Monday, April 6, 2015

3 Things Baristas, Don't Want to Discuss & 9 Brighter Topics of Conversation:

When I'm on the clock, it's all about the job. Who I am, what I think and believe,has to fall away. I need to provide a premiere experience for my guest. Of course, there are topics my guests should know are off limits. These things include:
  1. Saying hateful things about other races, religions, or sexual identities. I'll try not to be a jerk, but silence is tacit agreement.

  1. Trying to convert me to another faith. There is literally no polite way to tell someone “No”. Even if I personally appreciated the injection of faith into my work day, I'm responsible for other employees who may be uncomfortable with this.
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  1. Trying to sell makeup, jewelry, or any direct sales item to me or my co-workers. Why are you pressuring someone who has to be nice to you to buy something they probably can’t afford?

Friendly reminder: please avoid the above three subjects with hospitality, food service, and retail staff.

Now you know, we don't want to hear about controversial subjects particularly when our jobs prohibit us from contributing to the conversation. Some suggestions I have when you want to make conversation with your serving staff:

  1. Keep it light and breezy with some smooth weather conversation.

    1. Talk about you. I like hearing about your kids/grand kids/ nephews or nieces /pets. I like hearing you have a promotion or that your friend is visiting .

    1. Tell me about a trip you took. This is especially popular if you did something on a thrifty budget I might be able to mimic.
    1. Tell me about your new diet, sugar substitute, milk substitute, or update me on how your pursuit of gluten free is going. Personally, I know a lot about healthy eating and different dieting techniques, but more generally, service people are always running into special diets and allergies. Most of us are interested in hearing more about why we're making drinks a special way. If it's a diet we want to know if it was effective. Hearing about your allergies or struggles can help us deliver a safer allergy free food to you.

    1. Talk about a food or product you like. I'm in retail/food service. Stuff like that is kind of my wheel house.
    1. Tell me about a book, movie, or TV show. We're all watching popular media, chances are good I've seen it or heard of it. Even if I don't know it, you might be introducing me to something new I could be enjoying.

    1. Tell me about something local that's going on. There's always a farmer's market, fair, play, or some other local flavor I'd like to know more about.

    1. Feel free to talk about your holiday plans. This is a way to positively share your faith and include us in a way that doesn't pressure us to make any statements about our faith. We all want to hear about a fun party! Graduations, weddings, and birthday parties are fun celebrations we also like hearing about.

    1. Give us a complement. I love recommending my hair stylist (Cost Cutters all the way!), telling you where I got my $1.50 eyeliner, or how I like my brand of khaki pants. My one caveat is to be careful NOT to slide into hitting on us. Personally, I've never enjoyed this kind of attention, though the jury is out on whether this is generally welcome in the industry.


Finally, please look for your best opportunity to speak with us. There's quite a few regulars I enjoy talking to, but no matter how curious I am about their trip to Alaska or how long it's been since I've seen them, I'm way too stressed/busy to chat with them if there is a line. When traffic is heavy please refrain from starting a conversation with us. If you're enjoying a chat but new guests arrive: please understand if we have to cut you short. It's not you, it's the job.

Join the Conversation:
-Has someone ever said something inappropriate to you while you were working and what did you do?
-Are there any places you visit regularly to say “Hi” to the team? What did they do that created that feeling of connection for you?
-Did I miss another fun light topic you like to bring up with service workers?

Enjoy this post and want to read more like it?  Try: The Dumbest Question You Could Ask Your Barista