There must be something in the Starbucks employee manual about being “friendly” to customers. I wouldn’t know I never worked there, although I am extremely curious to find out what this part of the training entails. At our corner Starbucks, where I frequent regularly (though I really do so only to take advantage of their air conditioning on hot days), I often find myself having déjà vu conversations with the baristas. That might be putting it nicely, what I really mean is that we literally have the same conversation over and over again! I have concluded that this is because they are following their management instructions to be “friendly.” Their sense of humanity doesn’t have anything to do with it – are they really interested in “Where I am going?” or “What I do for living?” I don’t think so. If they were genuinely interested in having a polite conversation with me I think that they would remember that we’ve been through the same dance together loads of times and that I’ve already told them my name, my first pet’s name, where I work, and even the whole confusing part of my job about being a “student” and a “teacher” at the same time. Not to mention that I order the same drink every single time— maybe that should be what they are paying attention to?
I have never worked in Starbucks but I have worked as a barista and I know that remembering the specific drink orders of Regulars makes you a quickly beloved part of their everyday life. I don’t think that they wanted me to be a great conversationalist and they certainly didn’t want another therapist, although being polite was a plus. They really just wanted me to make them a damn good coffee! And that is something that I always complied with.
Maybe I’m just cynical, but something about programmed friendliness just rubs me the wrong way.