Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Starbucks

Starbucks is known for more than just their signature hot espresso drinks and icy cold Frappuccinos. The coffee chain, which is the largest one in the U.S., is also supposed to be a notoriously great place to work for part-time and full-time employees alike. In 2018, Starbucks was named the fifth most admired company worldwide by FortuneIt has also appeared on Forbes' lists for Best Employers for Diversity, Top Regarded Companies of 2018, and Best Employers For Women, among others. 

Part of what makes Starbucks one of the best companies to work for the benefits they offer employees, the teamwork that comes with the job, and great manager and partner relationships. But like any other customer service job, working at Starbucks has its fair share or ups and downs — just ask the actual employees, who are never shy about sharing their experience on the internet via Reddit or in an interview. Take a look at what it's really like to work at Starbucks, according to the people who know best. 

They get revenge on rude customers

Most employees agree that one of the toughest things about working at Starbucks is dealing with customers, especially the ones who can be quite rude during an interaction. And if you're going to disrespect the person making your coffee, you can expect them to retaliate. One Starbucks barista who spoke with Cosmopolitan about their job admitted to giving them regular espresso shots when they asked for decaf, or regular milk when they asked for skim. The barista said that while they don't do it for everyone, "if someone is being pushy or rude, I do it." 

Similarly, employees tend to "get back" at a customer who's been extra rude by making their drink with decaf instead of regular — after all, what better way to get back at someone than to deprive them of their caffeine buzz? In a Reddit thread, a former Starbucks partner said, "Feel like I'm pretty universal when saying this, but when you think you're entitled to anything and complain about a non issue, you're getting decaf and I'm not apologizing about your minor inconvenience."

They do have their limits for revenge though. When asked by Cosmopolitan if they've ever spit in a drink, the barista's response was, "Oh no, I would never do that. Besides, we have cameras on us all the time." Thank goodness for the cameras, right?

They spell your name wrong on purpose

One thing Starbucks is known for is getting your name completely wrong. Once a customer orders and gives their name, an employee writes it on a cup, and somehow, it always manages to be something totally out there, whether it's an odd spelling or just an incorrect name. Apparently, employees have a lot of fun with this. One employee told Cosmopolitan that they have intentionally misspelled names on cups "just to mess with people," adding that they "love to see their reactions." 

These misspellings often get a lot of social media attention, and the same employee said her manager manager admitted "most Starbucks employees use it as a marketing tool. Most people aren't going to post a photo to social media of a cup with their name spelled right." 

Starbucks denied this to BuzzFeed News, saying, "We've never asked or directed any of our partners to misspell names of our customers for any reason." Either way, it's always fun to see what your cup says every morning.

It's exhausting

If you've ever gone into a Starbucks during a busy time, then you're aware of just how busy and hectic it can get. Employees agree that as great as the job may be sometimes, it can also be really stressful. One employee spoke about it with Business Insider, saying that although management expects employees to "connect with customers," they also often understaff restaurants, saying, "Starbucks demands that we do several tasks at once, so how can it be expected to 'connect with customers?'"

Another employee told the website, "It's exhausting being the only one on the floor and having to do register and hot bar and customer support... Nothing gets cleaned. Nothing gets stocked. We're getting screamed at by customers for not being fast enough, so we try to go fast, and we mess up the money, or we mess up the drinks, and then we get yelled at for messing up the money and messing up the drinks. It's all incredibly tiresome." 

And on Reddit, one barista said they wouldn't recommend the job to someone dealing with anxiety or depression, saying, "The stress, even under a good manager sucks. Under a bad manager, it will literally eat you up and spit you out." Another barista summed it up by saying, "Some days suck, I'll admit that. Your body will hurt, you will be frazzled, and it will almost always be stressful." Sounds about right!

They hate making Frappuccinos

Ask any barista which drink is their least favorite to make, and they'll probably all give you the same answer: any of the Frappuccinos. These icy, creamy blended drinks are a Starbucks staple, but they are apparently really annoying to put together. One barista told New York Magazine, "I used to love Frappuccinos. But now I hate them. There's a lot of barista-hate against the Frappuccino." Why? Apparently, they take a lot of time to make and can easily throw off a routine, which can make things complicated if it's very busy.

