The Starbucks Experiment

Monday, March 27, 2006

Top 5 Weirdest Orders

So you think your triple venti skim two splenda latte is complicated? Have no fear, we have heard it all. at my own Starbucks, the top five weirdest orders (which we receive on a regular basis, mind) are, from nominal to super weirdness:

5. the "Venti Four"
A venti coffee with four shots of espresso, this rather strong drink is ordered every morning by a dreamy doctor. I would consider him superhuman but i happen to know he puts lots of milk in it.

4. the ""Grande Latte in a Venti Cup" (or it's variant, the "Tall Latte in a Grande Cup")
I hate people who order these, because basically they are cheap. What they want is a venti extra-foam latte, and what they want to pay for is a grande latte. In the first place, if someone asks for a grande latte with one shot (a "solo grande") we are supposed to charge them for a grande. We are not supposed to give them a deal and charge them for a tall because, guess what? it takes just as much work to make a grande latte with one shot as it does to make one with two (are you still with me?). You have to steam just as much milk, in fact, more milk! People try to circumvent this policy by ordering a tall latte in a grande, but unlike when people order a tall coffee in a grande cup, they don't want extra room at the top. oh no, they expect us to fill it to the top with extra foam, yet not charge them for it, because it's not like foam is the product of actual labor. apparently it just sort of appears out of the sky like snowflakes. This problem is even more pronounced when people order a grande latte in a venti cup, because they want the same amount of espresso as a regular venti (two shots) and the same amount of milk (only foamier) but they only want to be charged for a grande. if that's not cheap i don't know what is.

3. the "Venti Mocha with Half Soy and Half 2% Milk"
The woman who orders this everyday is v. nice, but come on. We have to steam three different kinds of milk to make this order (or get a new pitcher and custom mix her milk pre-steam). And it just doesn't make sense to me. She can't be drinking the soy milk because she's lactose intolerant, since half her drink is milk, but if she likes the taste of soy, why does she only want half? If she drinks it for health reasons, why 2% instead of skim, or why a mocha at all, since the mocha syrup is like pure sugar? Yet if she's not concerned about eating right, why not have whole milk? What does a woman who orders this drink want out of life? I assume that she herself as no idea.

2. the "Tall Coffee in a Venti Cup, Half Regular, Half Mild"
I hate the woman who orders this everyday, so i make a point of being really sickly nice to her. First of all, it seems cheap to order a tall coffee in a venti cup, rather than a grande coffee in a venti cup. how could you really want that much room for milk? i figure she just assumes that we give her the same amount of coffee as we would if she ordered a grande in a venti, and i further suspect that the whole half-mild half-regular thing is designed to make us pour her more. seriously, if you're putting that much milk in your coffee because otherwise it's too strong, than why not just get all mild? and once you've mixed in all that milk can you really taste the difference between half-mild half-regular and all-regular or all-mild coffee? v. fishy.

but the weirdest order of all time has got to be:

1. the "Tall Earl Grey Tea with Steamed Skim Milk, No Water"
Yup, you've heard it from me. there is actually a woman running around steeping her tea in milk rather than water. as a tea drinker i find this so unbelievably weird that even after weeks of making this i still always want to ask this woman "are you sure?" everyone knows you should steep tea in water that has just come to a boil, meaning its about 200 degrees fahrenheit. whereas we only steam milk to about 145 degrees. making tea in water that's not hot enough is gross, there is no other word for it. making tea in milk that's not hot enough i can only imagine to be milky and gross, not exactly a good combination. i guess she's pleased with it though. what a weirdo.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Soy Juice

First, let me say that i have been trying to update this for a while, to get rid of the rather saccharin last post. i have also been meaning to put this blog back on the track of entertaining stories about Starbucks, rather than doleful tales of my personal life. my personal life is more doleful than ever, but I want to talk about it even less than you want to read about it.

