Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

A Tale of Two Partners

on 2 January 2010

It was the best of orders, it was the worst of orders, it was the order of wisdom, it was the order of foolishness, it was the epoch of consideration, it was the epoch of thoughtlessness, it was the moment of Light, it was the moment of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, I had the complete order before me, I had half an order before me, the store’s morale was all going direct to Heaven, the store’s morale was all going directly the other way… ahem.

Sorry. Have I mentioned that I’m an English major? Many thanks to Mr. Dickens, but this post is about Starbucks. Really. I promise.

Partners, which is what Starbucks calls its employees, have a unique opportunity to mess around with the over 8,000 drink possibilities available at the store. As a result, many of us have found our perfect drink- but it’s a mouthful to order, or a pain to make. It’s not like we all set out to create the most difficult drink we can (well, most of us don’t), but we know what we like and we know what we don’t like.

All this is fine, as long as partners don’t check their barista minds at the door. Unfortunately, most of them get into a strange Starbucks and forget that they are now customers, not employees.

Take this partner I tried to help the other day. She came in the middle of a steady rush, and my wonderful register partner used an amazing amount of patience to mark her two cups with every little detail she tossed at him. Partners are trained in “barista speak”, a sort of shorthand that makes it easier to remember a drink order. This partner didn’t use any vestige of this shorthand, which made taking her order all the more complicated.

When I made my way down to her two drinks, she hung over the glass partition, watching every move I made. Then, she proceeded to change her drink order so much (oh, I forgot to say…) that I ended up remaking both drinks again. By the end of my dealings with this partner, I wanted to go slam my head repeatedly into our industrial steel fridges. Arg.

This is the bad partner example. An hour later, a good partner came in.

He made eye contact. He said hi. He ordered his drinks clearly using proper barista-speak. While I made his drinks, he stayed close enough to chat, but didn’t hang over the bar to watch my every move. In short, he was the perfect customer.

So, if there are any partners reading this, remember to think through your behavior at other locations. For my dear customers who read this, content yourselves in the knowledge that no matter how many hoops you make us jump through you will never be put in the same bracket as one of “those” partners.

Have a happy Starbucks Saturday, and make sure to try out our new pastries sometime soon. I can’t wait to get back to my store and test them out myself!

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