Sunday, November 23, 2008

Land of the Free

During the last 10 years, inevitably once in awhile I would be serving a customer who announces that they are from Seattle or Washington state, as though they are a special class of Starbuckian customer. If you are from these places, whatever you do when you are in Starbucks of "lesser" states, like say, Michigan, don't do this. It's embarrassing and unneccessary.

If I get a friendly vibe, though, I might mention that I'm from the Pac NW, too. But only if I'm hungry to touch base with a fellow Washingtonian or Pac NW person and talk Seattle talk with a "homie". You know, like, "hey, is the Ave still crazy like I remember it?" or " Did they finally finish the Burke-Gilman trail?".

Yesterday, a member of my Seattle "tribe" really embarrassed me. A partner was taking orders in the drive-through (DT), and tried to help an older person with an easier way to order a skinny latte. The customer yelled back at him that he was from Seattle and didn't need any lectures in how to talk Starbucks. And spent a good long minute being mean on the subject. All on a young man who was just trying to help, which is part of his job. I took over the DT and met the person at the window, who immediately told me he was from Seattle and was a regular at Pike Place, where Starbucks started.

At this point, it's hard to know what to do. Ten years of doing this job has shown me that angry people are not interested in listening, and are looking for a fight. He would be not receptive to hear any defense or explanation in his frame of mind, which seemed irrational to me. A few blogs ago, I talked about how the downturn in economical news has affected the general public, older retired people in particular. And how they take out their frustration on innocent by-standers, like your local Starbucks barista who gets paid peanuts.

I decided to not give the man the satisfaction of an arguement. His drink was free, which he did not deserve. I then told him that I used to live in Wallingford, and learned about Starbucks 23 years ago in the U-District. I wasn't my characteristic friendly self, but kept calm and neutral. My posture was upright, my arms folded, my smile gone. I did my best to look intimidating, as though I was looking down at a bug. He changed his tone with me from mean to grudging respect. I then told him I "understood", which is my way of saying "yeah, I get you all right". He tipped me a buck, I guess for my "understanding". He looked a little guilty as he handed it to me, it was his way of saying he was sorry. But I wasn't apologizing. No way.

The phenomenon of Washington state expatriots feeling entitled to special attention at a Starbucks really perturbs me. For all the Starbucks I've visited all over the nation, not once did I feel compelled to boast about my origin as though I was personally responsible for Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft all rolled into one. The success of those companies do not reflect on me. But my manners would. So, if you are a fellow "homie" from the land of Starbucks, please pass this along to the rest of the state, Seattle in particular: The rest of the U.S. of A. is not impressed with you. Be nice, sip your delicious custom-made six descriptor latte and tip well. Thank you for your understanding.

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