Disorder Until You Place Your Order

, , , | Right | December 14, 2020

I work as a barista at a small coffee shop. We have signs indicating which way the line forms, and yet we frequently have people get confused about where they’re supposed to enter it, and, therefore, we have a lot of line cutters. It’s store policy that I cannot tell a customer that they’ve cut the line, unless they ask me or another customer complains. It’s stupid, I know, but I’ve nearly been written up over it before.

We’re already rushed, and there’s a line stretching nearly to the back of the store. It seems impossible to miss, and yet a customer not in line waltzes up to the counter and starts ordering. No one makes a comment that I can hear, so I serve the customer as quickly as I can, move him along, and then take the next customer in the line.

Customer: “Did you see that he cut the line?”

Me: “Yes, sir, I did. Unfortunately, I’m not permitted to say anything to a customer who cuts the line unless another customer complains. May I get you started with one of our [seasonal drinks]?”

Customer: “What do you mean? You saw him and you didn’t say anything?”

Me: “Sir, I’m not allowed to tell a customer to get to the back of the line unless another customer makes a complaint that they cut the line. Now, what can I get for you today?”

Customer: “Well, I’m making a complaint now!”

Me: “Unfortunately, sir, the customer’s already been served, so I can’t do anything about it now. In the future, if you let us know in the moment, we’ll be sure to assist you with the issue. What can I get for you today?”

Customer: “What do you mean, you can’t do anything about it?”

Me: “I can’t un-take his order, sir. May I please take yours?”

At this point, my coworker has moved beside me to start pulling the line, but since we’ve only got one register, she can just get orders started; she can’t ring people through.

Customer: “I just don’t understand why you couldn’t do something when you saw he cut the line!”

Me: “It’s store policy, sir. If you would like to make a complaint, there’s a survey at the end of your receipt, and you can mention that this store policy was not satisfactory to you. Now, what can I get started for you today?”

Customer: “The survey will be at the end of my receipt?”

Me: “Yes, sir. And I’ll give you your receipt at the end of your order. May I take your order?”

Customer: “It’s just not right. We were all waiting in line, and he held everyone in here up!”

At this point, the line is stretched out the door because no one else can cash out. But just as I’m not allowed to confront line-cutters, I’m also not allowed to try to hurry customers along when they’re at the register.

Me: “I’m very sorry, sir. I can assure you that your wait won’t be much longer, once you place your order.”

Finally, he does, grumbling the whole time. After he’s out of earshot, my coworker turns to me.

Coworker: “He took twice as long complaining as the line-cutter did ordering.”

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