Raber S. (Santa Monica, California)

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JOE:  How long have you worked as a barista?

RS: Over 10 years now. Yeah, I was 20.  It was fall of 2010 that I started at Starbucks and I worked there part-time all through college. And then I got started at a company called an Intelligentsia Coffee based out of Chicago. And kind of been doing that ever since.

JOE: So what’s the weirdest request you’ve ever had from anybody for a coffee drink?

RS: Oh, I had somebody ask for one of every flavor we had and then one of each milk. They literally wanted like a cup of every flavor and then every one ounce of every kind of milk and then steamed all together.

JOE: In separate cups or altogether?

RS: Together. All syrups, all the milks and double shot of espresso.

JOE: And did you do it? Did you get any feedback after?

RS: Yep. They just left. I never saw him again. But I am very much of the opinion that I will always give customers whatever they want. As long as it is within my resources, even if I don’t like it or I know it doesn’t taste very good.

JOE: Is there anything else that someone asked for that you thought was repulsive?

RS: Oh yeah. People like to get what’s called a green eye which is a macha latte which matches powdered tea that you mix with milk. People will get that with a shot of espresso with the macha. It’s like espresso and bitter green tea and I’ve tried it before and I just don’t understand why people like it. I think it just is one of those just two flavors that don’t go together. Like it’s green tea and coffee. Yeah, it’s a very strange request. I’ve made it the other day even and I’ll always make it. But I’m like in my head, I’m like, that’s gross.

JOE: Anything people send back things that they don’t like,

RS: Oh yeah, I mean a really common thing is, especially working like a shop like this, is they’ll ask for a macchiato and we do traditional macchiato. So they’re only like two ounces total, but they’re thinking of like a Starbucks macchiato, which is a 16 or 20 ounce drink. So I’ve had someone before where she was on her phone and she was like, can I get a macchiato? And I tried showing her this is the cup that it’s going to go in. And she wasn’t paying attention. I was like, okay, I made it for her and here’s your macchiato. And she’s like, what’s this? And I try to explain and she was just like, who trained you? This isn’t coffee. She started berating me and I just said, hey, I can make anything you want. You were on the phone. So I’ve had that before so I always think that if it’s not going to be what they want, I’ll always double check. This is what that drink is going to be. Is that what you want? They’ll be like, oh no, or yes. And so sometimes they just get super upset.

JOE: What percentage of customers are troublemakers or very demanding?

RS:  Less than one or two percent. The majority of them are very kind, I think the majority of people aren’t troublemakers, but they’re just very, I don’t know if they’re socially inept or they’re just not very good at being kind and courteous. They’re not outwardly mean to you, but their vibe and energy is just very cold and kind of condescending at times or entitled, for sure. I think entitled is a big one with a lot of customers where they kind of just view me like a fictional person. I work in real estate, I work in finance and you’re not on my level and so I’m not going to treat you with the same courtesy and respect, I have a big opinion of that and that’s for in and outside of my job. Like if someone is mean, be kind to them.

JOE: What’s the biggest tip I ever got?

RS: At my old coffee shop in Venice, there was a film producer who lived in the area, he was a regular, came in like three times a day. Every Christmas he would give us each, not everyone in the shop at the ones he had a relationship with, $50. So that was super nice. It’s just like a bonus.

JOE: Did you serve any other celebrities?

RS: I’ve served coffee to Michael Keaton, Adrien Brody, Linda Cardellini, uh that game of Thrones actress, too many to count. There’s so many living in L. A. and especially when I worked in Venice, there’s so many actors and actresses every day that came out.

JOE: Were they all nice?

RS: Yeah. They’re almost always. Michael Keaton was an example of someone where he wasn’t outwardly nice. He kind of had his hat low. He wasn’t mean, but he didn’t want to be recognized and just wanted to get in and get out, which that I totally get.

JOE: Well, thank you very much.

RS: Of course, man.

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