Starbucks Baristas Outraged That Customers Have Wised Up

Starbuck’s smug distributors of sweet, caffeinated crude have pulled their panties clear over their head in one outraged jerk after their customers have learned to save a couple pucks on an iced espresso.

It works like this. At Starbucks, three shots of expresso over ice will set you back a couple bucks. If you want it as an iced espresso latte, though, the milk will cost you $3.50.

So what are people doing? Just ordering the former and filling up with milk from the side bar.

Makes sense to me, but Starbucks barrista’s are exploding into vapor clouds of spittle over it. Claimed one Barista, “You’re being cheap… I’ll bet you didn’t ask for a discount on that Louis Vuitton purse or those ugly highlights.” A coffee shop manager of another chain said of the baristas’ hysteria: “No one wants to be taken advantage of… the baristas get offended.”

Yeah, that’s right. No one likes to be taken advantage of. Like, for example, paying an extra 2 bucks for 5 cents worth of milk.

Baristas are having a cow over dairy “thefts” [Seattle Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Cathoo says:

    I wonder if these guys know how long the milk has been sitting out for. It’s supposed to be changed every hour, but things get busy.

    Adding that chunky warm milk that anyone could have sneezed on/poured all the sugars into/drank from the pitcher sounds the perfect way to top up a gross robotic espresso shot. And yes, I’ve seen all three of those happen.

  2. homerjay says:

    That reminds of of one of those stores that puts out samples of their dips and crackers for people to try.
    What’s wrong with the people who actually sample this stuff? Do you have any idea what unspeakable things Joanna from McDonalds has done do that dip when she was in the store?

  3. robyns says:

    Ah, yes. But it’s free! Free means it’s magically protected from germs and other nasty things.

  4. Jess A. says:

    This is what I usually do when I want an iced espresso — though I want way more espresso than milk, so it’s not really an “iced espresso latte”.

    As to the quality of the condiment cream… when I worked coffee, it was a very rare thing indeed for the cream/milk to be warm at all. The pitchers that the condiments are kept in are well insulated and have to be tested periodically to make sure that they’re keeping the milk at an appropriate texture. (I didn’t work for Starbucks, so I don’t know if/how they differ — but this was a health code thing as well as a quality control thing, so I can’t imagine it would be any different.) And I think that any customer that pours “chunky warm milk” into their espresso is going to be complaining on the spot… that’s something you notice right away.

    I don’t think customers are “taking advantage of” baristas — maybe they’re taking advantage of the pricing system, but if that’s the case then Starbucks needs to decide at the corporate level to just not offer cream on the condiment bar. This customer practice isn’t cutting into stores’ profit margins.

  5. RandomHookup says:

    So to prevent being poisoned by the free milk, we should buy a $2 insurance policy every time?

  6. KevinQ says:

    Plus: You save $2 on your drink.

    Minus: Your barista just poured hot espresso over ice.

    For those who care about that sort of thing, it’s kind of a wash.


  7. Pelagius says:

    Extra points if you use the powdered cocoa dispenser to make a DIY mocha.

    Regardless, anyone who drinks iced lattes deserves to be heaped upon with buckets of ice-cold, frothy-hot scorn.

  8. AcilletaM says:


  9. Zach Everson says:

    Guess I have a new drink at Starbucks. Guess I’m an idiot too. Should I go through Quicken and see how much money I’ve wasted?

  10. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    I love, LOVE the outrage.

    “We’re willing to screw our customers for every penny we possibly can, up to and including treating them like dead mice we found in our underwear drawer, BUT HOW DARE THEY take advantage of a loophole in our rules? How dare they??

    This isn’t just Starbucks of course. It’s every company that I no longer feel the slightest moral twinge about getting absolutely everything I can out of — and that’s a lot of companies.

    If you screw your customers, they will screw back. There’s another t-shirt for later. ;)

  11. bambino says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the milk in lattes steamed to some specific temperature? The milk on the condiment bar looks like it’d only be good for a bowl of cereal.

  12. bambino says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the milk in lattes steamed to some specific temperature? Seems like the milk on the condiment bar would only be good for a bowl of cereal.

