How Not to Get Decaf: As Told by a Starbucks Employee

In the six months I have worked for Starbucks, my mind has been blown multiple times by the number of inconsiderate and down-right insulting people who frequent the coffee chain and treat us baristas with little to no respect. There are definitely more nice customers than there are rude ones. But the few who lose all sense of manners when they step up to the counter or enter the drive-thru could be enough to ruin a barista’s day. It’s possible to have a wonderful Starbucks experience every time without upsetting your barista. Here is how to get exactly what you want without being unintentionally rude and having your barista hit that sneaky decaf button.

Hang up your phone

Hello? Hi there. I am a person standing in front of you trying to help you get your drink and move the line along as efficiently as possible. Talking on your phone while trying to order (or worse, trying to order in the drive-thru window) will do nothing but aggravate your barista and can result in us pressing that sneaky decaf button. It is basic people skills to pay attention to the person in front of you first, then calling whoever it is back after placing your order. We baristas actually enjoy having friendly conversations with our customers! And, don’t even think about complaining about your drink order if you told the barista while on the phone. You will get decaf.

The magic words

One day when I was about four months in to my job, an older women came in to my store and ordered an extra extra extra extra extra dry cappuccino. (For those who don’t know, “dry” means with more foam than milk.) She was leaning over the counter watching and demanding me to steam more milk over to add to her drink. Just the foam on top of the pitcher. Not only did she make me steam milk over five times, I had a line of customers impatiently waiting for this woman to finish her ridiculous demands. When all was done, still with a look of dissatisfaction she left the store without a “Please,” “Thank you,” or “Have a nice day.” These customers can ruin the fun of being a barista and leave us feeling belittled and irritated. I think I speak for all fast food employees when I say that customers who are gracious and kind are much more pleasant to serve. A nice customer can even make our day! Thankfully there is more good than bad in the world and there are more people who say thank you and fewer like the older woman.

Speak up

Besides what you say, it is how you say it. If your cashier asks you a million questions about your drink, it is only because we want to make sure it is exactly what you want. If we have to repeatedly say “What?” when your ordering, speak up. We don’t care if you have to yell your order, just say everything so that we can hear it. The key to making sure your beverage is the way you like it is by telling the cashier clearly so they can mark the cup and hand it to the barista making the drinks. Sorry folks, but if you cannot speak at an audible volume, you’re getting whatever I hear you say. This also applies to when we ask for your name. Don’t give your barista an attitude if he/she asks you to spell it a second time. This is Starbucks’ way of adding a personal touch to each drink. If your name comes out wrong every time you order, stop rolling your eyes and speak up.


Here is a fact: Starbucks baristas are people, not coffee-making, Frappuccino-blending, robot super-humans. Being patient covers many different problem areas in the coffee-shop world. For example, waiting to scan your Starbucks app until the cashier is ready so you don’t accidentally walk away without paying.

Another huge scenario is when a store is under staffed. There could be a time when there are only three or four baristas trying to do everything all at once. That being said, mistakes will happen; lines will get long; wait times will increase. The only thing more annoying than an impatient customer is a customer who is so impatient they keep feeling the need to yell, “Is that mine? Make sure you shake that iced tea extra well!” or “Hey! This is taking forever!” Take a deep breathe there, ma’am. Yelling intolerably at your baristas is not going to make us move any faster, it’s just rude. In the case of a drive-thru, if you place an order with eight different drinks with different modifications, do not start banging on the window and expect your order to be ready in less than 60 seconds. Banging on the window or honking your horn=decaf.

Again, it is all about simple, basic people skills and elementary table manners. With a little patience, your experience will be much smooth and enjoyable.

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