There’s Never a Reason to Make the Coffee Girl Cry

This morning, I pulled up to the drive thru at Starbucks with Pumpkin – we had just been to the library and I needed a cappuccino and she had asked me (WITH MANNERS!) for a chocolate milk. The line was five cars deep and from where I sat, I could see the woman in the lead car, window rolled down, gesturing angrily with her hands, pointing her fingers and yelling at the barista working at the window.

By the time I got to the window, the barista was quite visibly flustered, tears in her eyes, and she had upgraded my tall to a grande free of charge for waiting patiently. I stuffed a little extra money in the tip jar, and said to her, “I’m sorry someone was unkind. I hope your day gets better.”

I meant it.

You may not realize it if you’re on the opposite side of the counter – but those angry words – sometimes they stick with a person for the whole day. Sometimes you go to sleep at night thinking of that person who raised their voice to you.

I fell into customer service accidentally. The actually story is a long one – and for another day – but my job daily involves interacting with people. Some people flit in and out of your work life, as simple as a “Read. Reply. Delete.” and some people have more complex issues, requiring back and forth interaction and problem solving.

Sometimes people get frustrated with me – I’m not infallible, sometimes things are my fault. But sometimes, the anger comes from a different place – someplace I had nothing to do with – whether it’s something going on in that person’s personal life, or perhaps someone they dealt with in the company before me disappointed them and they have an idea in their head that they are MAD, we’re all no good, and we may SAY we’re trying to help, but we don’t really mean it because we all suck.

It makes it very difficult to help someone.

I hear people constantly bemoan the state of customer service these days – and I understand that, sometimes customer service is just…not good. I think it goes deeper than that, though. I think we all need to take a look at how we are acting when we are asking for answers, when we need a solution, when we want help. There’s a reason why people have been saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” Β since cavemen were riding dinosaurs to school: because it’s true.

I’m not saying that you need to keep your lip zipped if you receive faulty product, or that it’s always your fault when the service is poor. I’m saying this: as customers, we need to take a look at the way we treat the businesses and people we are interacting with. Are we being courteous? Even if you’re mad, and even if that brand-new widget you just bought from Company X is broken already, there’s still no reason why you can’t factually state your case, without emotion, and ask for a solution.

If you’re hurling insults, spreading negativity – if you’re being unkind – the effects ripple. It makes it more difficult to help you if we are constantly fearing backlash from our efforts.

I’ve received messages that have left me reeling for hours – if you think that the company’s representative forgets about those words you said when you walk away or once the email transaction is complete? You’re wrong.

Back to that woman yelling at the barista this morning – I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what circumstances she had going on in her life that she was carrying with her that caused her to lash out at the drive thru window – and the Starbucks girl had no way of knowing either. Whatever feelings she was carrying with her, to lash out over what was likely a five dollar purchase boggles my mind.

You should expect good service. You should expect to get what you pay for. But you can do both without being a jerk. Trust me, the customer service reps will appreciate it.

About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.


  1. I have been exactly there, many times. And I mean exactly. Barista job and all. Sometimes it’s a regular who gets mad cause you forgot their usual is 4 sugars and you put in 5. Then they call you stupid and insinuate you work there cause it’s the only job you can get/keep etc. It’s plain mean.

    People (customers) need to remember that the people who serve them deal with hundreds, if not thousands, of customers each day. Expecting you to get it right 100% of the time is ridiculous. Yes, we are to treat every customer like they are the only one, and like they’re always right, but it’s just not possible to be Miss Sunshine for every.single.person.

  2. Excellent, excellent post! There are 2 sides to customer service. Both sides can make either make it a good experience or a bad experience. Like you, I work (and have worked at other places) on the corporate side. I have sad tales (not from my current job though, yay!) from previous experiences. It’s always good to keep both perspectives in mind.

    I know your kind words to the coffee girl were helpful. πŸ™‚

  3. Great reminder!

  4. Great post! I work for a company (airline) who is known for empowering their employees to take care of customers…even breaking the rules, if need be, to do so. For the most part, our customers repay the favor. But, I’m always amazed at how rude and awful people can be to Employees who truly want to make their experience with our company great. It’s a kick the dog scenario….people take their frustrations out on the person they think they’ll never see again. But, bad karma comes back around eventually! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m sure you helped make the barista’s day a little brighter!

  5. Great Post. I don’t expect anything at a drive-thru because then I can drive away pleased if its good and feeling no different if its all mucked up. Its always mom’s food that doesn’t get in the bag, anyway, right? Today, I try not to consume things made behind a wall that I can’t see. Starbucks is probably one major exception. You can see it being made at ours, anyway.

    One time, not long ago, we were dining in a high end restaurant and we were seated way too close to the next table. It made us very uncomfortable because the people just wouldn’t stop complaining. We ended our meal sooner than planned, left an extra tip and I pulled the waitress aside, because she had no idea what was about to hit her. I just whispered, “Ignore whatever they say. You are doing great.”

  6. My time working in London taught me a huge amount about “people”, and “others”… I saw some pretty amazing things while navigating the underground train network – and it was almost always caused by one unthinking person, who had no idea of the chaos or hurt they caused…

    p.s. rumours of my blogging demise (spread by myself) were vastly exaggerated πŸ˜‰

  7. I love this post! Yay for you for seeking to lift up and encourage. You are always one of my encouragers and I am so thankful for you!

  8. This is so true. Taking outside problems in to a situation never helps. A smile and a thank you go a long way.

  9. I completely agree with you! I used to work for a casual women’s clothing store; we sold clothes at cheap prices. The amount of times I was abused for things I had absolutely no control over were phenomenal. I have been called a “b*tch”; a “c*nt” and a “d*ck”… I was only being paid; at the time $14-16 AUD an hour… I was brought to tears once when a lady wanted a refund, but I was only a 15 year old junior trainee and I had no idea how to do the refund and I couldn’t get through to anyone on the phone to ask them and the girl I was working with for the day had gone to lunch for 1/2 an hour… so the lady who wanted the refund just stood there and abused me in front of everyone (which in turn made them leave) and when she got impatient and left, I just stood behind the counter and cried until the girl I was working with returned…

    When I became older in the industry, I grew wise to these buttholes and told them things like “I only get paid $14/16 an hour; if you want to abuse me, you can pay the difference”. Or I would just call security on their unreasonable behinds… πŸ™

    Although these experiences were few and far in between, they do a lot to knock your self-confidence and self-worth down. I think some people are just born to be bullying buttheads.

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