This Is Why Your Coffee Shop Waitress Hates You

Categories: Coffee, LOLS

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revger/Flickr
​The coffee shop is one of those establishments that exists in culinary limbo. Few serve only coffee, and the role of the coffee slinger has evolved in kind, ushering in fresh opportunities for etiquette faux pas. Here, we're focusing on general cafe conduct, not the reasons your barista hates you (which could take up its own post). And while we believe in being kind to all who clock hard, long hours in the service industry, female servers face special dickishness in the workplace. We talked to several at a variety of coffee shops throughout the city. They shared the following remarkably common set of gripes.

You ask her to smile.
Let's declare 2011 The Year No One Asked a Woman to Smile. We realize that's overly ambitious, but that's how we like to live our lives! Asking ladies to smile is demeaning. Period. No one should welcome rude service, but you shouldn't expect manically perky service, either. We don't come down to the DMV, interrupt your data entry, and tell you to tap dance.

diner-servers.jpeg
Genevieve Y./Yelp
Tattoo touching.
Alright, let's take a quick pause so you can get the Pavlovian Mission-hipster joke out of the way. Done? Okay, moving on. We think tattoo touching is the new pregnant-belly touching (which you also still shouldn't do), a few notches down from the nearly uncontrollable urge to over-pet Persian cats (is that just us?). Avoid the compulsion to reach out and touch the tattoo on your server's arm. Yes, it's on public display, and a compliment is always welcome, but it's just weird to be manhandled by strangers all day, no matter how kind their intentions. One server we talked to reported getting this "at least" once a week. So curb that urge.

You ask, "What's your favorite thing on the menu?"
"Honestly," one of our anonymous sources admitted,"it's just kind of an awkward question. My manager is usually hovering nearby so I'm always trying to answer in a way that won't upset him." Another told us she's vegan and doesn't drink caffeine, so it's hard for her to even find something on the menu to eat. Yet another said that her favorite thing on the menu was lousy with mushrooms, which lots of people hate. Basically, don't ever expect to get a straight answer on what you think is a very straightforward question.

You stay past closing.
One waitress recalled the time she actually vacuumed around a patron's feet, after turning off most of the lights and turning up loud "go home" music. Another told us that after announcing to the establishment that they were closed for the evening, two customers dawdled at a table, finishing their food and chatting for another 15 minutes. The longer you stay after closing, the longer you are keeping an undoubtedly bone-tired worker on the floor. They need to clean your table, put away your chairs, etc. Just ask for a to-go container and leave.

You relentlessly hit on her even after she's politely refused your advances.
Social trappings have taught you to idealize women who do things for you. (You know, like your mom ― thank you, Psych 101!) Your waitress/counterperson is constantly smiling at you, she's unfailingly kind and polite, and she's always bringing you shit. The rub, of course, is that just like getting paid to design websites or breed chihuahuas or whatever the hell it is you do, she gets paid to be nice and bring you things, and this kindness may inspire you to ask her out on a date. But once you've asked and been shot down, stop asking. Otherwise what you're doing, basically, is a form of romantic hostage-taking: You've got a captive target behind a counter who has no choice but to stand there and passively absorb your come-ons or risk getting in trouble with her boss. Here are some helpful tips to help you navigate this social minefield: If someone tells you, "I'm not allowed to date customers," she isn't secretly wishing she could. This is a fake rule. Also, don't ask for phone numbers. Just offer yours. Nothing is more awkward than being asked for your number in front of an audience and scrambling for some excuse not to provide it.

You tip with bus passes, coupons, or not at all.
The coffee slinger lives in a weird dining limbo. It's not exactly a restaurant, but sometimes there's food to be had and served. Or condiments to be delivered tableside. Sometimes there's even beer, and then things get really crazy. The point is—unlike a restaurant or bar where the tipping etiquette is fairly well delineated—coffee shop patrons tip across a spectrum. Some people always tip. Some people never tip. Some people tip for what they deem good service. And then there are those who think that since a person is stuck behind a counter, it's acceptable to dump a bus pass (yes, this actually happens) because she's not a "real waitress" and should be happy for whatever she gets. Trust us, this is both demeaning and demoralizing. You should always try to muster a dollar (preferably a 20 percent tip). Failing that, try a smile and a legitimately grateful attitude. 

