After working in a coffee shop connected to one of the most popular department stores in the UK, I have come to the conclusion that people can be annoying. In fact, the level of anger that is occasionally instilled in me by the endless complaining, ranting and moaning of customers seems of too great a magnitude to warrant description by an emotion as tame as annoyance. But it’s not only the whingers that wind me up: from the pretentious to the posh, those who stare to those who ignore and the ones who request the most ridiculous things, it apparently doesn’t take much to irritate me in a work environment. Usually I can hold my tongue, plaster on a smile, and thank them for their custom with a cheerful note in my voice; but after one particularly traumatic nine-hour Saturday shift filled with spillages, breakages and monstrous queues, I could resist the urge to complain no longer. And so I compiled the following list of the types of customers that I just can’t deal with – the ones that make those painstaking nine-hour Saturday shifts that much more unbearable. Here goes:
First of all are the people whose demands are sometimes so ridiculous that I cannot honestly believe what they are asking me to do. I understand that you are paying prices that border on extortionate for what is merely cake and coffee, and I do try my best, but I simply can’t make food cook faster or the card reader scan your card more quickly! This category of customer also includes the super-demanding and hard to please. The picky and fussy thrive at said department store café; with a promise of excellent customer service to honour and a reputation to uphold, we are bound to tend to every request, no matter how unreasonable. And the customers seem keen to take advantage of this as much as possible. “Can I have a skinny soya decaf three quarter-shot latte in a mug not a glass with a caramel shot and chocolate on top?” is a request I dread to hear and yet hear all too often. OK, I may have exaggerated a little. Does such a thing as skinny soya milk even exist? Probably, actually, but we don’t sell it. Anyway, you get the point. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind complex orders like this one; I understand that everyone has different preferences. But for goodness’ sake don’t complain when it takes me 10 minutes to make it. What did you expect?
Some of the “over-demanding” also fall into this category. They get annoyed when their skinny soya decaf three quarter-shot latte in a mug not a glass with a caramel shot and chocolate on the top takes 10 minutes to make, but they deem themselves too polite to actually complain to your face or to fill in a comment form. And so these customers resort to making their discontent known using more subtle methods: they tut, sigh, raise their eyebrows, roll their eyes, check their watches. Then come the murmuring and the muttering who voice their dissatisfaction to those next to them in the queue but ensure that they do so just loud enough for us to hear. I think that this type of customer can be likened to the kids at every school who suck up to whomever shows the slightest hint of authority over them on a hunt for approval. The ones that follow the crowd and join in with naughtiness but are first to snitch to the teacher; these customers will inevitably say “thank you” and smile, before telling everyone how bad the coffee was and moaning about how long they had to wait. My last experience with a mutterer occurred as a result of the wrong drink being made because our ticket machine was playing up. The customer remarked: “that’s why they charge so much for their coffee; because they always get the orders wrong.” Well first, it only happened once, and second, we actually charge “so much” (which is in fact normal coffee price) because we use high-quality organic rainforest-alliance Arabica coffee beans. So yeah.
The stupidly attractive fools
Next up, the good-looking, polite and educated student-y types that occasionally make an appearance. They don’t annoy me so much as disappoint me as my high hopes are dashed when they order the most ridiculous drink on the menu. The 20-something year-old who is effortlessly attractive and has messy hair – he looks perfect, dressed in good shoes and a nice jumper with a copy of the Guardian tucked under his arm and the grandmother he is treating to a scone clutching his elbow. And then he orders an espresso macchiato (an espresso with a little frothy milk) and I realise, instantly, that he is a fool. Why would you order an espresso with froth on top? Seriously, either take the espresso like a man or have a cappuccino like a normal person. None of this messing about with bits of both just because you want to order something that sounds fancy. You’re not Italian nor are you sophisticated, and it won’t quench your thirst. Get yourself a real drink.
The messy eaters
I can sort of understand this one when toddlers are involved, but adults? All I’m saying is that I would expect them to have more accurate aim when transporting food via fork from plate to mouth than they apparently do. I’m not exactly complaining – crumbs on the carpet is an excuse for me to whack out the nifty little vacuum cleaner that we keep out the back, which might actually add an element of excitement to my day. It’s only when yoghurt pots are left upside down and strawberry yoghurt is creeping over the edge of the table, or chocolate brownie has been ground into the floor that I find it difficult to believe that people manage to make this amount of mess and don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about leaving it behind. I mean, we don’t even sell yoghurt. Rude.
For me the ungrateful, complaining and sometimes downright rude customers are the worst of the bunch, and probably the most difficult to deal with. I suppose I’ve been brought up to be polite and to always remember the magic word, which might be why the sheer number of people who don’t feel it necessary to simply say please or thank you frankly amazes me and really winds me up. This ungratefulness often intertwines with snobbishness in the people who look at you like you’re nothing because you work at, ugh, a café. These characters, by whom we are deemed unworthy of a murmured “thank you” or even a glance of recognition, are the ones who infuriate me the most. The quote, “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person,” jumps to mind. You, Dave Barry, are correct. Politeness costs nothing; didn’t your mother tell you?
The fact that I’m really quite a sensitive soul probably accounts for the influence that the littlest things people do and say can have on how I’m feeling. If I’m in a good mood I’m not going to cry over spilled milk or crumbs on the carpet, but when the day is dragging and customer after customer is cranky and complaining it can be quite depressing! Just bear that in mind the next time you have to wait a few minutes for your coffee or someone messes up the order, and cheer up the poor soul on the other side of the counter with a little smile, or reply “and you” when they say, “have a nice day.” That, or give them a tip. That works too.