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Flashback Thursday!

I’ve decided, although I’ll probably forget almost immediately after writing this entry, that I will devote my primary entry on Thursdays to “flashbacks,” stories that happened before I got my blog, or stories that I just never bothered to blog about for one reason or another.

So, here it goes…

I used to work at Starbucks. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Even though the Starbucks Coffee Company seems like a completely horrible, soul-sucking corporate venture, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve actually spent more than a few days this summer contemplating going down to the branch I used to work at and begging for them to re-hire me.

That’s neither here nor there. The point is, I used to work there. Mostly on the weekends, and the trick (and probably the reason why I liked it so much) was that we worked at a branch in the middle of our town’s industrial park. Hence, nobody is ever around during the evenings and weekends when I worked. Weekday mornings, however, are insane. They’re actually a big part of the reason I quit; on the rare occasions I had to work a weekday morning, followed by going to class, I was prepared to slit my wrists.

This isn’t a story about that, though.

This is a story about a Sunday afternoon, when I had a pretty long shift. I was working with Laurie, who was pretty much a housewife who worked at Starbucks because she was bored (both of her kids were in college). She was the shift manager, and it was just the two of us on duty. On weekends, we never need more than two people on at a time.

Around 2 or 3, we had a sudden and enormous influx of people. I’m not sure the specifics, but it was pretty clear that a soccer game or some other sporting event had let out. The soccer dads, cell phones in hand, rude kids demanding hot chocolates in tow, were swarming. Soccer dads aren’t bad—their orders are usually pretty simple. Sometimes, though, they’ll throw you a curve ball: “Yeah, tall hot chocolate and a no-foam soy grande latté with three shots of espresso and a shot of Irish crème.” Once you translate that, in the proper order, it takes you approximately eight months to produce such an irritating drink. And, after all that, it probably tastes like ass. Come on, soy and Irish crème?

The soccer dads were followed immediately by a group of teenage cheerleaders, who were either cheering at the kids’ soccer game for some reason or had just been released from a practice of their own. Teenage cheerleaders order nothing but Frappuccinos. Trust me. Nothing wrong with Frappuccinos—they’re actually the only drinks Starbucks makes that don’t make me want to cut out my tongue so as to prevent me from ever tasting anything again.

The problem with Frappuccinos is they take a loooong time to make. You have to mix everything meticulously, then you have to blend it, then you have to pour it, and then (usually) add whipped cream and a topping of some sort. They aren’t difficult, mind you; they’re just very time-consuming.

So, here we are, with this mega-line, and Laurie is trying her best to keep up with it. What am I doing? I’ve just been assigned to take care of The Worst Customer in the Entire History of the Known and Possibly Also the Unknown Universe™.

What’s so wrong with this woman? Considering it’s the entire reason I am telling this story, I suppose I may as well tell you.

Initially, she asked for two drinks (she was with another woman, who seemed incredibly embarrassed the entire time): a tall mocha Frappuccino and a grande caramel Frappuccino. Not complicated. Pretty simple, in fact. So, I went and made them quickly and then presented them to Evil Monster Lady of Pain.

Pleasant Lady took her caramel Frappuccino and started sucking it down like it was an 8-ball. Monster Lady looked at her mocha Frappuccino like I had taken a shit in it (which, being a mocha Frappuccino, probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark as far as suspicions go).

“Where’s the whipped cream?” she demanded.

“Mocha Fraps don’t come with whipped cream unless you ask for them,” I responded.

“But aren’t there supposed to be chocolate sprinkles on top?” she asked innocently.

“I—” I was about to scold her when I realized she had probably intended to order a Chocolate Brownie Frap. I suggested maybe that was what she wanted.

“That was what I ordered,” she said.

The customer is always right. “Of course you did,” I said. “My mistake.”

She glared at me. Suddenly, I was the enemy, despite the fact that she and I both knew very well that it was her mistake.

So, I went and made another Frappuccino. I tried not to trip over Laurie, who was huddled underneath the counter, cradling a box of soy milk and muttering something in a Slavic-sounding language. She was not dealing well with the influx of customers; I was taking my time. I was still new, so it wasn’t about speed: it was about satisfaction.

When I had finished making her second Frappuccino, the lady asked, “Why does it look so…brown?”

“Because of all the coffee and chocolate in it,” I explained.

“I thought it was supposed to be white,” she said.

“Only our crème Fraps are white,” I said. “Those are milk-based; the one you ordered is coffee-based.”

“Oh,” she said with serious disappointment. I realized at this point that what she seemed to want was a chocolate crème Frappuccino, but she wasn’t making me do it over again, and I certainly wasn’t offering.

“Okay,” I said and gave her the total on the register. When I looked up after reading from the total, I realized that she was gone. Not out of the store; she was no thief. She just has the attention-span of a gnat, so she had wandered off to one of the shelves and was searching for some sort of horrible-tasting candy that we sold.

I looked at Pleasant Lady, who shrugged and gave me a sheepish look.

Eventually, Monster Lady came back with a couple of chocolate-covered graham crackers.

“I want these,” she said, “and a lemon bar.”

“Oh…kay,” I said and looked over at Laurie’s station. The line was stretching almost to the door. Nobody dared get into my line. Somehow, they knew.