Prior rants:
This Is Why Your Bartender Hates You
This Is Why Your Whole Foods Cashier Hates You
This Is Why Your Waiter Hates You

Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie.

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27 comments
yeah right
yeah right

you are a shitty writer, and you're not that funny. sorry

drnels
drnels

Can we also add not to ask men to smile either? I know my normal expression is not all cheery, but I get tired of that, too, and it's a sure way to make sure I don't smile around you.

Saganaki
Saganaki

I'll consider tipping but not in the damn jar before the counteristas get to screw up my order. I'll tip if you let me fish my money out of your tip jar when you gimme a single shot instead of double and try to pass it off as a "ristretto". Ristretto this. I've come here before and the cup is light.

_will_s_
_will_s_

tipping with bus passes / coupons?...lolwut?

..there are some seriously ghetto-ass ppl out there.

Little Latte Lady
Little Latte Lady

I absolutely agree with #1, #2 and #5. Do men ever get told to smile?? I've never seen it happen... It always struck me as odd... wouldn't it be alarming to see a person (male or female) walking around all day with a giant perma-grin for no apparent reason? I'd be happy to give a genuine smile (I'm a happy, positive person. I love to laugh and smile) if you gave me a reason to. But just telling me to look happy for your benefit is awkward.And yes, please do not touch tattoos! Would you reach across the counter and caress my hair while complimenting it?? I hope not..

Kevluv46
Kevluv46

Yes, men are asked to smile as well.

aBarista
aBarista

I couldn't agree more with the first rule. DO NOT tell your server/coffee jockey to smile (or any human being for that matter). It is unbelievably demoralizing and uncomfortable, and will only make your barista less likely to smile... at you. Rather, if you feel the need to earn some kind of a grin, offer up some chit chat, find a way to light up their face. Because if their mood really is that important to you, you can afford a little personalized conversation. Maybe the customer right before you was a jerk, maybe they're having a bad day. Thing is, you don't know.

As for tipping coffee service, DO. Baristas don't live on tips the way waiters do (only because counter tips are so miniscule) but they are doing you a personalized service, similar to but on a much smaller scale than making food. Even in this city of idealized hipster cafes and professional baristas, these folks are making just a few cents above minimum wage. And if you're too lazy to make coffee at home but would rather spend $3 a day on a latte, you can afford to put a dollar in the jar. This is especially true if you're a regular. I don't necessarily tip every day at my local coffee shop, depending on if I'm paying with my last few slices of cash, but if you have to look these people in the eyes at least a couple times a week, it would do you well to at least throw your change in.

Mainlander
Mainlander

Explains the ESAD attitude of most staff in most West Coast restaurants. Yawn. Go get me a coffee and keep the editorializing to the journalists.

GoodTipper
GoodTipper

Tack on 15% to ANY tourists bill. Those of you with all your pathetic prerequisites for tipping 15% for this, and 20% for that, and 10% if indifferent.....Stay home, and eat a Stouffers he-man dinner.....You cheap shit. I don't even work as a server, and I know 20% is the bare minimum.

Rifter
Rifter

I am curious why, GoodTipper? I worked for a pet store, many years ago. I got paid minimum wage. I still had to give great service, yet couldn't get a tip. Heck, we were told if someone tipped us, it could get us fired.

I understand tipping for wait staff that gets their pay docked to compensate for tips. (the 15% rule) I have not heard of counter people that live on tips. If someone does a VERY good job, they get a tip... but most of the time, not. They make a wage, I make a wage. Why should I give up more of my wage to someone that is doing their job?

As I said, I understand tipping to make up for the 15% pay cut wait staff get. Other than that, I don't really understand it.

Awesome B
Awesome B

Work on your math.

