30 Secrets Starbucks Employees Wish You Knew
As pandemic restrictions are eased in some parts of the country, more and more Starbucks stores are reopening. While you may not be able to sit inside your favorite coffee shop and work on your laptop anytime soon, you can stop by the chain for iced coffee to kick off the summer season. But how much do you really know about Starbucks?
Any time is a good time to treat baristas and other food service employees with respect, but it's an especially good practice during the spread of the coronavirus. If your order gets messed up, there's no need to yell at a Starbucks employee—they'll likely be happy to make it right if you give them a chance.
After speaking directly with current and former Starbucks baristas and combing through hundreds of comments online, it's safe to say that there is a common thread in what pretty much every Starbucks employee wishes customers knew: Don't be rude! Being considerate is not only the right thing to do, but it might get you perks, like no extra charge for non-dairy milk. On the flip side, when you snap unreasonably, you might find yourself shortchanged or end up with decaf instead of regular.
Read on to get the low-down on what Starbucks employees wish you knew, straight from baristas themselves. And for more fun facts, sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!
Stop asking for your milk to be a certain temperature.
Josephine Liz, who worked at Starbucks while in high school, shared this tip with Eat This, Not That. There's a reason your drink is served at a certain temperature!
"Usually when this happens, the customer is wanting their drink to be 'super hot' so that when they get to where they're going the drink is still warm," Liz says. The truth is, though, that whoever is making your coffee can't actually go above a certain temperature for safety and quality—think burnt milk—reasons.
"Unfortunately, those who know the milk is steamed with a thermometer at all times are fearless about making sure they get what they want," the former barista says. "I think the most common drink that got this request was the hot chai latte, especially soy."
Frappuccinos are blended using premade bases.
Another pet peeve, according to Liz, involves Starbucks' famed Frappuccinos. "When I was working there, Fraps were made with premade bases; one was coffee-based and the other was milk-based," she says. "One customer came in once and said they wanted a soy milk-based Frap and I was like, 'NOT POSSIBLE,' but of course, they insisted and said someone made it for them once so my co-worker said she'd do it. Mind you we explained and showed them the products used to make the Frap bases and how the consistency would not be there if we did it any other way."
Be nice if you want your food heated.
If a store has an oven, it can heat anything. We're talking savory or sweet pastries and even food items from the fridges. "This is something employees take advantage of for lunch breaks but hate when a customer knows it's an option," says Liz. "I don't know if there's a real rule that says we can't heat certain items, but some baristas or supervisors used it if the customer didn't ask nicely."
The whipped cream is even more unhealthy than you probably think.
It isn't just cream that goes into Starbucks' whipped cream. To make it extra sweet, there's also vanilla syrup. Liz says that she always wondered how it would taste if toffee nut, hazelnut, or peppermint syrup were used instead of vanilla and wished someone had asked for it. Curious as well? While she can't guarantee you'll get an employee to do it, it's worth asking.
The Medicine Ball won't cure anything.
A seasoned barista famously told us that not only won't Starbucks' Medicine Ball—which Starbucks refers to as Honey Citrus Mint Tea—cure anything at all, it's basically lemonade and pure sugar, so it can actually do more damage than good.
Don't expect employees to know secret menu items.
Spring Mooney, a 10-year Starbucks barista, told us that all the drinks on the secret menu are a surprise to them as well. "For example, The Grasshopper I'm sure in your mind tastes amazing, however when guests come up and request it, I haven't a clue what they're speaking of and I have to look at their phone to see what it is. And yes, this does hold the line up for a drink that doesn't actually exist," the veteran barista explains.
Employees don't care about getting your name right.
Pat, a barista with over a decade of experience, told us that when employees ask for your name, they don't really try that hard to hear it well or spell it correctly. "Management knows that a misspelled name is going straight onto people's social media feed, which is basically free advertising for Starbucks," Pat says.
Employees don't expect a tip.
