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Coffee Shop Etiquette (American Mid-West Version)

Updated on July 4, 2012
Some people are just seriously goofy....
Some people are just seriously goofy.... | Source

I'll admit it....

I've probably accidentally done a few of these before, before I worked at my little coffee shop. Probably just about anyone who's visited a coffee shop has, at one point in time, done something on "the list".

Yes, there's a list.

I've compiled a LIST of things that people ordering and spending time in my cafe do that is horribly, horribly rude. The items on this list range from personality quirks that rear their ugly heads at the wrong time to just blatantly being an....uh...bad word. Some of these things are just ugly.

If I was still in California, I know how people treat cafe workers there, and the "ugly" would probably be the only list, but this is the midwest...where people are supposed to be at least somewhat civil. So a word to visitors - I don't care how they do it in your country, you're visiting, you pick up the customs. Just like I did when I went to your country! Except for the accent and the gigantic camera, I probably could blend in if I wanted to somewhere else, just by watching other people's behaviors. I'm an anthropologist. We do that.

Don't worry, there's a list of do's, too. I know plenty of people who are just perfectly behaved inside a coffee shop, too, it's not all bad things.

The Good

  • Greet your barista - I say hi, you say hi. I appreciate it. It makes me not feel like a mindless machine.
  • Friendly banter is perfectly acceptable. Really, it is.
  • Order your coffee in a clear voice
  • If you have questions, and they are not addressed on the menu boards, feel free to ask.
  • Go to the other side of the counter after ordering and wait patiently for your drink.
  • When done with food, drop the dishes up at the side counter where the barista can see them.

It seems simple enough, doesn't it? Things you would do in your own home, if mom was cooking for you or something. "Hey mom! What are you making for dinner. Oh cool, thanks! Here, I'll take my own dishes into the dining room. Here, I'll put my dishes right next to the sink so you can get to them when you're done using the sink for other stuff."

Not that hard.

And yet....There's a bad and an ugly list for a reason.

The Bad

  • Do not answer "Hi, How are you" with "Yeah, I need..." That's not what I asked you yet. I asked if you were doing well today. I know most places don't, but I actually have some manners, I'd appreciate it if you pretended to as well.
  • Don't take more straws/condiments/stirrers than you need and leave the rest strewn about the condiment table like some heathen. You probably wouldn't do it in your own house...
  • It's customary NOT to leave your dishes, mangled paper/plastic cups, and gunked-up straws on the table. Is it customary that we wipe down the tables? Yes. Do you have to make our job harder than it absolutely has to be? No, that's just rude. And, again, you wouldn't do it in your own house, so don't do it in mine please. I don't get paid to put up with morons, sorry about that. Don't be a philistine.
  • Please, PLEASE don't rearrange the furniture and leave it out of place when you leave. You moved them in the first place, you can move them back. You are now taking away my time to bake those scones you like and help the customers ahead of and behind you. I wouldn't do that to you.
  • I'd really appreciate it if you'd at least push in your chairs, but...compared to other things I've seen, I guess I can deal with that.
  • Ask me the same question more than twice and then stand there looking dumbly up at the menu before going "Oh, there it is". Yes, there it is. Just what I told you it was.
  • If you have a problem with your drink, don't take it anyways, go to a table, and abandon it, then go somewhere else with your friends and let me overhear "it was awful, I just can't drink it." I don't mind remaking something once if it's not up to what you were expecting, but don't be a you-know-what about it.

And yet, it gets worse...

The Ugly

I shouldn't have to tell you this, I really shouldn't - just don't do these things.

