News & Politics

Starbucks Offends Customer By Calling Her ‘Phone’


Starbucks is not only offending Alec Baldwin! It is causing trouble for regular people as well, particularly a woman named Marguerite McAfee, who had an incident this week at the Starbucks on Third Avenue and 23rd Street, her regular spot, where, she says, “The employees have seemed to me to be quite unhappy and, at times, rude to customers.” (She keeps going there because it’s convenient.) However, yesterday, the last straw was had. She was waiting in line to purchase a tall soy latte for $4.08, playing FlightControl on her iPhone, and, well, we’ll let her tell it in her words:

She writes,

I was in line for the register and the barista was taking orders before people in line paid for their drinks. There were several people in front of me in line and the barista took their orders. I was playing a game on my phone, but was completely attentive to the barista’s process and noticed that he had taken the order of the lady in line in front of me. I looked up to see if he would take mine and thought he was heading back to make drinks so I looked back down at my phone. Apparently I was wrong and he had planned to take my order. He shouted at me, “Miss on the phone.” I felt affronted by the way he spoke to me, it was rude and angry, as if I had no right to be looking down at my phone while waiting for him to take my order. I wasn’t speaking on the phone, I was looking at it, but no manner of using a phone should have caused him to speak to me this way. I placed my order with him, a $4.08 tall soy latte, which I buy once or twice a day (this adds up over the course of a year), and continued to wait to get to the register. At the register, the cashier asked me if I had “had my order called.” I didn’t know what she meant, so I asked her to repeat herself. She said, “Did you have your order called?” I said to her this time, “I don’t know what you mean.” She then waved her hand at me as if to dismiss my idiocy. She didn’t explain what she had meant, she just dismissed me with a wave of her hand, grabbed a tall cup and said, “What’s the name?” I tried to explain to her that the barista had taken my order but that he had not asked my name, but she was fed up. I was trying to comply and gave the name, which happens to be my name, I am a person, who was trying to order an expensive drink from her. She wrote it on the cup and put it in line for the barista to fill.

The barista had, of course, already taken my drink order, but hadn’t asked my name. Instead of using the cup that the cashier had secondarily prepared for me with my name on it, the barista was using a cup on which (I assume) he had marked what type of drink I wanted, without writing my name on the cup. I waited at the bar for my drink and continued to play the game on my phone. The barista said, “I have one soy latte coming up,” so I looked up to get my drink and on the cup the barista had written the word “Phone” instead of my name, and instead of just leaving the cup blank. I was really taken aback by this action, it was meant to be humiliating and it worked. I was embarrassed to take the cup with the sort of scarlet letter written on it. I mentioned to the barista quietly that I thought this was rude and he replied, “I didn’t get your name.” I just left at this point, but when I got outside I got up the nerve to go back in and set things straight.

I went back to the bar and asked the barista for the manager’s name. The barista ignored me and continued making drinks so I waited a few minutes for him to ask me what I needed, but finally gave up since he was intentionally ignoring me and asked again for the manager’s name, to which the barista replied that the manager was in the office and “do you wanna talk to him?” I said yes and waited for the employees to get him. When he came to the bar he didn’t introduce himself, he just stood there and waited for me to speak. I asked if he was the manager, then showed him the cup with “Phone” written on it and said that I thought it was “obnoxious” and “rude.” The barista jumped in after I finished my sentence, even though I was speaking to the manager, and said argumentatively that he didn’t realize I had given my name to the cashier, which is completely irrelevant to the situation. He was making an excuse for his actions and was now trying to argue with me. The manager looked horrified and turned to me and said he would take care of the situation. He didn’t apologize or try to make amends, or ask if I would like a new cup, but he did say that he would take care of the situation. I believed him based on the look on his face as he appeared genuinely terrified that his employee had been so rude and was now arguing with the customer about an incontrovertible issue… the cup was sitting there on the bar with “Phone” written on it.

McAfee says she’ll deliver her note to the manager of the Starbucks in question, and that she hopes they work to ensure that their staff is professional and kind. But given our reporting on Coffee Names and Marguerite’s vowel-filled appellation, we might suggest that she come up with a “backup” name, just in case. Something better than Phone, of course. And, perhaps, we should all stop using our phones for entertainment in public (we are guilty of this, too). You never know, it might be nice to take a break now and again. Maybe.

In any case, as of this morning, McAfee had not returned to her local Starbucks. We’ve called them for comment and will update when we hear back.


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