One of my favorite things to hear in the shop from customers is the dreaded phrase "I'll just go to Starbucks." I get it all the time when a customer doesn't find what they're looking for or when we're out of a particular syrup/drink. It's like they think it's the biggest insult in the world. I wish I could just say "go to Starbucks...see if I care." Most of the time this happens just as I'm done cleaning the espresso machine. I have to explain to them that I cannot make their venti upside-down caramel macchiato and they hit me with the "you're making me go to Starbucks" line. Does this happen to anyone else?

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I certainly understand where your coming from Branden. Our shop has a decent rep and we get all manner of starbucks orders and the resulting shudders when they receive what we interpret it to mean. We dont have blenders, we only have vanilla or a chocolate ganache for additives and our largest size is 16ozs (which is still friggin huge people...) It is not an everyday thing but people will walk out, they will be rude and yes, they will go to starbucks. True specialty coffee is not what every customer is looking for. For most of these situations I see it first as a challenge to try and get them to taste something different and second as a chance to show the rest of the customers in the shop that despite the reputation "specialty coffee" has, the people in my shop are not pretentious jerks to folks who may have not seen the light yet and in some case dont ever care to. I don't take it personally and sometimes giggle to myself but always remember that customers see how i handle these things and use the good manners my mother taught me. The best thing is to feel a little bad that they are not going to get to taste how wonderful your coffee is and move on to the next drink.
My shop is located across the street from a Starbucks. Every once and a while when we're closing (8 pm) there will be a customer or two who comes to the door and asks if there's anything else around. I tell them that the Starbucks is open until 10. I always thank them for making us their first choice, and if we haven't dumped the coffee yet, I'll often offer them a cup on the house. I've seen plenty of them come back during our business hours, so it really doesn't bother me.

Another common situation is when a couple disagrees about where to get coffee. One of them will be adamant about going to Starbucks, and the other will be adamant about going to our shop. I always go all out on the latte art for the customer who insists on coming to our shop while their friend is holding a Starbucks cup. When I hand them their drink, and they get to see their Starbucks friend become jealous, they feel better, and I feel better.
Nathan Lyle Black said:
My shop is located across the street from a Starbucks. Every once and a while when we're closing (8 pm) there will be a customer or two who comes to the door and asks if there's anything else around. I tell them that the Starbucks is open until 10. I always thank them for making us their first choice, and if we haven't dumped the coffee yet, I'll often offer them a cup on the house. I've seen plenty of them come back during our business hours, so it really doesn't bother me.

Another common situation is when a couple disagrees about where to get coffee. One of them will be adamant about going to Starbucks, and the other will be adamant about going to our shop. I always go all out on the latte art for the customer who insists on coming to our shop while their friend is holding a Starbucks cup. When I hand them their drink, and they get to see their Starbucks friend become jealous, they feel better, and I feel better.

This is a great way to look at it.
I have gotten it once. Someone asked me to steam their latte to 200 degrees. I politely explained that would just burn the milk and would taste bad (and maybe is against a health code?). The man turned to me and told me "Well, Starbucks does it for me." I kind of wanted to tell him that was my point.
Instead I just told him that I can make it as extra hot as I could get it. People tend to stick to what they know. If they can't find what they want or are told that they can't have something they have gotten in other places, they would go to the place they had gotten it before.
It seems that people have a radar for when the machine is being cleaned. I try and keep one open until the minute we close. I would much rather have drinks take a long time to make than have to explain to people why they can't have espresso while we are still open.
What would it be like IF you did have all the syrups you profess you have and YOU COULD fix what it is they want? What would it be like if YOU could make a version of Starbucks macciato? I can tell you one thing for sure...you would not be hearing "you're making me go to Starbucks". It is all about "being" in the world of the customer. I have learned the hard way, trust me.
haha I remember the first time someone asked me to steam their drink to 200 degrees. I was still in training and was like "um i don't think I'm supposed to do that." She was like "why not?" and I was like "well the milk will scald and taste like crap..." She understood and just wanted me to get it as hot as I could. How could someone drink a near boiling latte anyways? it's beyond me.

and back to all of this closing/ cleaning the machine before closing, this has happened once. I always keep one group open for the last minute customer. this discussion got taken out of context a little bit. I appreciate everyone's comments, but i feel like everyone thinks i'm a terrible barista and I drive people away because i would rather clean my machine and get out early than make one customer happy. Just know that this has never been the case.
My cafe is thankfully a laid back environment in Portland where its totally okay and commonplace to engage the customer in conversation on all sorts of things. When someone orders something I find amusing or confusing I often ask them why they like things a certain way, just to understand better.
Anyways, in my experience the x-tra hot thing is usually so they can walk around and not actually drink their drink there that moment. The milk sucks and even if you don't scald it, it still pours crappy, but if they want a drink for later i guess its up to them.
Sorta on the same topic I once got a bad co-worker review to my boss for emphasizing to my co-workers the need to not close until we were closed. I made a comment along the lines of "you get paid hourly, so wait until we close and do a complete job" or something, and it got mis-interpreted to my boss as we should close as slowly as possible to make more money. Yeah, that sucked.