"At least when I worked there, most of the staff didn't really agree with tipping when buying a $4 coffee and wouldn't do it ourselves," says Pat. "It didn't stop us leaving a tip box out and collecting it at the end of the day, though!"
If you have a complicated order, you might be shamed.
Reddit user Daskichan wrote that if you come in with a very complicated order request, you should be prepared to be called out. "I will go out of my way to call out Every. Single. Modifier possible […] I don't care if it takes me an entire minute worth of modifications, I will do it." User Nielapup adds, "especially when people ask for something ridiculous like six ice cubes I say that loud and clear."
Batch blending is a thing.
Don't be surprised if you see your baristas batch blending, especially Frappuccinos. Countless users on Reddit, who were current or former Starbucks employees, admitted to doing it. "The difference in the finished product is zero whether you batch or individually blend," says user DeGarmo2.
Don't expect a free drink because of a "mess up."
In a Reddit thread, many Starbucks employees wrote that when they're called out for an order being wrong, (whether or not it's true), they toss out the drink. Others will make a point to not give the person who calls out the so-called mistake the free drink.
"With mess up drinks I like to say 'free _______ at the bar for whoever!' Instead of offering it to them…especially if [I know it's] because they ordered it wrong. Sometimes they take it but usually, they let someone else. I can't bring myself to dump out a drink unless it's to the point that nobody would like it," says user Christinapaws.
Don't bang on the counter and expect attention.
"When the half and half at the condiment bar ran out [customers] would walk up to the handoff and bang it on the counter to get our attention, and no thank you from them, they just snagged the new one from our hand," says Reddit user Austinbostin069. "I started ignoring the banging, still handing off drinks and not even looking at them as they kept banging it. Until they said 'excuse me sir!' and I was like 'sorry, didn't know you were there, should've said something.' I had to do this for a few weeks but now they ask instead of just being obnoxious."
You might get decaf if you're rude.
Don't be rude, or you might risk getting your order decaf instead of regular according to Reddit user Guava Pirate. "I make sure the bar decafs them (we have a code) and I make sure to give them their change in singles… as an unwritten rule, in my store, if you're a [bad] customer and you come often enough to be remembered, the baristas will automatically decaf you."
Be nice to employees—sometimes your discounts aren't accidental.
Many baristas will "forget" to charge some people for things like syrups or milk alternatives, especially for drinks that are already vegan, according to user Stephanabelle. If you're nice, you might benefit from a little upgrade!
You might get shortchanged.
On the flip side, according to Reddit user dancinjanssen, you might get shortchanged if you're rude. "I shortchange customers who are on the phone at the window by as many pennies as I can get away with and then throw those pennies in the tip jar," Janssen wrote on Reddit. "Not once have any of those customers noticed."
Ovens often get turned off early.
If you want a warm sandwich in the evening, you might not be able to get it, and not because it isn't actually there. "Towards the end of the day I don't restock the fridge, so I can turn the oven off early," says Reddit user Alxledra. "I pretend we have no food left when in fact we have tons ready for tomorrow."
Still, this isn't always the case, so if you have your heart set on a warm treat, it's worth an ask. "There's literally no need to turn the oven off early unless you clean it right before closing. At my store, we had two and cleaned one at a time during the mid-shift every day, but even if you only have one it takes about seven minutes to clean it open, just saying," says user Fezes_Are_Cool.
Dark roast has less caffeine.
"I don't drink coffee, and before becoming a partner, I assumed dark roast is stronger," says Reddit user Xokaydub. "The other day this man was really stressed and said he needed a dark roast to make it through the day. I felt bad, but I had a line, and I didn't have the energy to tell him that it's actually less caffeine and he wanted blonde. Sorry, I'm not your coffee teacher."
Don't ask what things taste like.
Just because they work at Starbucks doesn't mean your server has tried the entire menu. "If I tell you I love the steak wrap, I'm actually a vegetarian who's lying to you," wrote one Reddit user. "I don't know what most of the sandwiches taste like. Fake it till you make it."
