Sure, it started as a joke. Many good things do, though, and this is one of those things. Okay, what is it?
These are the entries for my free book/guide, What to Demand When You’re Demanding. I may or may not seek to publish this beyond my blog, even though I’m sure it would catapult me to certain stardom. I’m hoping that as I write, people will start telling their own stories and adding comments, arguments, and other silliness. Because let’s face it: people are silly. And demanding people are extremely silly. I hope to put up one post a week, on Fridays.
So without further whatever…WHAT TO DEMAND WHEN YOU’RE DEMANDING
CHAPTER 1 — ALIENATING YOUR BARISTA
It’s a busy, chaotic world, and it only seems to get worse over time (See: Entropy). We often feel like we’re exploding out of cannons just to keep up with the times. If you haven’t ever exploded out of a cannon, I highly recommend you include it on your bucket list. I haven’t done it myself, but I’d love to hear how it goes. Instead, I ply my body with copious amounts of caffeine, usually in the form of an espresso drink, but in a pinch I’ll go for iced tea, too. Just remember, there are way more bits of caffeine in a 1-ounce shot of espresso than in 12 ounces of iced tea. If I’m looking for productivity I grab a latte so I don’t have to consume 15 glasses of iced tea.
This makes the local coffeehouse an important place in contemporary American culture, because when we’re beyond busy it totally makes sense to drive, bike, or ride to some establishment, stand in line, order a drink, and wait around to get that drink than it does to make coffee at home. Besides, the stuff the professionals tastes better, flavored fake milk that you can get at the grocery store notwithstanding.
As we’re busy, it makes me incredulous that these baristas produce latte drinks as slowly as possible. You’d think “pissing off customers” was part of their job description. We paying customers need to keep them on their toes, so here are some guidelines for indicating that we are more important than they are, even if we really need those espresso drinks.
Use as many convoluted words to describe the drink and that may be unfamiliar to the barista–“Is there an in between size between medium and large?” “Mezzo” is a great word to use here, because it’s Italian, just like espresso. Make sure you frown or pout when the employee tells you sizes are limited to the cups they have. And then plunk down your 711 Big Gulp and ask if they can fill that. Bonus points if your cup looks skeevy or inordinately worn out.
Insist on an odd number of espresso shots–Most lattes and cappuccinos are made with double shots, and the machine baristas use is generally set up to make two shots at a time. Asking for three shots means they have to waste a glass, so it’s a nice little kick in the ass that you’re the one in control, not them. Any coffeehouse that moans about going out of business with all of the wasted product is a poorly run business and deserves to fail.
Demand only absolute perfection–Send back any drink that has glopped over the side of the cup or foamed out through the plastic lid of a to-go container, because while you want the caffeinated goodness inside you, you don’t want hot sticky liquid on yourself. If the barista knew how to do her job, she’d know how to walk a drink over to you without spilling a drop. But definitely also grouse if there isn’t enough coffee in your cup. That’s just shortchanging the customer. You deserve better.
Answer any and all phone calls, even when in line to order–You’re here because you’re busy, right? Demonstrate how in demand you are while you queue up to place your drink specifications. Is coffee really more important than missing a business call? No, never. So finish your important work–it’s not like the barista is paid by the number of drinks made. He’s still getting paid while he waits for you. And you can communicate to him nonverbally that you have significant, significant things to do.
Take up as much space as possible–Does your favorite coffeehouse have seating for would-be writers, students, and friends commiserating? Feel free to drag a couple of tables together for you and your purse, briefcase, backpack, or newspaper. You’re making a workspace for yourself, and the drinks you procure are a kind of rent. So since you’ve paid for the right to sit down, get as comfortable as you can. It may look like a comfortable sofa for three people, but when you’re on it, it’s your private research space. You got there first, so the tabletop is all yours. Besides, communal tables are weird.
Beware going outside of acceptable temperature ranges–Rogue baristas like to get back at true caffeine connoisseurs because we put too much pressure on their skills, and let’s have a little come to Jesus here, people don’t become baristas because they’re riddled with ambition. So they make the coffee boiling hot, or they overfroth the milk in an attempt to shred the roof of one’s mouth. Make sure you don’t fall prey to their machinations! Test the side of the cup with your palm and refuse to sip until the proper temperature, about 110 degrees, has been reached. On the other side of this issue, return any coffee or espresso drink that is too tepid, and if you receive resistance, offer that you’re concerned about the health consequences of drinking something with milk that is at the wrong temperature. Dangle a health code violation in their face, and you’ll get your way.
Complain about the music–It’s a thing that coffeehouses have music, and except for Starbucks locations, that music is usually dictated by the baristas themselves. Baristas like to show off how cool and hip they are with the random, obscure music they play, like Deadmau5 and Harvey Danger. Begin by sighing and telling them you don’t like the music, because how can they rebut that? It’s your opinion. If they resist changing the music, sigh again and ask them to turn down the volume instead. Either way, they’ll think twice about blaring some acoustic crap from Michael Hedges.
There are other tactics to take in getting the best products and experience out of your local coffeehouse staff, and those are detailed in CHAPTER SIX: DEMANDING THE BEST FROM RETAIL.