A barista on Reddit added that not only do they hate how time-consuming Frappuccinos are to make, but they also "hate the ingredients for it, and prepping for them too." They explained that they found the drinks were made with way too much sugar and not enough espresso, saying they're easily one of the most unhealthy menu items they have.

They're not baking those pastries

If you thought the Starbucks sandwiches, pastries, and cakes were made in-house, think again. Many of the employees constantly have to correct people to let them know all of the food offered is pre-frozen. In a Reddit thread, one employee wrote, "All Starbucks food is reheated frozen food. Ridiculous how little people realize that. Doesn't mean it doesn't taste good, it's just not fresh at all and incredibly overpriced." Another Redditor added, "The whole 'our pastries are only served heated so they can be fully enjoyed' is so you don't realize it was frozen 10 seconds before you ordered it." 

Customers, though, tend to expect something like pastries to be fresh, according to another barista on Reddit. "Once a customer overheard me telling a new barista the pastry shelf lives (some are one day, some are two days), stopped me and asked 'Do you mean to say that this danish could be two days old??' B**** it was two weeks old before it came in the door, please calm down."

On another Reddit thread, a Starbucks supervisor explained that in the morning, employees thaw out a certain amount of food for the day before it can be put in the oven. They explained, "And we don't have a ton of fridge/freezer space in the back so we only get so many food items at once." If your favorite scone or muffin always seems to be out of stock, that may be why — it's just still frozen. 

Some customers are especially awful

Although a lot of employees may cherish the friendships they've made with regular customers, most of them will also say that rude customers are an unfortunate part of the job. Belen Jimenez, a Starbucks partner, wrote a whole blog post about it on The Barista Life. Jimenez explained that she often has to deal with customers who don't know much about coffee, saying, "Customers come in day after day, minute after minute, asking for things that make absolutely no sense, thinking they are the caffeine gods and this Starbucks is their Olympus. I get the occasional customer that actually knows a thing or two about coffee... But, more often than not, I get teenagers who demand their saucy, sweet blended beverages and the older customers that get irritated at the amount of foam on their espresso macchiato." 

Another Starbucks barista on Reddit expressed the same sentiment, saying, "Starbucks has created a very specific, niche, and entitled customer-base that can make your life hell sometimes. If you can handle rude people, maintain professionalism, and maintain composure in situations where someone might literally be screaming in your face because you forgot a single pump of their skinny vanilla syrup, you'll be just fine."

Another barista on Reddit explained that though rude customers may be expected, it gets worse than you might imagine. According to this barista, customers often call baristas names while they're making drinks, take a really long time order, never tip, and miss their drinks when they're called. The employee warned, "Don't work at Starbucks unless you are prepared to deal with, undoubtedly, the dumbest, rudest, most entitled customers you will ever meet." 

The regulars often make the job worth it

Many employees have found that one of the most rewarding things about working at Starbucks isn't the benefits (though those are pretty awesome!), but the relationships they gain with regular customers. 

One barista told The Odyssey that making friends with regular customers is one of the biggest pros about their job, explaining, "Despite being an introvert at heart, I always manage to come alive at work and it's partly because of the friendships I've developed with my regular customers... I know I would've never met these wonderful people had it not been for a mutual love of overpriced coffee." 

On Reddit, one employee said that regulars tell them they miss them when they don't see them working and some even give them Christmas gifts. They added that they're able to make someone smile every day, saying, "That alone makes the job worth it for me."

And in an interview with Cosmopolitan, another employee agreed with the sentiment, saying, "My favorite part of my job is the customers. I love seeing the light in their faces when they try a new drink and they love it.... It's those little things that outweigh the bad."

