Having worked in customer service roles for years now, it continues to amaze me how unbelievably rude people can be.
I’ve worked in shoe shops, newsagents, department stores, Argos, bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Currently, I remain in the latter, serving up caffeine injected beverages to the residents and guests of my city on a daily basis.
Now, I love my job, 99% of the time I do. Okay, 85%. Maybe 60/40.
The trouble is, it’s made by the customers. If I have shit coworkers and a messy store and an angry manager, I can take it as long as the customers are being nice and understanding and don’t think they’re the only person wanting a cup of coffee that day.
Since I first went to a coffee shop when I was 19 (yes it took me that long), I’ve loved them. I love the idea of comfy chairs and people reading books or typing on their laptops, meeting friends or just on a break. I love the different names and faces and characters you meet every day. I started working in one and it fueled my love affair with these tucked away paradises so much that I now want one of my very one. In a bookshop, of course.
Every morning, owing mostly to the fact that my first seven customers are the same seven elderly men every morning who are all friendly and know me by name and we ask about each others days, I’m in a good mood. I start the day positively.
After my magic seven, I’d say it takes less than an hour before someone has pissed me off. Someone has spoken to me like I’m one of those machines you speak into and voila, your crap excuse for a cappuccino is poured into a plastic cup and off you go.
Here are some other things that customers do that just make my day;*
Ignoring me. Ignoring the fact they’re in a queue. Ignoring the fact they’re in front of other people willing to talk to me.
People on their phones who glare angrily at me for interrupting their conversations.
The finger. No, I don’t mean the middle finger. I mean the index finger that goes hand in hand with the pursed lip because they’re not ready to engage me in social activity yet.
People who throw money at me. I am not a stripper.
People who let you make their entire drink and then as you go to put the lid on say; “Oh did I say mocha? I meant latte. Skinny. And decaf.”
Any order that begins ‘soya’, ‘decaf’, or ‘tall’. **
Everyone in this world makes a snap judgement. A decision is made in a millisecond what you think of a person. And if I say ‘hello’ to someone and their response is a grunt that somewhat resembles the word ‘coffee’, I immediately don’t like them and all hope of me making small talk with them is gone.
Now don’t think I’m just a massive grump who hates everyone. (That’s for another day.) There are a large number of people who come into that store and make my job seem worth it after all. There are the aforementioned magic seven. There is the older chap who comes in daily and his drink and his swirly wirly cake (which is actually a pan au raisin, but he’s nice, so we won’t correct him). There are the two men in sharp business suits who appear like your average office wankers, but who make my day every time I see them, always gossiping away, always with some new theory, or news on his nephew’s antics for me. There are Ray and Angie, who I don’t mind naming because if there were ever two of my favourite customers in any job I’ve ever had, they would be it. Always friendly, always chatty, they know more about my life than my own mother.
There are tourists who come in and ask me questions about my city, which I’m happy to oblige because I’m so in love with it and love seeing other people fall for it too. Americans especially. They have a tough deal when it comes to being tourists, there’s a stigma against them in many places, but let me tell you, they’re the best I’ve come across. They’re the politest, the friendliest and the funniest too.
Even before I worked in hospitality I would never dream of dolling out some of the abuse I get. And having worked in a restaurant, I can say that coffee shops have it worse. I work for a chain, and we’re expected to be just that. Corporate robots, churning out cups of coffee as fast as it pleases you. Excuse me for having a personality.
I’ve left and returned to this job more times than I remember moving house, because the good guys keep on pulling me back.
I maintain that coffee shops are wondrous places, that have a magical element to them. I’ve seen people become best friends, I’ve seen people fall in and out of love, I’ve seen people get engaged. I’ve seen women have babies and watched those babies grow into five year old kids with personalities, and they’ve grown up knowing me as someone consistent in their life.
I could let the bad guys ruin it for me, I could walk away and find a job that to me, is only okay. But I won’t do that because I love my job, and thank those people who make it for me.
*If you didn’t know, that was sarcasm, and if you didn’t know, you probably shouldn’t have continued reading.
**The only exceptions to these rules are if you are lactose intolerant, pregnant or blind and don’t know that you haven’t walked in to S-bucks.