I worked at Starbucks for almost 5 years. Over that time I managed to work my way up from barista to eventually becoming a store manager. I’m sure many can relate when I say, I loved that job… on most days. As with any job, love it or hate it, there are difficult days, difficult people, and difficult situations… often involving difficult people on difficult days.
Whenever I encountered these difficult people I would strive to see through the eyes of the customer and offer grace, do what I could to bring a positive experience, and move on. Despite my best efforts, there was one type of difficult person I just could not develop that level of grace for. He was “that guy.” Everyone who had ever worked with me knows exactly who I’m talking about. It was the person who kept a particularly infuriating weapon at the ready. “I used to work at Starbucks so I know…” It was basically their way of saying, “I know how to do your job better than you so you should give me what I want.”
Fast forward a little. I left Starbucks almost a year ago when the Lord called me back into full-time ministry. I miss it regularly but I have always tried to be a customer through the eyes of a barista. I try to consider what the people behind the counter are dealing with before I make my judgments or decide what they “should be doing.” I have seen some excellent baristas and some that make me get that head-tilted-what-did-you-just-say look on my face that makes people aware that you are judging them. However, I always try to remind myself, you don’t know how many whip cream canisters just exploded on them as they were washing dishes.
I must confess though, recently, I failed. I walked into a third Starbucks in as many days and ordered a cold-brewed iced coffee, the featured drink at the moment. And for the third time in a row, I was told, “We’re all out.” Mind you, this was at 5:30AM. The store opened at 5AM so I had a hard time believing there was that big of a rush on iced coffee. I said never mind to my order and turned to leave. The barista tried to offer me several other options but I really wanted some cold brew. Finally, the barista told me, “We would have it but people don’t know how to do their jobs.” There it was. You’re telling me that in a company whose number one value is “Puts the Customer First,” that you can’ provide me with your featured beverage due to negligence?! Nope. Not okay. So then, I said it. I said the unthinkable. “I used to be a store manager and I’ve never seen this level of negligence.”
I was him. I was that guy. I couldn’t believe it. It was a hard realization knowing that I could fall so far. While this is probably sounding like an oversensitive rant, and maybe it is, it reminded me that there are always situations that can make us go against our values if we are not careful. I value the service industry because I know what a difficult and thankless job it can be. I have watched people treat service industry employees like they are “beneath them” and it infuriates me. These are people working hard and should be valued as such. It reminded me of several things.
First, I need to be slow to anger and quick to offer grace. Maybe negligence had nothing to do with this stores lack of cold brew. I don’t know what went on that morning. There could have been any number of scenarios that caused the production of cold brew to be pushed to the back burner and ultimately forgotten. Again, everyone has difficult days on both sides of the counter.
Also, I need to examine the plank in my eye before pointing out the speck in others. I genuinely disliked every person who ever used the, “I used to work at Starbucks…” line and there I was throwing around a former title like I was the expert in all things Starbucks. (I do have an apron that says I am, but I digress.)
Finally, it reminded me that sometimes I need to slow down and not get so fixated on having things my way. I had an opportunity to display grace and be different from the normal unsatisfied customer and I failed in that moment. Going forward, I’ll keep my eyes open and pay attention to even the smallest opportunities to communicate the grace that God has given me.
What about you? Where are the day to day opportunities you have to display grace in the mundane? I pray that we can all do a better job than I did that day and show love even when things don’t go our way.