This post was written by Emily Migliazzo, a Starbucks Partner and guest writer for Barista Life!If you would like to be a guest writer for TheBaristaLife.com, please click here to fill out a short sign up sheet. Once finished, email your work to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured.
Finding Value in Dollar-a-Day Customers
I work at a Starbucks store nestled in the elbow beneath a forested peninsula that juts out to sea in an affluent area of California. The faces that greet us every day are faces that know what money looks like; I’m not just speaking of petty cash. These are high-end real estate agents, interior designers, actors, wealthy ex-pats. During the holidays, it isn’t uncommon to receive tips upwards of $100 from not one but several of our committed customers. I love these customers even though I would never dream of being in their tax bracket. However, these customers are not our only customers.
Our store sits right next to the Pacific Coast Highway. We are a rest stop for tourists from around the world, for people visiting their summer homes, for modern-day vagabonds working their way from LA to San Francisco, possibly even farther. We draw in the travelling homeless, but we also draw in the ones that found a home among our forests, near our coastline. Instead of the twenties, fifties, hundreds our wealthier customers pay with, these customers pay less than five dollars a day, if at all. That doesn’t mean they should be valued any less.
As baristas, specifically as Starbucks baristas, we have a responsibility to “make every moment right;” to make sure every customer feels valued as an individual. When we get to interact with members of our society usually marginalized or looked past due to their economic state, we get to instill in them worth they may not always feel. The moments early in the morning when homeless customers come in for their first coffee of the day are some of my favorites. With each joke, with each conversation, with each time I see eyes light up because someone knew their name, I know that my job is worth something more than just making a pretty decent latte—it’s giving people with whom eye contact is usually avoided a personal connection they’ll remember.