The Starbucks Experiment

Friday, October 21, 2005

...and It came to a Head, and It was Good.

This past sunday was absolutely the worst day i have ever had at Starbucks. when i walked in at 1pm the back looked disgustingly dirty as usual. normally on sundays my first task is to create a new coffee of the week sign, complete with artistic renderings. this usually takes about half and hour and is one of my favorite things to do at sbux. but last sunday i had to sidle over to the bar because Leah, the regular customer who insists on good foam, had just walked in and wanted me to make her cappuccino. Eugene, the supervisor, and Dana, the "new" ie. slow guy, were manning the bar together, but when I showed up Eugene left to make room. making Leah's drink was more complicated than usual because the floor was filthy and wet, and we were sliding around on it as if skating on thin ice. so as soon as i'm done i figure i have to mop the floor, since it seems to be a genuine health hazard. so i get out the mop and go to it, and halfway through i notice the drinks are piling up on the bar. Dana has left, apparently to go on break, with no word to me to make sure i'm covering him, and Eugene, who as supervisor is supposed to organize when everyone takes their breaks and inform others of the schedule, is nowhere to be found. so i become the barista in residence by default, which is pretty obnoxious since the floor is still half done and i'm supposed to be doing the sign anyway. Eugene keeps coming and going but ignoring my objections, until finally he tells me to go do the sign, which i do (and it was my best one yet; it featured a majestic elephant because it advertised the kenya coffee).

by the time i get back behind the counter, it's time for all the morning people to leave, so it's just Dana, Eugene, and me. and the place is still a fucking wreck. this really pisses me off for reasons i have already mentioned on this blog. i close on sundays, so i'll have enough cleaning to do anyway without also cleaning up after the morning crew. and honestly Dana could not be more useless. he just really needs a v. hands on manager, because unless someone explicitly tells him to do something, he stands there and does nothing. my gentle hints fell on deaf ears. example: "Dana, could you check on the dishes in the machine?" "sure," Dana says, and he opens the sanitizer, takes out the tray of dishes and puts it on the sink. does he put the clean dishes away? NO! does he move a muscle to actually clean any dishes? NO! Euegene, needless to say, was not around to tell Dana what to do. he has a v. hands off approach which up until now i have always appreciated. his attitude is "that's your bar, it's your responsibility, and you can handle it," and i'm sure i work better with him than i would with many another manager who likes to look over your shoulder. but Eugene should be able to recognize that Dana is not the self-motivated worker that i am, and that it's not my job or my place to tell Dana what to do.

and to make matters even worse, that sunday was slightly busier than normal. there was just a steady enough stream to make it practically impossible to finish projects (like the dishes, or making whip cream) on your own. and since i was working on my own, i couldn't finish anything. i normally start my end of the day cleaning at 4 or 4:30, but i couldn't get to any of that until 6:30, a half hour before close, and as a result, we were there until 8:30, at least an hour later than we normally leave. Eugene was not pleased, but seemed mystified. i was pissed as hell.

in fact, i actually nearly had a nervous breakdown earlier that day. i had to spend the hour before my meal break exerting all my energy on controlling myself so that i wouldn't start screaming at someone or burst into tears. and as soon as i went on break, i did burst into tears. because the thing is, that it really winds up feeling v. personal. it feels like no one gives a shit about you or how much work you have to do, like they've just abandoned you in this pit of sticky, filmy, milky disgustingness. gross.

i realized that every time Eugene, Dana, and i work together is worse (for me) than the last, and that if i have to do it again i might v. well have that nervous breakdown and quit on the spot. and that would be too bad, because i do actually like the job. so i talked to Melissa the manager and told her that i thought the three of us were a bad combination and that i honestly couldn't work with that combination again. if we just had another experienced partner with us, it would be fine, and since the weekends seemed to be getting busier maybe we should do that anyway. well of course, Melissa is not pleased with Eugene's performance in general, and she took this all to mean that Eugene is not doing his job and should possibly be fired. and this made me feel rather guilty, because no matter how angry i was with him last sunday, i think that he is actually a really good guy, that he has a lot to offer, and that the reason he isn't performing at sbux anymore is that Melissa has basically demoralized him instead of helping him learn how to do his job better. on the other hand, Melissa is so dissatisfied with Eugene, and him wtih her, and i know he's thinking about leaving anyway, so maybe it would be for the best.

Melissa talked with Eugene after i left (this was the next day i worked, last tuesday), and on wednesday i was terrified that when i saw Eugene he would be furious at me for "going to management." so i asked him gingerly how his talk went with Melissa the day before, and to my surprise he said it had been totally fine, that he saw Melissa's point and hoped there were no hard feelings between him and me. of course i said how happy i was to hear that and he said i had a good heart, and so everything worked out strangely well. Melissa promised me i'll never have to work with just those two again, and that in fact from now on there will always be three closers instead of just two. whew.


At 5:53 PM, Blogger Karin said...

V., v. glad to hear that crisis in Coffeeland was averted. I think you handled things well (as always . . . do you ever screw anything up?? I'm really starting to wonder, in all honesty). Was today better? Who else worked??

Also, I know I should have posted on your last entry, but despite the fact I never did, I just thought I should tell you I totally dug it. You know I love when you let the Starbucks secrets fly, and I'm always impressed when you come back from behind the bar with more!! I keep thinking I've got the home of my prized GVSL all sussed out . . . a mere illusion, it turns out. Seriously, though . . . really fun post.

Also, I totally want to see your coffee of the week signs! You should find yourself a digital camera, take pictures, and start posting them every week . . . I think it would really add dimension to le blog.

Thanks for chatting yesterday . . . let's talk soon, and much love :)


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