###“It feels like you have to interact a ton in this job,” Amanda, a barista at a coffee shop in Brooklyn, explained to me over Americanos. “Customers definitely expect you to be nicer than if you were a bartender.”
The 30-year-old, who is petite and pretty with shoulder-length hair and a double lip ring, knows what she’s talking about – for the last few years, she’s worked at coffee shops “up and down Brooklyn” before settling in her current neighborhood, Park Slope.
“Plenty of people almost think they’re in a relationship with you,” she admits. “ If I see them outside of work, I say hi, but they may want something more.”
The barista-customer relationship is one of the most personal in the service industry. You see your barista almost every day, he or she is often one of the first people you interact with in the morning, and over time, it’s nearly impossible not to develop some sort of rapport.
Daily coffee shop banter can be much better (more polite) or much worse (more awkward) than what a bartender faces, since no one has the excuse of being drunk. But it rarely translates into a real-world relationship.
What really varies is how you choose to interact with your barista. The effort some patrons have put into pursuing Amanda made it clear they’re interested in more than just a throwaway flirtation. Amanda, who isn’t too interested in the attention, and who happens to be gay, was able to give us a fairly objective view of a range of customer behavior. While very little coffee shop flirtation goes anywhere beyond the counter, there’s a clear distinction between what to do and what to avoid.
What not to do:
1. Anything Cheesy. You’re out of luck, class clowns: corny pick-up lines are almost always a fail. Unfortunately, the brevity of the coffee shop transaction and the shakiness of the interpersonal connection makes coffeeshops ripe for them. Amanda was completely unimpressed in her re-telling of a guy requesting repeat cappuccinos, hotter and hotter, until finally bursting out this gem: “The coffee was hot, but the server was even hotter. That’s what the Yelp review’s going to say!”
2. Anything sexist or demeaning. At least being corny isn’t as bad as being misogynistic (in any part of life, but that’s a topic for another time). And corny pick-up lines plus inappropriate banter will result in one appropriately furious barista.
“The coffee was hot, but the server was even hotter. That’s what the Yelp review’s going to say!”
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