So instead I will tell the tale of Janice, the hands-down worst customer we have ever had at sbux. my very first encounter with her tipped me off that she was not v. pleasant. i was on bar, she ordered a soy no-foam latte. i started steaming a pitcher of soy milk. now, as a barista, it often behoves you to steam more milk than you immediately need, because then it will be ready for the next customer. so even though this woman did not want any foam on her latte, i steamed some foam because you never know, in five seconds i might receive an order for a grande soy extra-foam latte. so this woman sees me making foam and yells out, "oh no, i asked for no foam, you can just take all that foam off" okay, or i could do my job and pour the soy into your cup so that no foam will get in there in the first place, which is what we always do, you anal bitchy cow.

so it turns out this woman's name is Janice. i've served her many times since then and she never redeemed herself by being nice. one recent day, while i'm supervising, she announces to Yirga, who was on register, than our soy milk is too sweet (it has vanilla flavoring), and she can't drink it. so she whips out a box of unsweetened soy milk that she wants us to keep in our refrigerator to use for her soy (no foam!) lattes. right. because we are her personal servants and this sbux location is her personal kitchen. fine. unfortunately Yirga, who loves to please even the craggiest customers, says its no problem and promptly puts the soy in our fridge. i sort of roll my eyes but don't want to fight with Janice about it before checking with Tom to make sure that we are in fact unable to do this.

so a few days later i've checked with Tom and, surprise surprise, we're not allowed to store personal ingredients for customers (if she wanted to bring this soy milk every time she came in that would be one thing, still obnoxious, but feasible). apparently, Janice did not take to this news kindly. one day when i wasn't around she waltzed in and told Yirga that she was "the only one who gave a damn about her." Dan, another supervisor, tried to explain the policy to her and she said "no, i don't want to talk to that asshole, i want to talk to the manager." okay. Tom was in (of course) so he explains the policy to her, at which point Janice goes off on how obesity is a serious problem in this country and sbux is just making it worse by adding sugar to everything and you know "sugar is the second ingredient listed on that soy milk, the very next ingredient!" right, which says nothing about what percentage of the recipe it takes up. in fact, it turns out that our super sweet soy milk has only 1% more sugar than the regular milk.

what a pain in the ass! it's incidents like this that make me unable to imagine myself working at sbux may. one year is enough. on the other hand, events like this do bring out the satirical talents of the staff to wonderful effect. sometime before all this started actually, Dan decided that we should no longer call the soy milk soy milk, because of course, it's not milk at all. it's really just the juice pressed out of the soy bean so we should call it, you guessed it, soy juice. i swear to god, now every time i drink soy drinks (i got v. in to the soy cinnamon dolce latte, delicious) i feel like they taste juicy. oh juicy juicy soy juice. how we love you (and hate Janice).

if you want to hear more on the horror of Janice check out dan's side of the story

Thursday, March 09, 2006


A week ago yesterday i spotted my first daffodil foliage, and inspired by the coming season i bought variegated peach carnations at the supermarket. i spent a stupid amount of time mixing them up and arranging them to form a dome shape in a fishbowl like vase and while i was in the throes of my creative process i had the yet-to-be arranged stems in a big pitcher of water that tipped and spilled all over the floor, requiring much mopping, wiping, and swearing. but it was worth it because they look v. cheerful on the breakfast table.

today on the way into work i saw a front garden in Georgetown carpeted with crocuses and then, my v. first actual daffodil blossoms, fully open, yellow, and cheerful. today i wore no coat to work, spring is here, spring is here. i plan to cut some of our forsythia branches so they will bloom indoors (replacing the rapidly wilting carnations). i plan to replant the herb garden (i have already weeded about half of it). i feel much more in tune with the seasons this year, i think because i'm out of the big city. DC is a town of trees and gardens: i never remember seeing such beautiful fall foliage as i did this past autumn. plus with my early mornings at Starbucks i have become much more aware of subtle changes in light as the year moves ahead. yesterday it was light when i took my first break, and suddenly i could stand outside and enjoy the early morning again.

i didn't get in to Princeton, but i find it doesn't bother me. i figured i wasn't a perfect match there, and mainly applied because the location was perfect (a beautiful campus between New York and DC). now my only options are Harvard, Northwestern, and USC, that is, if one of them let's me in.

but it's hard to be pessimistic at this time of year. i am beginning to concoct hopeful schemes for next year, if i don't get in to grad school. i could live with my aunt and uncle in London and become something like a social secretary. i could tend bar in New York. i could move in with my sister in North Carolina. i could, i could . . .

this cheerful mood is no doubt helped along by the serious retail therapy i underwent in New York this past weekend. in between museum visits and Starbucks (wait, i thought that's what i did in DC . . . ) i bought a fabulous pair of cowboy boots, a gorgeous big black leather bag, a sweet light green twinset, and last but certainly not least, black pumps with ankle straps, just like the ones i loved and wore out many summers ago. in other words, my new wardrobe is well underway, so it is hard not to feel swept up in a tide of rejuvenation. its going to happen soon. by the end of the month i'll know what my future will look like.