Friday, October 26, 2012


I have been working at Starbucks for barely more than a month now.  It's hard work but I really enjoy it.  Certainly it keeps my mind busy and working all the time.

It's a really interesting environment, particularly since I'm working in the Seattle area, where Starbucks first got it's start.  What I didn't realize about Starbucks is how full and part time work goes.  If you are barista you are working what most jobs would call part time hours (generally somewhere from 20-30 hours a week).  However, you do get benefits and basically you are considered full time.  A part time employee would basically be someone who worked under 20 hours a week.  This is literally true, but it seems in practice that's how it works out.  Then above the barista there are shift supervisors, assistant store managers, and store managers.

The really fun thing is that even the store manager will work the floor with you when it's busy.  There are three "positions" on the floor: bar, ringing (cash register), and floating.  On bar you make the drinks, simple enough in theory.  In my opinion it takes the longest to learn because you are creating an entirely new skill set at first.  You need how to steam milk, pull shots, pump syrups, the correct order for all of the above, you do teas, ice drinks, frappucinos, and (the worst) smoothies.  On top of all that you need to know all the drink recipes (including strange exceptions), the order that you make a drink in, you have to juggle preparing two drinks at once, and you need to hand out those drinks to the customers and always have a smile on your face.  It's our policy that if we get a drink wrong then we will remake it, immediately.  It's nice because you can always say: How many pumps of syrup go in this strange specialty drink and you'll get an answer and a smile from the other partners (which is what they have us call our coworkers).

Ringing in my opinion is the easiest by far.  Once you learn the menus then you can fly through them.  The only difficulty is writing both the cup and putting it into the system, but as long as you can recall what you just wrote then you're fine.  I'm particularly good at ringing, so I end up on register a lot, which is fine, I don't mind.  The longest thing it took me to learn there was all the abbreviations for drinks, because there are many many many.

Floating is where they started me and I understand why.  It seemed remarkably simple to me at first, but there is a nuance to it that is why most shift supervisors float, versus ringing or bar.  When you're floating you are putting food in the oven, pouring drip coffees, restocking, helping prepare the bar person's milks (if they're swamped), and double ringing.  There's a lot to do and prioritizing is key, but unlike on bar, there is no exactly set order that you're supposed to prioritize, which is where it gets tricky.

I love my partners on the job, because they are exactly that.  You know that if you leave a mess from food items when you're floating then the next person who is floating is going to have to clean it up, and that's not fair to them.  We switch positions on the floor constantly.  I have been on register for four hours straight, but I have also floated for half an hour, been on bar for a fifteen minutes, and then on register for fifteen minutes. Where your shift supervisor assigns you all depends on what type of crowd there is.  And since you could be going to any position at any time it really pays to keep a clean work area.  I was about to leave today and had been working bar so when my replacement showed up I knew she needed four gallons of milk to stock her fridge, so I still offered to do that for her before I left.

I am having a lot of fun, but all of the hard work has made me seriously look at the distribution of wealth in America.  I'm not saying doctors and engineers and etc shouldn't make a lot of money because of their skillset.  However, I know how hard I work and I know how much I make and the difference seems hugely unfair.  I suddenly understand what it means to be working class.  It means you work your ass off and you still won't have very much money in the end.  It makes me understand why some people want to climb corporate ladders to have money.  I don't think I could ever bring myself to do that though.  Where I am means I get to see people's days just get that little much better and it makes me happier.  Yes, it's only coffee, but these days there's almost no such thing as only coffee.

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