Coffee Shop Employees

I write in two different local coffee shops.  I’ve always been good at working in public–the incidental noise around me is just the right volume to clear my mind and let me work well.

Most of the people working in both places are really nice.  But in one place the owner is a total crankpot.  He grows noticably irritated when the place gets busy (yes, apparently making money is bothersome to him).

At the other place there’s one worker who’s a complete dick.  When people ask for refills he doesn’t pour out the old coffee before adding new.  And he smirks as he hands it back to you.  He says stuff under his breath and then gets pissed when you can’t understand him.  Passive agressive Pete is what we call him.

I go there to work.  Not to talk.  I don’t need entertainment there, but these jokers are too much.

I had one job I wasn’t suited for:  The Gap.  At the time a good friend of mine got me that job I was done with my Ph.D. coursework, working on the dissertation, and consulting to school districts on literacy stuff.  But I figured it would be worth the discount to work there and maybe fun to do a job that didn’t require a heart and soul investment.  

Wrong.  Working with my friend and one of our managers was fun-lots of laughter, dancing to the repetitive soundtracks, all that stuff.  But the other managers?–the Gap Nazi’s were way too into their jobs.

As anyone knows, when you enter a Gap, the workers rush to say hello and ask if you need help (if they don’t, said employees are not following Gap pedagogy and should be reported immediately–in fact stop reading this, call the Gap and make the day of some full of verve manager by giving them someone to “target” with what amounts to a Gap inservice). 

When I shop, I find greeters annoying, always have.  So, I tended to hang back, wait to see if someone looked like they needed help, made eye-contact or grunted in my direction.  I didn’t see the point of pissing people off before they turned one neatly arranged table into a disaster area. 

But, I’m equally irritated when I can’t find clerks, so I wasn’t trying not to help, just trying to create less agressive shopping experience.

Well, my opinions were apparently not valid nor wanted.  One manager would call me over and say things like “I know you can do this…I’ve seen you greet people before, like two days ago when you said HI, that was awesome.  Maybe a little more of that.”  I knew what she was doing, praising the aspects of my work that were “on track” I did it daily to the teachers with whom I worked.  Trying to get them to change their approach to teaching reading…a little thing like that.  And now someone was doing it to me. 

So, I’d ramp up my greeting frequency.  Even with the scathing expressions from people who were better off opting to shop by catalog than go out and mingle with people like me.  It’s not hard to tell if a customer is the type to want to be greeted.  The pro-greeter customers looked at you, for one.  Big clue there.  Body language people.  A valuable tool.  I didn’t understand why we couldn’t use our judgement on who to approach with a cheerful hello.  But that wasn’t the rule of thumb.  It was greet at all costs.

Anyway, at some point–after I’d earned maybe 1000 bucks as a Gap employee, I quit.  It wasn’t that the work was below me, I’d do anything if I had to, and any business is important in its own way.  I do realize that.

But I was not a good employee–my folding technique?  If my greeting technique was haphazard, my folding prowess was scandal-quality bad.  Just ask my husband.  Worst was my nonchalant attitude.  It wasn’t fair to the managers–especially the one I became friends with.  At the Gap at that time, my name was probably passive agressive Kathie.

The point is, sometimes you’re just not cut out to a particular job.  Why does it take people so long to make that change.  Just quit for God sakes.  Especially if it’s a job that anyone above the age of 10 could rightfully do…quit with gusto, throw a tantrum, have fun with it.  It might be the only time in life you can actually just up and quit something….

Have you ever done a job you weren’t suited for?  How long before you realized then quit?


4 thoughts on “Coffee Shop Employees

  1. I know what you mean about certain customers being “pro-greeter” and others not. I myself prefer not to be greeted … except if I’m coming into a store to return something, in which case I am always looking for someone. And often there’s no one there.

    But really, even though I’m sort of anti-greeter, it’s not a big deal to have someone say ‘hi’ when I walk into a store. Even though it’s obviously fake friendliness. Better to be greeted than ignored.

    Of course, I’ve never had to work retail. I definitely am not cut out for that. I can’t cope with workgroup politics — the cliques, the talking-behind-the-back, the gossip — and I have a strong sense that I wouldn’t make it a week.

    But working in a coffeeshop? That’s a blast! Even the worst days aren’t too bad. Chatting with the customers is fun. And you get unlimited caffeine. If only it paid well…

  2. I’m a coffee-shop writer too. The best characters and conversation cadence come from overheard-coffee-shop chats. And I absolutely can not write in silence. In fact right now I have earphones on full blast AND I can hear the coffee-shop radio over the top…

    My worst job: engineering. But not just any engineering – high-tech. We made obscure computer chips for pieces of equipment not useful to anyone. It was completely meaningless and as high stress as any emergency room anywhere. It was not unusual to hear a boss chewing someone out for not being fast enough or responding quickly enough to an overhead page. Daily. I hated it so much I wanted to puke. I wanted to vomit purple grape juice all over the overzealous managers. Like the fairy tale in Stand By Me.

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