  • Interrupt the barista when he/she's giving you the answer to a question you asked.
  • Interrupt the barista with "Okay, just stop!" Yes, I've had that happen. I was trying to help a woman out because we were out of something, and I was making TWO suggestions, and halfway through the second one, I got yelled at for being helpful. Couldn't even let me finish a sentence. Would've been a lot easier if you'd just done that lady, because guess what, I asked you more annoying questions because you were a brat, just to piss you off. Next time, I'm accidentally getting your order wrong.
  • Spill something and walk away like it never happened. At least tell me.
  • Ask "aren't you supposed to be following a recipe or something?" No. We wing it every time. If I don't have a manager next to me watching my every move, that means I KNOW the recipe. Don't tell me how to do my job.
  • Ask if someone else comes in here often - I'm not paid to tell you how to stalk people. Do it on your own time. I don't care if it's just because you want to see that person again or what, but I don't need to know, I don't care to know, and honestly, it's amazingly creepy when you ask me if I know a person's personal schedule. I don't. I'm paid to know names and orders if you're a regular, and that's it. What you do with your life and what they do with their lives is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.
  • Treat me like an imbecile. I know, it's easy to do. Most cafe jobs are minimum-wage, part-time gigs, and at some places they hire the bottom-of-the-barrel people. That doesn't mean we're all like that. In fact most of the people I work with in my cafe are college graduates. I was two credits away from my degree in anthropology, and I already had more field practice than most graduate students, when I had to drop out due to financial reasons. And I have a triple-digit IQ. Do we get busy and a little flakey sometimes? Yes, so do you when you have people being stupid around you and asking you what's in an iced tea. Are we probably going to purposely take longer to do your drink if you're absolutely treating us like dirt? Uh...yeah. We're smart enough to play into the stereotype so we don't have to deal with you anymore. I haven't done this often, but there are two people I have yet to see again because they ticked me off so badly I actually stooped to doing this.
  • Pour yourself a glass of water if you're not going to drink it, and then dump it in the trash can...not the sink, the trash can.
  • Make me remake a drink five times because you don't know how you ordered it last time and you want to figure it out, so you keep telling me it's "Just not right". I'm going to make them by the book, so if you did something personalized that you liked last time...write it down.
  • Ask me stupid questions so long you hold up the line. Like... what's in an iced tea? Um...Ice...water...and tea. We can sweeten it if you like, but that's not what you asked, you asked what's already in it. A better question that I DO get asked sometimes - are your iced teas already sweetened? No, they are not naturally sweetened, we can sweeten them however you like, or we can leave them plain.
  • Forget to order a key ingredient in your drink and blame it on the barista. "I ordered that ICED, not hot *scoff and eyeroll*". Keep it up, I'll do it again. Oops. Sorry. You didn't want mocha? Too bad. Oh, you wanted that sweetened? I swear I put sweetener in that....
  • Can't decide what you want? Ask me for an opinion - don't take it? Why the hell did you ask?
  • If I'm obviously in the middle of doing something for another customer, don't walk up and DEMAND service, start ordering even though I'm not up there, and wonder why I look at you like you're out of your mind.

I may have gotten carried away...

Okay, I don't usually purposely tick off customers. But I'd like to.

These are all real things that people have actually done to me in the cafe, and really...I'm just going to stop being nice one of these days if I keep getting treated like crap. That's why people usually hire bottom-of-the-barrel - they don't care as much and don't realize it when they're being treated poorly often times. But my manager, being a college grad herself, prefers to work with smart people so that our cafe flourishes. And so far...we do! People come to us rather than go to the Starbucks down the street because they don't train their people all the way - or the people get as trained as they can, and it's not pretty.

That's why I'll go out of my way to go to work for a coffee before going to the starbucks closer to my place - they mess up my drink every single time, and I have food allergies so that doesn't work for me. In fact, once, they gave me a "light" drink by accident and I was out of commission for two days because I'm so allergic to splenda. And when my friend pulled me in there, while I was dazed and disgusting from what it did to me, they didn't even really seem to care.

At my cafe...we care. Please care back.

Tips are welcome but not necessary - a simple thank you means the world to us.

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    • profile image

      jenubouka 4 years ago

      I used to be a barista back in my college days and soooo can relate to your hub! The bad and ugly back 15 years ago was horrible; yet, I lived in a big city so we were pretty outspoken about those who could not behave themselves. Loved it! I hope all who order from a coffee stand read this; and tip well.

    • YnezJim profile image

      YnezJim 4 years ago from Louisiana

      Love it! Retail seems to just suck and with the economy the way it is people don't seem to realize that most of us working now are college educated and are extremely intelligent. We're just working these jobs to get by. I can't afford to get a good cup of coffee but when Andrew does treat me to one I'm always thankful.

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