I added the chocolate-covered graham crackers and the lemon bars, and I swear she bought some other crap, but I don’t remember what. The total was 20-something dollars.

Monster Lady handed me a Starbucks card. Cool, easy transaction—I wouldn’t even have to wait for the computer to call up the credit card company for approval.

And then the computer vomited out a receipt and gave me a message: “Insufficient funds.”

The receipt said there was a total of $1.87 on the card.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” I said, “this card doesn’t have enough on it.”

“Oh,” she said, smiling. “I must have given you the wrong one. Here.”

She handed me yet another Starbucks card, identical to the first, and I ran it through. Again, insufficient funds. This one had $5.32 on it.

“I thought that had more on it,” Monster Lady explained and handed me yet another Starbucks card, which had $4.12 on it.

And she kept going. I had a total of six cards, which maxed out the available slots for payment type in the computer, and she was still coming up short. One of them had as low as 37 cents on it.

Meanwhile, Laurie was tearing her hair out trying to make Frappuccinos, lattés, and take people’s orders. Man, this was not going well. I needed to finish with this lady so I could help Laurie out.

Now, the magically crappy part about the Starbucks computer is that it won’t compute the amount that’s on a card if you run it through. It simply says, “Insufficient funds,” gives you a receipt with the amount the card has on it, and you have to manually program it to put in the amount you want.

Bear in mind that I’m an idiot, so I sort of lost track of the cards after awhile. Monster Lady kept insisting, or at least kept misleading me into believing, that there was one magical card that had at least $25, so I wasn’t being careful about placing the receipts with each card.

So, when it became abundantly clear that she had run out of Starbucks cards, I had to use all of them to try and reach the total, which meant I had to run them all through again, so I knew which card had which amount, so I could program that amount into the computer, so I could finish the transaction and possibly follow this woman out to her car with a cricket bat.

I ran them all through, and then I ran them through again and programmed the amount they needed, and we were a little over a dollar short.

So, Monster Lady says, “No problem.” She reaches into her magical purse again, and I assumed there would yet another Starbucks card.

Instead, she hands me a $20 bill. Cash.

Instead of jumping over the counter and murdering her like any self-respecting U.S. citizen would have, I maintained composure. After all, I work for Starbucks. It is very difficult to Build the Third Place™ when you are Murdering Customers™. I entered that the remaining amount would be paid in cash. And then the computer took a shit all over me, saying that I had exceeded the amount of payment types. Not only did it explain this, it also canceled the transaction.

“LAURIE!” I shouted at an inappropriate volume, causing Monster Lady to flinch.

“What?” Laurie gasped. She was out of breath from her current acrobatics, and she had barely made a dent in the line, which was only getting longer.

At that point, the phone rang.

“SHIT!” Laurie and I agreed.

“Do you want to get it, or shall I?” I asked Laurie. She gave me that woman look that I’ve mentioned on this blog before. It’s usually reserved for significant others, but I find myself getting it from women who bare no significant relationship to me at all. This should probably be telling me something.

“Excuse me a minute,” I said to Monster Lady and answered the phone.

It was a fellow coworker, the one who would be relieving my shift in less than half an hour.

“I’m running late,” she explained, “so I’ll probably be in around 3:30.”

“Great!” I said and hung up on her.

“We need more whole milk!” Laurie shouted at me.

I looked from the phone to Monster Lady to the register to Pleasant Lady to Laurie. “I’ll get it!”

I ran into the back and sobbed quietly under the guise of getting more whole milk. Laurie ran back, too. Apparently, not only did we need whole milk, we needed a brief commiseration session.

I sort of ruined the fun of that when she asked, “Who called?”

“Oh, it was R.C.,” I said. “She’s going to be a little late.”

Laurie almost shit herself. Instead, she beat her head against the freezer door in frustration. “Fuck!” she explained. It was the first time I’d heard her use that particular word.

We both returned to the counter, heads hanging, and I said to Monster Lady, “Listen, we’ve got too many pay types. We can only do six, and you have seven.”

Monster Lady huffed noisily and said, “Fine. I already gave you a 20. Just take the rest off the card.”

“You mean the cards?” I sniped.

Monster Lady then gave me The Look. Twice in one day—damn, I’m good.

“Fine,” I said, and I ran one of the cards and did the rest in cash.

She was about to leave when she said, “Oh, I also wanted a blueberry scone.”

“What?” I said, my face falling.

“I said that earlier,” Monster Lady said incredulously.

“No, you didn’t,” I said.

Monster Lady was stunned. She looked over at Pleasant Lady. “He’s right, you didn’t.”

Way to go, Pleasant Lady. I was going to ask her for her number. Instead, I rang up the scone and gave it to her. She paid using one of the larger cards, thank the Lord. And then she left, which was the happiest moment of that day.

With Monster Lady vanquished and the kingdom saved, I worked the bar for Laurie and we got the entire pack of people out in less than five minutes. Hooray for unity!

But Monster Lady’s still out there… Somewhere…

She’s the reason why I’m never working in retail again.

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  • i currently work at starbucks, and i can completely understand all too well! your story was awesome. thanks for the laugh.

    jen 17 years ago Reply Link

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