Branden said:
haha I remember the first time someone asked me to steam their drink to 200 degrees. I was still in training and was like "um i don't think I'm supposed to do that." She was like "why not?" and I was like "well the milk will scald and taste like crap..." She understood and just wanted me to get it as hot as I could. How could someone drink a near boiling latte anyways? it's beyond me.

and back to all of this closing/ cleaning the machine before closing, this has happened once. I always keep one group open for the last minute customer. this discussion got taken out of context a little bit. I appreciate everyone's comments, but i feel like everyone thinks i'm a terrible barista and I drive people away because i would rather clean my machine and get out early than make one customer happy. Just know that this has never been the case.
That's how my cafe is also, Brandon. I enjoy the opportunity to talk to the customer about why they want what they want. It does suck when someone says they'll just go to Starbucks - so I do whatever I can to prevent that. We're not in a very coffee cultured neighborhood, so we have to focus on service and bring people up to loving coffee like we do.

In my experience, with the whole caramel macchiato business, if you give them something that tastes sweet and caramelly they're usually happy. But then, I enjoy the challenge of tweaking a drink to their specifications, especially when it results in something they like even MORE than that usual drink they get elsewhere.

Ray has a point, also. Some of us have the luxury of being able to dictate, but most of us who aren't in the Pacific Northwest or New York are at the mercy of our customer's desires, and thus end up with monstrosities such as bubble tea and mocha mixes in our shops. ;)
I can relate, especially since our coffee house is located a block away from Starbucks, and Waves (a Canadian chain). However, the number of times I've heard that phrase being used by a customer, I can probably count on one hand. There have been instances, like Nathan said, of a couple/family/group of people torn between SB and here; they'll usually split up because the SB people are just that loyal.

Admittedly, I have had the tendency to go on a rant about customers that come into our store expecting us to emulate SB in terms of drink customization, but it's something I can't get rid of, because that's the clientèle our store is competing for. However, I don't mind going an extra length to educate some hesitant customers about why I believe our drinks are superior to those at SB.

And during the couple of times the customers have thrown out that "insult" at us because we don't carry a particular syrup (i.e. pumpkin spice or toffee nut), I really don't care. I can't convert everyone (but I can wish for it). ;) The only time I was (silently) fuming was when a lady was telling her friend about our place, and her friend asked, "So [we're] pretty much just copying Starbucks?" Ohh, ignorance.
Terri Sierra said:
Mmmm, always serve our customers until we close, regardless if we have cleaned the machine or not. It can always be cleaned again.

But yes, we get that "I'll go to Sbux" every once in a while and we just say "OK". The people that say it are really not great customers anyway. They are the ones who want something for nothing or just can't be pleased. Thank God they are few and far between.

Where is this utopia where they are few and far between? I would love to see this place. Sounds like a place I only dream about.

-bry
LOL I have heard it before,

But usually when people are requesting things like blended green tea lattes and other specialty drinks I did not have the ingredients for or neither of us new how to produce a close knock off.

I find a good apology works, maybe ask them why they want to hurt them selves lol!
I had a situation one time when a customer came in (first time) -- we welcomed her like we always do 1st time customers. She said that she just usually orders a Mocha Frappacino(sp?). We said that we could do that -- we normally call them "Blended". She said ok and we proceeded to do her drink. During the course of making the drink, she asked for a cup of water. We usually keep styrofoam-throwaway cups for water, with a pitcher of water next to it. We offered it and she said, "No, Starbucks usually gives me a 16 oz clear cup." We politely said we could but there would be cup charge for the plastic cups, when the styrofoam cups were free.

Well, we don't what happened next but she didn't like the answer. We gave her the drink and she started walking off towards the end of the counter. She looked like she was upset at the answer. She took one sip of the drink then turned around and said that she wanted her money back. Surprised (not?), I said, "Ok".

Then, she said, "I'm never coming back here again!!" Holding back from saying anything rude, I responded, "Thank you and have a nice day." and refunded her money. Now in any other event I would asked, "What"s wrong? , and let me do the drink over." But in this instance, I didn't get a chance. The Barista and I both scratched our heads after she left.

Maybe we didnt want THAT "customer" anyway.....

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