On of my peculiarities, and I have many, is that although I love hanging out at coffee houses, I don’t like the taste of coffee. Smell, good. Coffee ice cream, good. Black coffee? Bleagh!
I’m sure I’m not alone in disliking coffee, I get the feeling that for most people it’s an acquired taste, like beer. And like beer, I have to assume that most people start drinking it not for the taste, but for the effect. Caffeine doesn’t seem to affect me, so I’ve never had the motivation to get used to the taste.
I explain this to defend my yuppieness. Since I spend so much time in coffee houses, obviously I need to find something I can drink. Often I find myself ordering the dreaded froofy drinks.
I am a latte drinker. Worse, I am a latte drinker with extra explanations. Thanks to Starbucks, I know baristas are pretty much used to it, but I still cringe every time I ask for skim or sugar free. The interesting thing isn’t that I order yuppie coffee drinks, it’s that I can’t seem to get what I ask for, and they never mess up the parts I expect them to.
With your standard latte, the sweet isn’t quite strong enough to overcome the coffee. The solution is fairly obvious if it’s sugar free, it’s no diet killer to double the syrup. And that is where the confusion sets in.
I make my order as clear as I can, for example: fat free medium latte with a double shot of sugar free hazelnut. This definitely qualifies as a yuppie order, but as complicated goes, I’ve heard worse. So imagine my surprise when the baristas screw it up.
A single shot for a medium drink typically means four pumps of syrup. Logically, a double shot would be eight pumps, but for some reason, when I ask for a double shot, I get two pumps instead. This happens in all different brands of coffee house, with different staff, at different times of day. If this were the only order that produced that kind of difficulty, I’d write it off as a fluke, but I’ve noticed other common misunderstandings.
At Caribou my favorite drink, the one I’m hoping they’ll name after me when I’m famous, is a mango tea with a shot of cinnamon. It’s kind of a spiced fruit taste, very yummy. And not all that complicated, I think. Only every so often it gets confused, in consistent ways even at different Caribous.
One way this happens is they give me an iced tea instead of hot tea. I can kind of understand the mistake in the middle of summer, but this happened to me earlier this week, and I don’t get it. Why do they hear ice when I don’t ask for ice?
The other way this is altered really puzzles me. I’ve only caught it once, though I know it’s happened more often. I gave my order, then watched as the barista typed in “half shot.” This can’t be just a case of a typo because they have to push a special button for half, and when I politely corrected her, she seemed surprised. “You want a WHOLE shot?” she asked? I found that weird.
This isn’t idle complaining. I usually catch the confusion, and when I don’t, they’re very good about remaking it. I am genuinely curious as to why these communication breakdowns are happening. These people aren’t stupid, I chat with them as I order and it’s pretty clear that the bulk of baristas are pretty bright. I don’t think I’m stupid either, and I’m being as clear as I can. So what’s going on?
I do have some ideas. I expect that many people ask for a double when they mean a half. Or some people may just hear double and automatically translate to two. This isn’t really all that weird. Some of it must be trying to read the mind of the customer. I imagine people often don’t order what they want, then get angry when they don’t get it.
Any other ideas? I think it’s an interesting question about human interaction. Is this just the result of weariness, from doing a repetitive job, or do you think there’ something more happening here?
By the way, if my favorite spiced mango Caribou drink sounds good, ask for a HOT mango tea with a shot (full shot) of cinnamon. Once you get your tea, make sure it doesn’t steep for too long, I like a good red color, but not too dark. That usually takes about a minute, because with medium and large they put in two bags. When you order it, be sure to call it Meagan’s Tea. 🙂