The average Starbucks barista encounters hundreds of people in a day. And some of them are a lot more polite than others. You probably already know your barista will be annoyed if you order one of the most obnoxious drinks on the Starbucks menu (or at least on the Starbucks secret menu).
Most of us don’t feel fully human until we have our morning caffeine fix. But if you want better service — and don’t want Starbucks baristas to roll their eyes each time you walk in the door — you should avoid asking them these annoying questions.
1. Could I have a medium?
Starbucks has been around long enough — and let’s be real, you probably stop by frequently — that you know the chain’s name for whatever size drink you usually order. (Short, tall, grande, venti, and trenta, remember?) Most baristas won’t get annoyed if you occasionally order a “medium” instead of a “grande.” But don’t lecture the barista about how you think those names are dumb. They’ve heard it before.
2. What drinks are good?
You can choose from among a huge number of different Starbucks drinks and customize them in practically endless ways. You should go in knowing what you want, not hoping to get a recommendation from the barista. Just like the servers at your favorite restaurants, Starbucks baristas don’t know what you like. And they can’t read your mind to figure out what you’re craving. Most baristas are happy to answer questions about what goes into a drink or how two options compare. But you should always have a pretty good idea of what you want before you reach the counter.
3. Could I have something with vanilla or caramel?
Similarly, it doesn’t help the barista if you get up to the counter and have only a vague idea of the flavor you want. Some baristas will help you out and make a few suggestions. But most just want you to get on with your order. They have tons of customers to serve. So they probably don’t have time to coach you through the process of choosing the drink that you want. If you’re really at a loss, check out the signs announcing new and seasonal drinks for a quick cue on what to order.
4. I’m here all the time. Don’t you remember my order?
You might think you’re a regular at a particular Starbucks location. But stopping in a couple times a week doesn’t guarantee any of the baristas will remember what you order. Obviously, it’s nice to be remembered. But you have a better chance of making a good impression — and of a barista remembering your drink — if you’re courteous, tip well, and don’t ask obnoxious questions.
5. Are you sure you used skim milk?
If you ordered your drink made with skim milk, soy milk, almond milk, or any other kind of milk, your Starbucks barista keyed in that request. And then they printed it out on the sticker that goes on the side of your cup. That means there’s no way for your scorn for 2% milk to have gotten lost between the register and the bar. The barista is making your drink exactly as you ordered. There’s no need to interrogate them when they hand over your drink.
6. Are you positive this is decaf?
On a similar note, if you ordered a decaf, you’ll get a decaf. Your Starbucks barista has no reason to switch the decaf coffee you requested for regular. So stop asking them. If you ordered decaf, they poured you a decaf. It’s not as unusual as you think for people other than you to order decaffeinated coffee. And you don’t need to ask a dozen times if the barista is positive it’s decaf to make sure you got the right brew.
7. Can I have this secret menu drink, which I really have no clue how to make?
Want to order from the secret menu like a pro? Your barista will make you anything you want, so long as you know what goes into it. Starbucks doesn’t train baristas on how to make anything other than what’s on its official menu. So though your local Starbucks probably has all the ingredients to make whatever secret menu concoction you want to try, you probably need to tell the barista how to make it. Pull up the recipe on your phone. Don’t make the barista pull out their own phone to Google it.
8. Can you make it the same way they do at [coffee shop that isn’t Starbucks]?
Even if you’re secretly (or not so secretly) grumpy you have to stop in at a Starbucks instead of your usual coffee shop, you shouldn’t ask your barista to make your drink the way another shop prepares it. A Starbucks barista is pretty unlikely to know how that other shop prepares your drink. So it would be a lot more helpful if you could specify exactly how you want your drink made.
9. Why don’t you have rice milk?
Starbucks stocks a variety of milk substitutes, including soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk, for those who can’t tolerate or don’t drink dairy. It’s not your barista’s fault if Starbucks doesn’t have your milk substitute of choice, whether that’s rice milk, cashew milk, or another variety. Plus, the barista doesn’t know why corporate has decided not to offer your milk of choice. Just pick a different kind of milk, and carry on with your order.
10. Whoa, why is it so expensive?
Similarly, Starbucks baristas have no control over the prices that corporate sets. You’ll just annoy your barista if you make a big deal of complaining about what your drink costs. You might be crying on the inside about what your cappuccino habit is costing you each week. But that’s a downward spiral you can always return to later — after you enjoy that delicious cappuccino.
