of attitude. “May I please have a double-shot, half-almond milk latte, with two half-pumps of caramel, and a light dusting of cinnamon…” In a blog post Jimenez wrote for The Barista Life, she depicted a rather unpleasant scene at the coffee chain: “Customers come in day after day… asking for things that make absolutely no sense.” “I don’t know, an Irish Cream sounds good, huh? What’s that?” “Uh, it’s cream and it’s Irish.” “Hurry up and order!!” “Excuse me.”

Another Starbucks barista took to Reddit to complain about: “…situations where someone might literally be screaming in your face because you forgot a single pump of their skinny vanilla syrup….” Yet another barista on Reddit offered this ominous warning: “Don’t work at Starbucks unless you are prepared to deal with… the dumbest, rudest, most entitled customers you will ever meet.” “Look, I’m a frequent coffee drinker. I’m part of the club; I have a card?” So it sounds like one of the toughest parts of the job is dealing with rude, caffeine-deprived customers. But here’s one important rule of thumb that customers should keep in mind: if you feel well within your rights to disrespect the person who’s making your coffee, you should probably expect them to retaliate.

With a vengeance. Speaking to Cosmopolitan, one Starbucks barista admitted to giving rude customers regular espresso shots after they specifically asked for decaf. That same employee took delight in serving regular milk to difficult customers who ordered skim. However, the barista only resorted to these desperate measures when the customer was being, quote, “pushy or rude.” Employees also claim they retaliate by making drinks with decaf coffee instead of regular, thus depriving their already agitated customers of their much-needed caffeine buzz.

In a Reddit thread, one Starbucks partner said: “When you think you’re entitled to anything and complain about a non issue, you’re getting decaf and I’m not apologizing….” Thankfully, it sounds like these revenge schemes don’t ever get that hardcore. When Cosmopolitan asked its blabbermouth barista about spitting in a customer’s drink, the response was: “Oh no, I would never do that. Besides, we have cameras on us all the time.” Well…thank goodness for those cameras, right? If you’ve ever stepped into Starbucks during a busy time of day, you’ve seen just how chaotic it gets in there.

According to several employees, working at Starbucks can be incredibly stressful. Speaking to Business Insider, one employee claimed that the coffee chain is often understaffed, which forces employees to spread themselves too thin: “Starbucks demands that we do several tasks at once, so how can I be expected to ‘connect with customers?’” Another employee told the website: “It’s exhausting being the only one on the floor and having to do register and hot bar and customer support.”

And yet another barista took to Reddit to say they’d never recommend their job to anyone who suffered from anxiety or depression issues: “The stress, even under a good manager, sucks. Under a bad manager, it will literally eat you up and spit you out.” Another barista evidently agreed with that assessment: “Some days suck, I’ll admit that. Your body will hurt, you will be frazzled, and it will almost always be stressful.” Clearly these baristas aren’t made of the same stuff as this guy: “This place really inspired coffee passion in me. It made me see: Wow, coffee can be so much more than ‘Here’s your latte.’” Ask any barista about their least favorite drink on the menu, and you’ll probably hear the same thing over and over again: “My ‘Sunning in the Afternoon’ soy strawberries and creme frappuccino.”

Frappuccinos are definitely a Starbucks staple, but whipping up these treats is allegedly quite the exasperating enterprise for employees. As one barista told New York magazine: “I used to love Frappuccinos. But now I hate them. There’s a lot of barista-hate against the Frappuccino.” That’s because Frappuccinos are reportedly quite time-consuming to make, and that can throw off your work routine if Starbucks is already buzzing and bustling. If you thought those Starbucks sandwiches, pastries, and cakes were made in-house, think again. Many employees have reportedly had to tell customers that all the snacks on display is of the frozen-food variety. In a Reddit thread, one employee wrote: “All Starbucks food is reheated frozen food. Ridiculous how little people realize that. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good.” On another Reddit thread, a Starbucks supervisor explained that in the morning, employees thaw out a certain amount of food for the day. “We don’t have a ton of fridge/freezer space in the back so we only get so many food items at once.” So if your favorite scone or muffin always seems to be out of stock, that could explain why — it’s still totally frozen! Believe it or not, some employees believe the relationships they develop with their regular customers is a terrific part of the job. One barista told The Odyssey: “I know I would’ve never met these wonderful people had it not been for a mutual love of overpriced coffee.” According to an employee on Reddit, the feeling is mutual: Regulars reportedly tell baristas that they miss them when they’re not around… and some of them even give their favorite baristas Christmas gifts.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, another employee voiced genuine fondness for their regulars: “My favorite part of my job is the customers. I love seeing the light in their faces when they try a new drink and they love it.” You want to know something that employees really, really hate? The idea of a “secret menu,” that rumored list of drinks baristas can whip up… even though they aren’t on the official menu. Baristas swear the secret menu isn’t even a real thing. One employee told Huffington Post: “Starbucks employees are always happy to customize your drink, but we never know what’s in those crazy ones!” Meanwhile, another barista wrote on Reddit: “There is no recipe for drinks called a Clint Eastwood, Undertow, Tear Drop… [or] ‘Butter Beer.’” “May I have a half-half decaf mint mocha latte, foam on the bottom, served in a flower vase, and if you got some green food coloring back there, throw it in.” Even if someone invents a tasty drink and slaps a fun name on it, it’s highly unlikely that your Starbucks barista knows how to make it… so it’s always a good idea to stick to the items you see on the menu. Starbucks is a company known for its excellent employees benefits, including health coverage, 401(k) plans, parental leave, and tuition coverage, to name just a few perks. And people who work at Starbucks repeatedly say these benefits really elevate the job. One former barista told Yahoo News: “The one amazing thing I got from working there was my stock in Starbucks: over three years, I made about $400 when I finally sold my share.”

