Top 10 Struggles of Being a Barista


Joshua Fukumae

The almighty Siren with her infinite wisdom.

By Josh Fukumae, Staff Writer

I’ve been slaving away under the watchful eye of the almighty Siren (working at Starbucks) for about five months now. Although I love my job (for the most part), there are many difficulties and struggles that come along with being a barista at Starbucks. Here are ten things that I have had to learn to deal with since I first put on that green apron.

1.) 3 a.m. opening shifts

I get it. People need their coffee. I’m a night person and self-diagnosed insomniac, and I find it extremely difficult to wake up so early in the morning. Before working at Starbucks, I would often go to sleep at 3 a.m. I’ve been able to get used to it, by forcing myself to go the sleep earlier and setting multiple alarms. However, the struggle is still very real, and I find myself in an almost zombie-like state for the first couple of hours of my shift. The free coffee also helps.

2.) “I wanted that hot/iced …

No matter how many times I repeat back a customer’s order, some customers seem to like to change their mind as soon as they receive their drink. I always try to remember to ask a customer if they want their drink hot or iced, and it has definitely become second nature. However, if your drink is made incorrectly it is my job as a to make the moment right and to make sure that you are satisfied and enjoy your drink. It can be a little frustrating when I confirmed that you wanted a hot drink, but you get mad at me because you asked for an iced one when I know that you didn’t.

3.) Spilling Coffee and making messes

I make a lot of messes, not going to lie. Whether it be dropping coffee grounds all over the counter, to whipped cream canisters exploding everywhere, or spilling the caramel sauce everywhere except the bottle that it’s supposed to go into. This is a struggle that all baristas have dealt with at some point in time, especially during those morning rushes where you have a hundred things to do and have to try to multi-task. Just make sure to clean up your messes so your fellow baristas don’t get too mad at you.

4.) Working at a drive-thru store

My heart goes out to all of my fellow partners who work at stores with a drive-thru. When I first started working the drive-thru, I found myself extremely nervous and flustered, and the rude customers didn’t help. It’s a constant struggle of dealing with impatient customers, and making sure that they get everything that they ordered. I usually work the drive-thru during the weekend morning rushes, and am absolutely drained afterwards. Although working the drive-thru has gotten easier, I still find it to be a challenge.

5.) Insanely rude customers

Although I have a lot of polite, understanding customers, the rude ones definitely can get you feeling down and ruin your whole day. I’ve had customers throw handfuls of change at me, scold me because their drink was taking too long to be made, and people who just have a bad attitude and want to take it on you. Although I sometimes want to give them a smart remark back, I realized that learning to deal with rude people will help to make me a more understanding customer and even a better person in the long run.

6.) Crazy complicated orders

Yes, I understand that you want a “tall, triple shot, soy, stirred caramel macchiato, with five pumps of vanilla, and extra caramel drizzle at 150 degrees,” but please don’t get angry with me if I ask you to repeat certain parts of the order. My brain can only process information so fast, and I just want to make sure that you get the exact drink that you ordered.

7.) People not knowing what they are ordering

There are many people who don’t understand the sizes that Starbucks offers or have questions about certain drinks and how they are made. That’s perfectly fine. I understand that the sizes can be a bit confusing, and I applaud people who genuinely care about what goes into their favorite drinks and how they are made. However, I feel like some people don’t know anything about coffee, and all they know is what they’ve heard from others or seen in movies. I once had a customer who ordered a cappuccino, and when he got his drink he angrily came up to me and asked what “all this foamy stuff is, I just wanted some coffee.” It was obvious that he didn’t know that cappuccinos come with foam, and it turns out that he just wanted a cup of Pike Place.

8.) Coffee runners

These are the people who get out of work to come grab their whole office coffee. They usually come in early in the morning and have a huge list of drinks, pastries, and sandwiches that they need for their coworkers. This can really be difficult when we have a long line of customers waiting behind this one person ordering for ten people. However, I notice that these designated coffee runners are usually pretty polite and patient, as this gives them an excuse to ditch work for a bit, so that helps.

9.) Asking for a water with 

As a barista, I don’t mind giving out free waters. I understand that coffee makes you dehydrated, that you have thirsty kids, or that you just want some water. Order as many waters as you want, and I’ll happily make them. It doesn’t cost me anything, and is the easiest drink to make. However, what really irritates me is when customers expect me to put some lemonade, strawberry puree, or some other addition to their water and get it free of charge. I once had a customer in the drive-thru only order a venti water with three scoops of matcha powder. Nothing else. Not only was I a little disgusted by this, but I was a little irritated when she made sure that she was getting this strange drink for free and that I had only put three scoops of matcha into it.

10.) Customers coming up with special names for their drinks

The “secret menu” is one thing, but when customers come up with their own special name for their favorite drink and then get angry when I ask them what it goes into it, is definitely something that annoys me. I once had a customer order an “iced caramel mochiato.” I assumed it was a pronunciation error and when I repeated it back as an “iced caramel macchiato” she blew up at me and told me that I had got it wrong. Confused, I asked her what exactly was in a “mochiato.” She angrily told me that it was a caramel macchiato with mocha pumps and drizzle. I asked her if she wanted an Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato, but she told me that coconut milk was gross and insisted on her “mochiato.” I had never heard of this drink, and am pretty sure it’s not in the “secret menu.” Do your barista a favor and if you have a custom drink that you order, please explain it nicely, and if you become a regular I’ll make it a point to remember your “mochiato.”