"I'm the same with the really sweet drinks," wrote Reddit user Thro_aw4y. "I don't drink cappuccinos or anything with sugar, but when people ask me what I think of the drink they want I'm like 'oh yeah it's really good!!!'"
There might be a reason your straw is defective.
"Sometimes, to rude customers, I fold their straw before giving it to them so that it has a small hairline split in it, so that after a certain point they can't drink anymore," wrote Reddit user UhIsThisMyDrink.
Don't expect faster service just because you're in a rush.
"You wanna tell me how much of a rush you're in and stand there impatiently making it really uncomfortable?" wrote Reddit user Thro_aw4y. "Guess who's getting decaf and whole milk in her triple nonfat Caramel Macchiato?"
Many baristas don't like matcha.
"I hate matcha," wrote Reddit user Loveasaconstruct. "Not just because I have to hold my breath when I scoop it in order to avoid getting it in my lungs, but also because it sticks onto blenders and steam wands like nothing else and it smells disgusting. I groan to myself when somebody orders a drink with matcha in it."
Put extra sugar in your drink yourself.
When people order more than five Splendas, I just rip a bunch open and call it good," wrote one Reddit user. Another barista added that "if someone asked for .5/.25 syrup, I only put a drop."
If you're a regular, baristas often care about you.
"We bust our tails to get you your coffee. It takes stamina, concentration, and patience to be a good barista. Not everyone has what it takes to succeed in this fast-paced job," wrote Reddit user XacTactX. "99 percent of our customers are great. They're often nicer to me than I would be in the same situation. I love getting to know my customers and hearing good news from them. When they stop coming in I wonder if everything is OK."
Be prepared to be called out if you intentionally give a ridiculous name.
"If you've got a ridiculous or inappropriate name on the cup, I'll just call out [your] order only and make eye contact when you pick it up," wrote Reddit user Oilbaron_. "The resulting disappointment or annoyance on your face is priceless."
Hand over your payment—don't put it on the counter.
"People. WHY. If my hand is out to receive the payment, must you ignore it and put it on the counter as if I'm not there?!?!," wrote Reddit user Cassxzy. "So on purpose, I give them the most change (coins) and when I see their hands out I intentionally put them on the counter. I know it's the most petty thing ever, but seriously, I just took your order. I know you know that I'm there. I didn't turn into Casper."
Don't wait till the handoff to ask for water.
"If you ask for water at the handoff, I'll mark a cup and put it at the end of the line and rejoice in you sitting impatiently thinking I've forgotten about it, and then when it comes up I'll hand it to you with a grin on my face," wrote Reddit user TheStateImIn.
Barristas aren't there to wash your personal cups.
"I will not wash out your personal cup," wrote Reddit user Sarcasm_savedmy_life. "I will pretend to wash it, but I am not your wife/mother/maid."
If you come at peak times, you might not get the items you want.
"I turn off Egg Bites and typically Bantam Bagel Bites on mobile order [because I] used to get plenty of mobile orders with four to five sets of Egg Bites each during peak time and it was making it impossible to even come close to reaching our drive time goals," wrote Reddit user Bigcasanova.
Don't come right before closing.
You probably already know this, but in case there was any doubt, Starbucks employees loathe when people come minutes before closing. "If you are one of those annoying customers that comes in at 9:08 and I'm supposed to lock up in 2 minutes and you ask for decaf, you're getting regular espresso and maybe even an extra shot from yours truly!" wrote Reddit user BaristaSarah2016.
Baristas want to get your order correct.
"Please know that we want to get your order correct. We don't screw it up on purpose," wrote Quora user Amanda Gault. "It's easier to get your order right the first time, but also, be aware that really complicated orders might get messed up. They aren't the norm, and mistakes happen. Be kind and ask for your to be remade and BE PATIENT. If your order is super complicated and you're in a rush, maybe don't order it."
And for more fun facts, don't miss these 30 Things You Never Knew About Starbucks.