December 20, 2010

Pride, Prejudice and Coffee

It's nothing personal. That much I know. It doesn't matter if they don't like the drink I prepared. Or at least it shouldn't. It does not reflect on me as a person, or even as a barista. You cannot please everyone.

Of course, that isn't true. Not really. I do care when someone isn't pleased with a drink I've made. And it's not that I fear for my job, so much as I have something like professional pride. As clearly as I can state it, I tend to think I make drinks well. If nothing else, I've acquired the skill to steam milk well in these last four years. I certainly think so. And 99% of the customers to state an opinion seem to agree.

But there is that 1%, that titanic minority.

There was a child today, who could not have been in junior high. He was given a gingerbread latte -- not the sort of thing I'd recommend for his demographic. But in any case, there is sweetness there, and whipped cream too. Surely he'd at least tolerate the drink. Or not. Hardly several sips in, and he brought it back to the counter, declared it bland and flavorless, and asked for a chai instead.

I obliged, partially because it's my job, and also because I want people to leave having enjoyed their beverage. But even still, this was a child, who could not possibly know the first thing about what a "good" latte is. And whether it's your thing or not, nothing sweetened to the extent that the gingerbread latte is can be called bland. I should not have been offended. And yet, on some level, I was.

And I always am, when such a thing happens. Whether I made the drink correctly, or even well, is not particularly relevant. What matters is not so much what I think, but what the customer does. This is not to say that the customer is always right; because this has nothing to do with right and wrong. Rather, this has everything to do with pride. And that, of course, is wholly subjective, and infinitely flexible.

This means that my ego will be battered in the future, though not as often as it's massaged. And it means that, if nothing else, I won't get lazy.

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