Opinion | Working at Starbucks was the best thing that ever happened to me


TPN File Photo

A Starbucks’ storefront.

By Dalia Maeroff, Opinions Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic took my favorite job away. Working as a Starbucks barista was my first job at a large company, and while that may sound trivial, it prepared me for the harsh realities of the adult work environment.

Working at Starbucks seems like the best job for a teenager or college student, and it’s true. I was lucky — most people my age were waitressing or working elsewhere in the food industry for below minimum wage, and in most cases, their bosses kept the tips. Despite my long commute and early shift hours, Starbucks was flexible with school, and I got paid the correct amount on time. I learned the ups and downs of the corporate world. This environment was much different from working at a small business — like the small businesses that many of my peers worked at.

That isn’t to say that working at a small business is bad. My experience working at a small business was excellent. However, I didn’t gain as much knowledge compared to what I might have working at a large company. 

People gain a lot of skills and know-how working in a corporate setting. There is almost always a strict set of rules concerning how things are run, and Starbucks is no exception. I still have my guidebooks that detail how the store works — all the little moving parts of the coffee shop and how to ensure these parts keep moving. 

The first and most notable rule at Starbucks was customer service. I feel like working at Starbucks comes with a sort of stigma — that the people who go there are rich, stuck up and tend to step all over customer service workers. 

I don’t go to Starbucks to get coffee. I’m too broke to afford it, and I can’t count the amount of times I was yelled at by a 13-year-old that their ridiculously complicated frappuccino “didn’t taste right.” I don’t know about you, but smiling through eight hours of that kind of treatment is hard. It only gets worse if you have a bad relationship with your boss and coworkers. I was lucky enough to love mine like a family. 

There will always be people that treat you horribly. Learning how to deal with them is part of the job — whether it’s just brushing off their rude behavior or deferring to your manager, also known as your sworn protector. But most of the customer service work isn’t bad. There’s always people that leave a $100 bill in the tip jar for Christmas. 

Instead of being miserable throughout the day because of one bad interaction, Starbucks taught me ways to be genuinely happy during work. It changed my outlook on handling interpersonal relations at jobs going forward. 

The protocol was simple — genuinely take an interest. There’s not much else to think about but coffee for the whole shift, so you might as well learn more about the people you make coffee for. Make a game of remembering their drink orders or ask how their day is going. After all, what is the point of seeing a person every day and not knowing a thing about them? 

Some people talked more than others. But regardless, when one regular customer — an old man that always used to stick around to talk to me about when he was young and traveled the world — brought me a chocolate cake when I graduated high school, it meant something. I formed a real connection with my customers — making both of us feel good. 

When working in a corporate setting like Starbucks, I learned to manage many moving parts at once and balance them effectively. You learn that you need to juggle several things at all times, which carries into the rest of your life, too. You know what needs to be done, how to do it and when it needs to be done. Efficiency is a skill that can be applied to everything in life.

Starbucks has many areas of operation — way more than in your local coffee shop. Many large companies try to make sure their employees are knowledgeable about how things work at every level of the company, not just the one they work at. 

For example, I know way too much about where Starbucks beans come from and how they’re processed. I also know about the different resources available to me as an employee — available benefits or how to go to human resources when I need it. I know that large companies are held to certain standards for how their employees are treated. 

Working at a small business often doesn’t have all of those different areas, and sadly, they often aren’t held to the same standards. It can be difficult for people who have never worked at a large corporation to know when they need to reach out and ask for help, or what resources are available. 

I am happy that I can look back on my time working at Starbucks and remember all the fun times I had with my coworkers. I fondly recall spilling a giant vat of coffee on the floor and jokingly telling my manager that “it wasn’t me” before rushing to mop it all up. But I can also look back and say I gained valuable knowledge that I’ll take with me to every future job. 

Dalia Maeroff writes primarily about issues of psychology, education, culture and environmentalism. Write to her at [email protected].