Aside from benefits, employees are also privy to loads of free stuff — mostly coffee, of course. One former Starbucks employee told Huffington Post that workers receive one free drink per shift, and they can even brew free coffee whenever they feel like it. Employees are reportedly allowed to chow down on food that wasn’t sold that day, and they can chug any drink beverages that happen to go unclaimed. This employee also confessed: “My friends… [told] me I had to lower my coffee intake, because it was getting out of hand.” Although parts of the job can be tough, a lot of employees love the sense of teamwork and camaraderie fostered at Starbucks. In order for stores to function properly, it’s reportedly essential for employees to learn how to work together. “Being a Starbucks partner means everything to me. It’s the connection, the people.” Writing on Quora, one Starbucks employee named called her team “amazing.” “They were diverse, they were fun, and they were passionate. … We all took ownership in our stores, and when that happens, everyone wins.” Another former employee told New York magazine about the, quote, “green apron board” at Starbucks, which is essentially a thank-you card system. “You always find little notes in your spot like, ‘You kicked ass today!’ Or ‘I’m so happy I get to work with you.’” “Jade?” “Thank you.” There’s a very good chance that customer he called “Jade” was actually named “Andrew.”

Starbucks is notorious for getting your name wrong at the register. “Like this one… this is definitely not how I spell Lissie. I’ll be scratching my head all day.’ And, look at that, Lice!” When you order your beverage and give your name, an employee writes it down on your cup. But somehow, they always manage to muck up your name somehow. “My name’s Stephen, and every day my coffee cup has my assistant’s name on it. What gives?” Employees reportedly have a lot of fun with this. One barista told Cosmopolitan that they intentionally misspell names “… just to mess with people… [I] love to see their reactions.” The misspellings often get a lot of social media attention, and the same employee said her manager admitted that, quote, “most Starbucks employees use it as a marketing tool.” “Most people aren’t going to post a photo to social media of a cup with their name spelled right.” Starbucks denied this conspiracy theory to BuzzFeed News, saying: “We’ve never asked or directed any of our partners to misspell names of our customers for any reason.” Many people worry that fast-food restaurants aren’t as clean as they should be — especially when they’re as busy as Starbucks. But employees claim that most locations have extremely high standards when it comes to the cleanliness of the store and the way food is prepared and served.

On Reddit, a former Starbucks supervisor said the temperatures of the fridge and food case had to be checked three times a day. If either of them were too warm, everything inside was tossed in the garbage: “Everything that touched anything edible was sanitized at least once a day.” On top of that, the supervisor alleged that the coffee was kept fresh at all times. “We kept ground coffee only 12 hours and brewed coffee 30 minutes on timers.”

In a different Reddit thread, another Starbucks supervisor claimed that customers are prone to leaving a mess behind, but employees tend to be exceedingly clean: “Baristas spend a lot of our time cleaning. New hires are shocked by the non-stop cleaning requirements.” If being a Starbucks barista sounds overwhelming, that’s because it is — especially if you’re a brand-new hire. In fact, many employees feel like their training was the toughest part of the job. We can’t blame them — can you imagine learning how to make all of those drinks? “Hi, can I get a tall skinny half-sweet, no foam, extra-hot caramel macchiato?” “Okay, so tall…?”

A former Starbucks employee told Huffington Post that new hires go through two full weeks of training. That’s when they learn how to make every drink on the menu. They even allegedly practice how to do things the wrong way. Why? So they know how to fix mistakes during a rush. As one Starbucks barista wrote on Reddit, some new employees don’t even make it through the training period at all: “[They] quit immediately because they took the job for the ‘aesthetic’ of being a barista. It’s not glamorous, it’s not beautiful.” But if these newbies stick with it, all that training evidently pays off at the end of the day. The former employee told Huffington Post: “Practice makes perfect, and after you spent a few shifts on the bar… it was like second nature.”

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A modern millennial guy with a cute little family. Located in Southern California. I like writing about fun topics that are interesting to learn about.

Corona, CA

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