Establishing Order Over Tall Orders

| Working | January 26, 2015

(I’m in line at a coffee place. When it’s the turn of the guy in front of me, he rattles off a ridiculously complex order, with all sorts of alterations. At no point does he say ‘please,’ nor does he even bother looking at the lady taking his order. Surprisingly, she seems to get happier and happier as he spends a few minutes saying his order. By the end, she’s positively beaming.)

Barista #1: “All right, sir. If you’ll wait over by the side of the counter, please, your order will just be a moment.”

(The instant she finishes saying the word “moment”, she suddenly starts making the man’s drink with incredible speed. She’s flying around making the complex drink, pouring and stirring and grabbing various ingredients with astounding dexterity. Her movements are so rapid and precise that it’s like watching a sped-up version of a dance. Her face shows intense concentration, and all the other baristas and staff have stopped what they were doing to watch. She finishes after a minute.)

Barista #1: “Here you are, sir! I hope you enjoy your drink!”

(Suddenly, another barista calls out.)

Barista #2: “She did it!”

(The staff near her begin to clap her on the back, congratulating her, and generally acting like the event is a minor celebration. After a moment, she turns to serve me.)

Barista #1: “What would you like today, ma’am?”

Me: “Actually, can I ask what just happened?”

Barista #1: “Oh, we have a competition among the staff. If anyone can make a drink in less time than it takes the customer to say what the drink is, the manager has agreed to take us all out for dinner, on her. [Barista #2] was timing, and it looks like I made it!”

Barista #2: “Yeah, it makes us actually like the customers with over-the-top, customised drinks. They’re the only ones we stand a chance at beating! Normal drinks, like, ‘tall flat white,’ only take two seconds to say, so we can’t compete. That guy’s order was record-breakingly long, though!”

(The guy, who had been ignoring them and inspecting his complex drink to look for flaws, turned red and slunk out. Later, I found out that the manager had created the competition to address the negative morale caused by difficult orders. It was obviously working.)

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