US Minimum Wage: $8.25US Minimum Wage for Waitservers: $5.69

If you don't like tipping, don't eat out. Sounds like you can't afford it anyway.

PS. The reason you can't get tipped is because it's unreported income and can get your business in trouble. That is, the IRS views that business as taking unreported profit.

20% standard
20% standard

rifter, how do you know what your server makes? and how do you not see any service done for you (instead of something you could do yourself, like feeding yourself) deserves some sort of tip? and wait staff don't get a "15% pay cut", their minimum wage is drastically lower than that of the standard minimum wage.

and are you seriously comparing working in a pet store to food service?

guest
guest

ahhh, thanks Andy for saying how damn demeaning and annoying it is to ask a woman to smile. Gentlemen, think of something else to say! Try to be more creative.

Tanya Bausch
Tanya Bausch

I can't tell you how many times I heard this when I was a bartender.

Earl Camburn
Earl Camburn

Sooooo... I can't ask for recommendations? Or just what his or her favorite dish is? If I can't ask for a recommendation - why bother having servers? We could just read our selections off a chalkboard and text our orders to the kitchen.

Awesome B
Awesome B

Semantical difference, but a difference. A recommendation could be based on your taste...

- I like sweet things in season. What do you recommend?- I've never been to *insert place*, what's a local favorite?- I'm vegan, but love BBQ flavor. Got anything similar?

Asking someone what their personal favorite is doesn't do you any good unless you're alike.

Want to know a really good reason not to ask waitstaff about personal favorites? Managers and chefs often ask the waitstaff to name either the most expensive dish or the oldest food that they're trying to finish. The waitstaff feels comfortable because people who ask about personal favorites often don't know the difference.

It's like ordering a steak well-done and getting the worst cut.

However, expressing your taste and asking for something that follows that says you know what you're doing.

John
John

Totally agree, servers are supposed to be aware of the food and drinks, because they WORK THERE! Do you want people to ask other tables?

guest
guest

Hold on guys... there IS a dfference between asking for a recommendation (could be based on popularity or other waitstaff's favorites for the vegan) and their personal "favorite." Yes servers should know the menu and be able to make rec's but It's an awkward question.

Annoyingturd
Annoyingturd

From my days as a bartender, when ever someone asked me for my favorite drink to make, they got "Bud... in a bottle."

gracejhenry
gracejhenry

Very Interesting! I just now printed Coupons of my Favorite Brands for free from "Printapons" you can find them online.

gracejhenry
gracejhenry

Very Interesting! I just now printed Coupons of my Favorite Brands for free from "Printapons" you can find them online.

Rudy
Rudy

Yeah, I'm not really all that concerned about what a food service worker thinks of me. Sorry.

Simonsay
Simonsay

Well one day you might worry, if she or he remembers you for being a jerk. Maybe they might be your surgeon, bank manager, board member where you work or in a position of power to make your life miserable. You never know............

Chris
Chris

Wow "Rudy" wishing you the best in uncontaminated food wherever you may dine. Good Luck

Food Winerista
Food Winerista

Small world. Servers don't care what you think here either.

Guest
Guest

you should expect a good deal of bodily fluids in whatever they are making for you then

Gaijinpl
Gaijinpl

Since I learned that waitstaff is paid the full minimum wage, I limit my tips to 15% except for the most exceptional cases. If you're indifferent to your work, you get 10. When I travel to other states, I reapply the 20% rule, because most of those folks are making the 3-dollar waitstaff minimums. Oh, and if you're behind a counter, and you don't come out from behind the counter, you're not waitstaff. No tip for you. A lot of the coffee shops on the peninsula seem to understand that it's gauche to even presume the tips, since they don't put out jars/cups. I tend to give these places more repeat business.Seriously, there's no difference between the guy making the burger "your way" and the barrista. Let me know when one of you tips the guy at the fast food joint.

And that's the crux of it... you don't tip at the fast food joint because there's no peer pressure to do so. Fail to tip at the coffee shop, and you might not impress your hip friends or the cutie behind the bar. Congratulations... you're still a teenager.

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