I don't speak "Starbucks"

I feel like I never completed my foreign language requirement in college because I didn't get to study abroad. I did technically complete my requirement but I did not get to study abroad. I took Russian and the summer I was supposed to go to Moscow they had a coup so the trip was cancelled. Good for my safety. Bad for my language retention. However, I've always been good at languages yet somehow the language of Starbucks alludes me. 

The main reason is likely because I don't drink coffee. I've given up caffeine for health reasons so coffee is not at the top of my list of favorite beverages. But there are times, when I'm out shopping or with friends that we stop in a Starbucks and I try to order something and here is where life comes to a screeching halt.

It didn't used to be this way. I had a standby drink order - Grande Decaf Mocha Frappacino. I knew what it was and what it tasted like and I liked it. In fact, the moral of this story is from how I came about this drink order. I walked into a Starbucks on Saturday morning while waiting for a friend. It was cold and raining outside and everyone was huddling at tables and I walked in and said, "I don't drink coffee and I don't really like the taste, but I do like the taste of coffee ice cream and oh, by the way, it has to be decaf." The guy behind the counter grinned, rattled off some words, rang up my order and I fell in love with a coffee confection that probably contained more calories than the the entire daily food pyramid. 

Fast forward several years and Starbucks in their infinite wisdom stopped making decaf Frappacino's. I guess the measly little market for it didn't make sense and I stopped going to Starbucks all together because I didn't have another order ready. But yesterday I was at the mall to get my computer fixed and had several 15-20 minute time slots to walk around and I took a chance to go get a drink.

I knew this would be bad when I saw how crowded it was but I took a chance because I actually was thirsty. When it was my turn I explained that I would like something decaffeinated and cold. They explained that they didn't carry iced decaffeinated beverages. I told them I was aware of that. I asked if I could have some decaf coffee on ice. She said they don't have decaf coffee in the afternoons anymore and I would have to wait for it to be brewed. I'd heard of this recently but I have to tell you - at 3p and not having eaten lunch and facing a hard drive crash on my laptop I didn't want to hear that someone wasn't listening to me. I took a deep breath and asked "Is it possible to get some kind of decaf drink on ice?" "I guess I could make an Americano-". I interrupted, which was likely rude and explained that I would get served elsewhere.

Was the issue that I wanted coffee? Yesterday, it was. I was thirsty and tired. The actual point was that I wanted someone who could speak the language I couldn't and translate for me. I'd just been at the Apple Store and they don't have any trouble translating technical jargon for their customers. They don't have trouble listening to me and my non-technical language when I explain that I'm seeing the blue screen and swirling kaleidoscope of death all the time.  It's what they do best. That's why even though my hard drive crashed and my laptop died on the table I'll be replacing it as soon as I can with another Mac. I wanted someone at Starbucks who could listen to what I was saying - what I needed - translated that into the world of coffee. 

There's a story here and there's a lesson to be learned and it's not just about Starbucks. It's about how to listen and hear what people are really asking.  That's good customer service and good customer service is definitely a Cool Idea!


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