The other day I was at Starbucks (I know, I know…) getting my morning fix. I love Starbucks. Especially the one at the end of my street. I have said many times that it is like my Cheers, you know, where everybody knows your name and I am so grateful for this. When I first started my own business Starbucks was my respite and, some days, the gang at Starbucks were my only human contact during business hours.
On this particular day I was waiting at the bar for my drink. As usual, there was a huge crowd so I chatted with my favourite barista (Hi D!) while she steamed and brewed and poured. D is the best when it comes to service with a smile. She is genuine and funny and personable. She always remembers the details of her customer’s lives and makes friendly chatter while people wait.
While we chatted a woman came up to the bar and started speaking right through our conversation.
“Where’s my latte? Is it next?”
D turned to her with a smile and said, “Yup. Coming right up.”
“And the kids’ hot chocolate? Where is that? I’ve been waiting a while you know and my kids are getting impatient.”
“It’s here too. Just pouring the milk.” D patiently responded.
“The milk isn’t going to be too hot, is it?”
D turns to her customer and says, “It is 120o…”
Before she could even finish the woman interrupts with a snicker, “Well, what does that mean? Is it going to be hot or not?”
“It won’t be as hot as an adult drink. It is the same temperature as a kid’s hot chocolate usually is if you’ve ever had one before. We don’t make the kids drinks very hot.”
D hands over the woman’s drinks and she walks away with neither a thank you or even eye contact. I look at D and I feel this embarrassment searing through me. I apologize on her behalf. I apologize for every one of us on this side of the counter who has ever treated her that way.
D smiles and says, “Yah. You put an apron on and suddenly people think you are less-than.” (Actually, she said something far more profound but I can’t remember her wise words exactly.)
And you know what? I know she’s right. I have seen it happen many, many times. Not just at Starbucks but anywhere people are served by someone else. Even people I know and even a few I call friends have a tendency to talk down to service people and I am sick of it. D brightens my day. She smiles and jokes and works hard. She is a young woman on a path to a very bright future. She is in school and just starting her life. She is smart and funny. She has friends and a family just like we do.
But when she puts that apron on everything changes. To that lady D immediately became some faceless barista who is there to serve at all cost without feeling. She is expected to smile and patiently ignore rudeness and happily take on the side effects of other people’s moods. This is not about good or bad service, this is about human decency and respect.
I want that woman and all the other people who are rude and unappreciative to someone providing a service to know that your tone, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Not to D, her colleagues, or the other customers waiting patiently and gratefully to be served. So, just remember, next time you are greeted by a smiling friendly face serving you coffee, there is a real person behind that smile and they are working hard to serve you well. I implore you to smile back and brighten their day by being kind.
Have you ever experienced this? What did you do?