    *sorry if a repost

  13. AcilletaM says:

    bambino, directions for “ghetto” steamed latte:

    1. add desired amount of milk, leaving room at the top of the cup for expansion
    2. allow coffee to warm milk
    3. obtain a straw
    4. insert straw into coffee drink
    5. blow until sufficient bubbles appear and drink becomes ‘frothy’
    6. enjoy!

  14. maggie says:

    I have to say something great about a Starbucks barista: I used to always order a small dry cappucino. My regular barista told me that I could order an espresso doppio machiato for less money and get more exactly what I wanted! Not that all stores are experts at making this drink (which can end up like a small wet cappucino which might not be a bad thing for some people!). Also, I learned (here maybe?) that all the caps have the same amount of espresso (unless you order another shot) so the difference in those sizes is just milk! And I learned (here?) to order “small”!

  15. acambras says:

    The barristas are “outraged”? So I’m supposed to put up with ‘tude from some snobby barrista because I know how to do math? They’re a nervy lot — suck up your “outrage” and get a real job.

  16. ikes says:

    bambino, the people ordering this crap from starbucks don’t care about any of that. they just want something sweet and caffeinated…

  17. gwai lo says:

    I see where this is going – Starbucks takes the milk off the condiment bar and now those of us just grabbing a cup of coffee have to get the barista to dole it out to us drop by drop, that is, if we can even get their attention.

    Isn’t all of this just the same as the person who takes 100 sugar packets and a handful of napkins and puts them in their purse?

  18. bambino says:

    Ummm, I do care if my coffee is the correct temperature or not, I don’t just want something sweet & caffeinated. I guess I’m in the minority. Acilleta, that truly is ghetto. Sort of like adding cold marinara to hot pasta. Truly gross.

  19. AcilletaM says:

    Yeah, reading the comment again I think I was influenced by the old Eddie Murphy – make your own jacuzzi jokes.

  20. For Iced Lattes, you don’t usually steam the milk. You only steam the milk for hot drinks. Unless you need some foam to top off an iced drink, but you would just use the foam.

  21. radiofree says:

    Can someone say tempest in a teapot?

    If you don’t like the way Starbucks does business, shop somewhere else. Thankfully, we still have some alternatives in the overpriced coffee outlets, unlike, say, cable, eletric, gas, or telephone.

    While this is absolutely a consumerist issue, I think it should be an issue because of how silly the whole topic is, not because one side or another is getting ripped off.

  22. You usually only steam milk for hot drinks, not iced lattes. Unless you top it off with foam, but that would be a iced capp. And you would only use the foam.

  23. Shoot. Sorry for double post. Comments acting wonky for me.

  24. bambino says:

    Yah, me too. And they hate it when you say ‘capp’ in there. Try it, see if you don’t get a cringe.

  25. Ben Popken says:

    Dustin writes:

    “I drink iced coffee and my favorite place to get it is Starbucks. However, I don’t order Iced Coffee because I get more for less by ordering a hot coffee with ice on the side. My official order is “TallCoffeeNoRoomVentiCupOfIce” and it costs $1.50. Then I walk over to the coffee bar and dump the hot coffee into the cold ice. It always reaches the top of the plastic Venti cup. I throw the hot coffee cup away and I’m done. I saved 30 cents (I think an iced shaken coffee, Venti, is $1.80) and got fresher coffee, too. .”

  26. TedSez says:

    When I go to Starbuck’s, I always order a regular coffee with lots of space at the top for milk. I do this not because it’s cheaper than ordering a latte (although it is), but because I don’t like my coffee very hot, and adding cold milk myself (rather than getting the hot steamed milk in a latte) cools it down.

    I have to say that the baristas have never given me a problem with this. In fact, in some occasions they’ve given me a larger-size cup while charging me for the smaller one I ordered, because they’re not filling it all the way up with coffee.

    Maybe the problem isn’t with Starbucks at all, but with snooty Seattle baristas who are mad that their poetry, rock band or job application at Peet’s never went anywhere.

  27. bambino says:

    …and liquified a whole bunch of water very quickly into your coffee, and created twice as much waste as if you’d just ordered the damn iced coffee.

  28. MissKissLock says:

    I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve gotten ‘tude from the baristas. When I asked if I should order a latte, one tattooed, pierced college brat told me haughtily, “…if you want to be *honest*.”

    That hurt.

