Don’t let pre-caffeination crankiness get in the way of your better judgment (and people skills).
Credit: Zhang Peng/Getty Images

Ah, Starbucks. Whether it’s for a humble tall Pike Place roast or an elaborate venti caramel-extra-whip-extra-syrup Frappuccino, there’s a good chance you’ve moseyed into one of the over 24,000 stores worldwide. After all, Starbucks has been serving the world caffeinated goodness since 1971.

Like many others, I was drawn to the majestic green two-tailed mermaid logo, and gave this establishment two years of my dedicated service (i.e. I used to work there). And while I learned how to properly froth milk for the perfect cappuccino, the ingredients of the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte, and the importance of competent customer service… I also learned all of the ways in which customers can make a barista’s job/general existence something of a nightmare.

Of course we’ve had those customers who come through the drive-thru wearing horse masks, customers who bring in their desktop computers turning the Starbucks into their personal office, and customers who felt compelled to engage in a pool noodle fight in the store, but those aren’t the day-to-day occurrences that slowly grind you down. No, the things that will break a Starbucks barista are far more subtle. So for your general awareness, here are a few easy tips on how to be the type of customer that the keeper of your coffee will enjoy seeing.

1. If your name is misspelled, please do not have a cow. (We’ve got enough milk in the store )

Just to clear the record once and for all: I promise, the baristas don’t purposefully misspell your name on your cup. In the hustle of Starbucks’ peak busy times (summer Frappuccino happy hour, holidays, or any given morning) our priority is making a delicious drink for you, not competing in a spelling bee or putting too much thought into where your name has one T or two. Bustling customers, the high pitch sound of milk frothing, and a combination of all the beeps and buzzes echoing throughout the store doesn’t help either. It’s not a personal attack or deliberate negligence… and in the grand scheme of your day, it’s probably nothing to get upset over or demand the manager for. Honestly, I’ve accidentally written “Joe” on a cup instead of “Elizabeth.” It happens! As long as your beverage you get your beverage and it’s delightful, have a good chuckle over the misspelling and enjoy the rest of the day.

2. If you’re ordering in the store, please add your own stir-ins.

Anything that is on the condiment stand (sugar, artificial sweeteners, cream, etc.) is there for you to use at your discretion and to your specific liking. Please spare your barista the duty of adding 3.5 Splendas to your coffee, four dashes of cinnamon powder, and stirring *exactly* 21 times. You’re able to customize your cup of joe however you like and you’ll probably do a far better job nailing it than a barista who literally does not know you—just make sure you ask for a little room for cream.

3. If you want to order something from the “secret menu” please know the recipe.

Honestly, the secret menu* as a whole can be a giant pain, but I’m here to help you piss off your barista a little less. If you order a Cap’n Crunch Frappuccino (because you found an Internet hack about how you can get it off the Starbucks “secret menu”) with no further explanation, you’ll most likely be greeted with a blank stare of confusion. Have you seen the completely-public-not-secret menu? Your Starbucks barista has already memorized more drink recipes than you care to think about… just because they don’t instantly know the one off-menu beverage YOU personally want at that red hot moment, doesn’t make them incompetent—it just means you may need to be friendly and help them out. More than likely, they’re going to be happy to make whatever you want. You might simply have to order it using some “Starbucks” lingo.

For example, if you would like a Grande “Butterbeer Frappuccino,” ask for a crème Frappuccino base, 3 pumps of caramel, 3 pumps toffee nut, and caramel drizzle on top. (Whatever source told you that the drink exists will also likely provide some insight as to what’s in it) As long as you’re considerate and work with the barista to help them know what you want, you’re gonna get a fun drink and everyone wins.

*Also: Because most of the secret menu drinks have additional pumps/drizzles/flavors, there may be an extra charge. So feel free to express yo-self, but don’t be mad when the add-ons add up.

4. If you do go off-menu with your order and don’t like it, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t complain about it.

You ordered a green-tea-toffee-nut-raspberry-earl-grey-tea-latte and you don’t like it? Yeah, no kidding. Keep in mind that any “secret menu” recipes are not developed by Starbucks, they’re developed by… you, creative customers. Your baristas will happily provide recommendations and suggestions to aid your ordering, but they’re ultimately not responsible for your frustration if the custom drink you specifically ask for is gross. Taking anger out on the barista isn’t going to help anything.

5. Don’t be rude.

I think we can all agree that there’s nothing worse than plain, unwarranted rudeness. A little secret about Starbucks: During employee training, we’re taught how to connect with a customer—so trust me, we want to connect! Next time you follow the green light and go for a caffeine fix, look your barista in the eye rather than scrolling through your Facebook feed. If it’s not too busy, ask them how their day is going. If you visit a particular store regularly, get to know the baristas. It’s a small gesture, but it honestly goes a long way.

Looking back on my Starbucks experience, I still remember individual customer interactions that were exceptionally lovely. (Unfortunately, I remember the ones that weren’t so pleasant as well.) So next time you enter a Starbucks (or any coffeehouse), remember to be kind, show patience, and enjoy your beverage!