Caring For Your Barista


Rumor has it that, at one coffee shop in Seattle, when a customer is rude at the register, the cashier shouts to the barista, “did you play the lottery today?” This signals the barista to make crappy coffee. Now you, the consumer, might be saying, “I, the consumer, am paying five dollars for this high-quality combination of espresso and milk. I deserve nothing but the best.”

This is true, but the poor sap working for a pittance to provide this luxury also deserves at least feigned politeness. So keep the following in mind:

Don’t hover around to make sure your barista is putting the correct type of milk into your latte. The giant “N” on the cup ensures that you will get nonfat milk, unless you ask, “are you sure that’s nonfat?” In that case, your latte will be made with full-fat milk, or possibly eggnog.

Your barista probably has nothing to do with the price of coffee. No, the person to blame for this injustice is actually Mr. Market Economy. You don’t yell at the gas station attendant when gas prices increase; when coffee prices go up, you shouldn’t yell at your barista. So, upon finding that your luxury espresso beverage has increased in price, correct responses include:

“Isn’t it fascinating that the price increase will not keep me from purchasing this five-dollar coffee beverage?”

“The invisible hand has fucked me again! Oh well, my support of such a system is made tacit through my participation in it.”

Unacceptable responses include:

“[Sigh] Really? That seems a bit high.”

“[Sigh] This is ridiculous. People will stop coming in soon!”


For a barista on a busy morning, life is a Sisyphean nightmare: no matter how many drinks she makes, there are always another ten lined up. It’s a stressful job, and, just like you, she can make a mistake. If your drink tastes like an ashtray, don’t say:

“This tastes like crap. Give me my money back.”

“This isn’t what I wanted. Make me another. And hurry, I’m five minutes late for work.”

Instead, try:

“I know you’re busy, and I’m sorry to bother you, but this [insert silly five-dollar drink name] is made incorrectly. Would you mind rectifying this error in whatever manner causes you the least stress?”

But really, like most problems in life, the whole interaction can be reduced to a nugget of wisdom from Jesus Christ: “Treat others as you would have them treat you—and remember, tips are always appreciated.”

College life doesn’t last forever. Get prepared for what comes next. Stories from the front lines here.

image – Shutterstock