11. *Let me just finish my cellphone conversation while you wait for me to order.*
Nobody actually says this. But continuing to talk on your phone while the barista waits for you to order is just plain rude. The barista is awkwardly waiting for you to pay attention and tell them what drink you want. And everybody behind you in line is getting irritated that you’re making them wait, too. Hang up the phone for 30 seconds, so you can actually have a conversation with the barista. Was that really so difficult?
12. Can you make it exactly 190 degrees?
Almost everything about a Starbucks drink can be customized, so why not the temperature? Because it will annoy your barista, who will have to take extra time to make the drink hotter or colder than usual. Whether you want a hot drink to stay warm when it’s cold outside or want a super-cold iced drink, we understand the urge to ask for something particular. But will you really be able to tell whether your drink is the specific temperature you requested? Is it actually worth the extra effort for your barista? And do you really want to run the risk of scalded milk to get an extra-hot drink? On all counts, we’d say probably not.
13. Could I have a dozen Frappuccinos?
Especially when it’s rush hour and the line behind you is out the door, you’re going to make any Starbucks barista roll their eyes if you ask for a dozen complicated, time-consuming drinks, such as a Frappuccino. Of course, the barista will make them for you. And sure, your co-workers (or your car full of teenagers) will be happy. But your order will probably take a long time to make — and will slow things down for everybody behind you, too.
14. Can I have an ‘expresso’?
Whatever you’re going to order, make sure you can pronounce it. (And yes, it’s espresso, not expresso.) You’d probably get annoyed if people at your place of work repeatedly mispronounced the names of things that you work with everyday. Put yourself in your barista’s shoes, and learn how to pronounce the name of your drink, whether it’s an espresso or a macchiato.
15. Could you clean up this mess my kid made?
We all get it. Kids are messy. And unless your Starbucks barista has zero sympathy — pretty unlikely given their ability to tolerate a food-service job — they probably understand even the most attentive parent can’t stop their kid from spilling things from time to time. But if your child spills a drink or drops a pastry, do your best to clean up the mess before alerting a barista. Sure, a stack of napkins can only do so much when an entire venti iced tea is on the floor. But don’t act entitled. And don’t forget to apologize if you have to ask a barista for help in cleaning up the mess.
16. I could probably make this at home
You can definitely make Starbucks-style drinks at home. But you don’t need to talk to your barista about it. Joking that you could probably do their job for them — even if it’s true — is just in poor taste. You wouldn’t want somebody to say it to you when you’re at work, trying to earn a living. So be courteous, and keep your mouth shut.
17. Is my drink ready yet?
Leaning over the bar to repeatedly ask the baristas whether your drink is ready yet probably won’t get you kicked out of your local Starbucks. But maybe it should. Not only is it rude to badger the employees about your drink, but it’s completely unnecessary. They’ll call your name when your drink is ready. Believe us, it will be as soon as possible.
18. Didn’t I mention I wanted that iced?
Many Starbucks drinks come prepared hot by default. So if you want your drink iced, you’ll need to specify when you place your order. Your barista can’t read your mind and doesn’t know what you’re craving. So you need to place your order accurately in order to get exactly what you want. If you forgot to order your drink iced and get a hot drink instead, the barista will remake it for you. But next time, make sure to specify.
19. Can I have your number?
Put this one on the list of things you should never ask anybody in a service or hospitality job. A Starbucks barista has to be nice to you. It’s just part of the job. Don’t misinterpret and think your barista is interested in you just because you get a smile. Asking your barista for their phone number might seem innocuous, but it can actually put them in a pretty uncomfortable position. And while you’re at it, try to stop flirting with people while they’re working. It’s just not a good look.
20. Why is it taking so long?
Let us give you a few potential reasons why it could be taking a while for your drink to appear. Perhaps it’s rush hour. Maybe the shop just got hit by a gaggle of teenagers ordering Frappuccinos. It’s possible the three people still ahead of you all ordered complicated drinks, with tons of additions and substitutions. Or maybe it’s you who ordered something that’s really complicated. We all get impatient while waiting for our caffeine fix or sugar rush. Just know the baristas are working as fast as they can.
21. Here’s how I spell my name
It might not be a question, but it’s definitely one of the most obnoxious things you can say to a Starbucks barista. We’ve all had our names misspelled on a Starbucks cup from time to time. But does it really matter? Most people just laugh at the creative spelling, instead of taking it upon themselves to educate the next barista about how they spell their name. In a perfect world, we’d all ask each other’s names and learn how to spell and pronounce each one correctly. But as anyone who’s tried a Unicorn Frappuccino will tell you, Starbucks isn’t a perfect world. Just don’t be too uptight about it.