They hate the secret menu

Another thing employees almost universally hate? The idea of a "secret menu," which is supposedly a list of drinks Starbucks can make you that don't appear on actual menus. Baristas, however, say the secret menu is not an actual thing. When speaking to Huffington Post, one employee explained, "I hated when people would ask for 'secret menu' drinks, because they don't exist. Starbucks employees are always happy to customize your drink, but we never know what's in those crazy ones!" 

On Reddit, one barista wrote, "There is no recipe for drinks called a Clint Eastwood, Undertow, Tear Drop, Tuxedo, Bloody Tuxedo, or my most recent favorite 'Butter Beer.'" Someone may have made up a tasty drink and slapped a fun name on it, but more than likely, your Starbucks barista doesn't know anything about it it.

As another barista explained to New York Magazine, you can't just give them the name of a drink you read about online and expect them to make it. Instead, tell them exactly what's in it, and they'll make it for you.

There's a lot of cleaning

Many people worry that fast food restaurants, especially ones as busy as Starbucks, aren't as clean as they should be. Employees of the chain, however, insist most stores have a high standard of cleanliness with everything from appearance to the food served. On Reddit, a former Starbucks supervisor said that they had to check the temperatures of the fridge and food case three times a day, and if it was too warm, everything was tossed in the garbage. They added, "We sanitized milk pitchers every couple hours. Everything that touched anything edible was sanitized at least once a day... We kept ground coffee only 12 hours and brewed coffee 30 minutes on timers." 

In another Reddit thread, a Starbucks supervisor said that although customers may sometimes leave behind a mess it the self-service bar or a table, the employees are usually more clean than that. They said, "Baristas spend a lot of our time cleaning. New hires are shocked by the non-stop cleaning requirements."

The hardest part of working there is the training

If working as a barista seems like it might be overwhelming and confusing, that's because it can be, especially for brand new hires. In fact, many of the employees feel like the training at the beginning was the toughest part of their job. We can't blame them — can you imagine trying to learn how to make all those drinks

A former Starbucks employee explained to Huffington Post that new hires go through two weeks of full training days where they learn how to make every drink and practice doing things wrong so they knew how to fix the mistake during a rush. 

One Starbucks barista wrote on Reddit that some new employees don't even make it through the training, saying a lot of the people they trained with "quit immediately because they took the job for the 'aesthetic' of being a barista," adding, "It's not glamorous, it's not beautiful." 

At the end of the day, though, that training pays off. The former employee told Huffington Post, "Practice makes perfect, and after you spent a few shifts on the bar (where the drinks are made), it was like second nature."

There are a lot of perks

Starbucks is known for giving their employees great benefits, such as health coverage, 401(k) plans, parental leave, and tuition coverage, among other things. And the people that work there say this is one of the reasons they love their job. 

One former barista told Yahoo News, "If you're full-time, you get dental and health insurance options. The one amazing thing I got from working there was my stock in Starbucks: over three years, I made about $400 when I finally sold my share."

Aside from benefits, employees also reap the rewards of free things — mainly coffee. A former Starbucks employee told Huffington Post that workers received one free drink during every shift they worked, and they could brew free coffee whenever they felt like it. They were also allowed to eat broken or unused food that couldn't be sold, as well as grab drinks that were never claimed. In fact, the employee added, "At one point, my friends had to sit me down and tell me I had to lower my coffee intake, because it was getting out of hand." 

It's all about the team work

Although parts of the job can be tough, what many employees like the most is the teamwork that comes with their position. In order for the store to function properly, working together is essential. You have to admit, they do always look like they're having fun behind the counter!

One Starbucks employee, Alecia Li Morgan, wrote on Quora that the teams were "amazing," saying that although there were certainly people who didn't really care about their job much, it was overall always a great experience. Describing the teams, she said, "They were diverse, they were fun, and they were passionate." She added, "We all took ownership in our stores, and when that happens, everyone wins." 

Another former employee told New York Magazine about the "green apron board" at Starbucks, which is essentially a thank you card system. They basically write each other little notes that are full of compliments as motivation. They said, "So you always find little notes in your spot like, 'You kicked ass today!' Or 'I'm so happy I get to work with you.'"