The Starbucks Experiment

Friday, February 17, 2006

Doubting Thomases

I promised to write about Starbucks, but the only thing to say about it is that Tom is pissing me off. Tom is the former assistant manager who came to power as the new manager during the reorganization two months ago (when i became a shift supervisor). unfortunately, no assistant manager was assigned to our store to replace tom, so he has to do everything. and oh yeah, he received no actual training besides his experience as an assistant manager. this created certain problems, such as the fact that for weeks we had no accurate schedule and people had to call the day before or day of to find out if they were working. in fact, people still need to do this. Tom is a great guy, v. good natured, v. good people skills. he's great with customers and not at all antagonistic with the other staff, but although he's pretty good at managing others he's not at all adept at managing himself. he becomes easily distracted by his myriad responsibilities, so that instead of sitting down and doing the week's schedule, or the next Seattle order, he'll restock this one thing and then clean off this other thing and then redo this one sign and then, look at that, it's time to go home. he routinely comes in early to get stuff done and winds up staying until closing. he's driving himself crazy and everyone else along with him.

i think i do pretty well as a supervisor, but i know i do a hell of a lot better when Tom isn't around. the unfortunate thing is that Tom is almost always around, getting distracted from his own work to give you an order that masquerades as a helpful hint, and makes it look like he thinks you are incompetent. example: this past wednesday i was supervising and Tom was around (which was especially annoying because this is usually my one day sans Tom). he wasn't scheduled to work until 12:30 but nevertheless he had come in at 5am. at 11 or so he left to get lunch and run some errands, but before that he ran to the back room to get something, and on his way to the back, he asks me if "we" could sweep the floor because it's looking gross. i was about to start my lunch break, but dutifully put this off for ten minutes to sweep the floor, necessarily avoiding those areas under customers toes. when Tom strolls back from the storeroom he sees me sitting down with my food and asks me if we couldn't put a priority on the floor instead and do a sweep. so i tell him that actually i just swept the floor, and he sort of walks off. so annoying! in the first place, my standards of cleanliness are pretty high and i would never get through a morning without sweeping the floor unless things were insanely busy. in the second place, my job as a supervisor is to set the priorities for my shift. and while eating my own lunch may not seem like a justifiable thing to prioritize, it actually helps enormously because by getting my lunch out of the way, i can send other people to lunch later when they prefer to eat. whenever i work with Tom i'm terrified that i'm going to lose it and start yelling at him, the most mild-mannered guy you can imagine, because his soft-spoken requests drive me crazy. how ridiculous is it to want to scream at someone that I AM COMPETENT when all they ask you to do is your job? maybe that's the problem, his requests are so run of the mill that i bristle at the idea that they should be made at all.

maybe all of this frustration is just with the fact that the Starbucks job is getting old fast, while the Gallery job is becoming ever more stimulating. it's amazing how different it feels now than it did in august! i wrote then about how boring it was to sit in an office all day, and how exciting sbux seemed in comparison. but the mental drudgery of sbux is dragging me down; the petty concerns of the customers and staff, the general lack of change or, god forbid, improvement, add to the physical stress of the manual work and the mental stress of juggling so many personalities. whereas it is a particularly exciting time at the Gallery just now. Cezanne opened with much fanfare, our department's own dada show opens to the public on sunday. this past week was active because the collectors committee was in town. on monday i will finally meet Andy Goldsworthy. i'm doing preliminary edits on other material for the Goldsworthy book. our department might be doing a small exhibition this spring that i may take a part in. and the odd request for a 180 degree latte ("because if you don't make it that hot, it's cold by the time you get to the car" yeah, whatever) just can't compete with that.

i will close with yet another cartoon, this time from toothpaste for dinner. oh toothpaste for dinner, it's funny because it's true.


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