  29. acambras says:

    Who the hell came up with “barista” anyway? What kind of self-aggrandizing crap is that?

  30. RandomHookup says:

    MissKissLock: You can always ask them if they are being honest about reporting their tip income…

  31. Craig says:

    “Barista” is Italian for “bartender.”

  32. Chongo says:

    I have a few friends that work at SB and they easily make 100 extra bucks a week in tips.

    Even though I’m broke, I know to tip my drug dealer a buck.

    BTW if you tip alot and go in right before closing they tend to give you whatever is left over (sandwiches, regular brewed coffee, pastries, etc).

  33. acambras says:

    OK, thanks Craig.

    Even though we’re not in a bar and we’re not in Italy. ;-)

  34. leareth says:

    I have never ever worked at Starbucks. I have however worked at one of our locally owned coffee shops that I still frequent daily.

    We also had a pretty regular customer who would order a 16oz americano, ask for an inch of water and ask us to “top it off” with steamed milk.

    The “topping off” ended up being 3/4 of the volume of the cup.

    I think many of you are missing a point.

    Her behaviour and those mentioned in the post is not clever or noble. The behaviour is trying to get something for nothing, which is something pretty damning when a corporation does it, are we supposed to applaud it when an individual does it?

    Sure Starbucks is a big chain with big pockets, but it is just as WRONG to do it to a big corporation as it is to the small mom&pop coffee shop. If you don’t like Starbucks then don’t buy from them, but it not appropriate to try and screw them over.

    Part of the expectation of being treated fairly as a customer is to be a GOOD customer, not a petty criminal.

    Remember that the cost of a latte is not just milk and coffee beans. It’s rent, training, machine repairs, machine maintance, electricity bills, insurance, hourly wages, and the 1001 little things that most people don’t see going on that this little scam avoids supporting so that they can feel superior by saving a $1.75 and looking like an idiot in front of people.

    I should add that I think Starbucks over-roasts their coffee, charges to much for it, and has relies to heavily on rote training instead of good espresso theory. In general Starbucks sucks… but from technical standpoint.

    *Oh, and the lady I mentioned, when the manager finally said to her “If you are going to ask for steamed milk we are going to have to start charging you latte prices.” she poured her full cup on his shoes and walked out. IS that the sort of person you would want to be remembered as?

  35. GenXCub says:

    Well, you can’t argue with a company who has 3 names for sizes that all mean “large”

  36. Chris V says:

    It’s ridiculous that a customer should be pressured to provide any tip for a product which costs the store $0.25 and which they sell for $4. These baristas should be kissing the butts of the customers they’re ripping off instead of attacking the customers for trying not to get ripped off as badly as normal.

  37. gertrudeyorkes says:

    I worked at Starbucks in college, and I was neither self-important nor snobbish. Starbucks doesn’t neccessarily treat their employees that well, so that “barista ‘tude” might not be all about you.
    I’m of two minds about the whole “tipping your barista” thing, but I do have to say that people come in with ridiculous demands that you see parodied but are very real “halfcafskim180degreelightfoaminagrandecupwithtwosweetandlowsandanextrashot” are the norm. If you are asking someone who makes 8 bucks an hour (in New York City) to put that much effort and thought in to what should be a simple transaction, they deserve a tip, even if it’s scraps. And Starbucks employees are taxed for their tips on their paycheck, btw.
    Also, while I don’t think Starbucks should be charging that much for an iced drink (they really are half ice), I also think that people who drink coffee at Starbucks are clearly okay with disposing of their income in a frivolous way, so it’s not like that extra buck for something that hasn’t been sitting out all day is gonna really break the bank if you were paying that much to begin with.

  38. Eukaryote says:

    Chris V., you completely miss the point.

    Yes, the company (Starbucks in this instance) provides .25 for the ingredients of the coffee, but that’s not who you’re tipping. All of the overhead directly affects the price of the drink, and just like Leareth pointed out, there are a lot more things that go into that cup than just the beans and water.

    By not tipping the workers, you are screwing them over twice. A) on the tip that they deserve as part of standard custom in a service economy and B) on the taxes that they are paying on the (in your case) non-existent tip.

    Screw the corporation all you want, but these are the front line workers who deserve all of our support for needing to be wage slaves to Starbucks. Grow up, and give them a dime at least.