Joined Nov 11, 2007
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On the Matter of Starbucks Etiquette

The proliferation of wireless access in this country has empowered an entire a generation of mobile workers. Working remotely has become a great new alternative for those seeking to buck the office-establishment.

Free from the chains of cubicle life, these workforce pioneers are now setting up shop at their local Starbucks. However, just like the traditional office has a workplace etiquette, the “coffee-shop office” also has own culture.

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a coffee-shop commando myself. I actually wrote my entire book at my local Miami Starbucks (SBUX). To get insight into the do’s and don’ts of working in the coffee shop office, I interviewed a couple of my coffeehouse “office mates” and we came up with the following list of typical workplace violators that may be familiar to you:

The Squatter.  Let’s get one thing straight, this ain’t Zuccotti Park, so don’t be pitching your tent in my Starbucks! There is nothing more annoying than the guy who sets up shop then leaves all of his stuff unattended at a table to head off for lunch or a trip to the gym.

Most shops are pretty small, which means table space is pretty scarce. Yet, this violator will have the audacity to ask you to watch his stuff while he whisks off to some other appointment at a nearby location only to return an hour later. To be fair, this tends to be more a rural Starbucks phenomenon. Anyone bold enough to pull this maneuver in any of the 500 plus Manhattan locations would likely return to find their office space looted.

The Aristocrat. Many a coffee shop will have both indoor and outdoor seating depending on the location and time of year. Without fail, there’s always that one overly-empowered “aristocrat” who feels they should set up shop in both locations, as if to have a second home of sorts. We the Starbucks taxpayers, end up funding this second home and paying the price in lack of space to operate.

These folks also tend to forget that Starbucks is not a traditional restaurant! They will happily make a mess at milk/sugar station and walk off leaving their table in complete disarray. It must have been nice to be raised by a staff who cleaned up after you.

The Line Diva. Without fail, wherever I travel I come across that annoying, not-so-self-aware individual standing in front of the counter chatting away on a cell phone as the barista patiently waits for the order. Really??? Who is so important that he or she must be on the phone while in line making everyone wait for the conversation to end?

What’s even more frustrating is that these folks tend to be seriously challenged when it comes to the art of multi-tasking. Seriously, hang up, make your order, and call back when you are clear of the line.

The Broadcaster. Some people struggle with the notion that other people actually exist in this world. I just don’t get why some people have to yell on their cell phones as if they are at home speaking to their hard-of-hearing grandmother. Is it too much to ask to be respectful of others while on the phone in a public place? These folks also like to Skype in public letting everyone become part of the conversation. In another life, these violators were likely circus performers of some sort that just need to express themselves. However, as eclectic as some Starbucks populations can be, this is not the Big Top!

At the end of the day we all need to be respectful of one another. So the next time you find yourself working remotely at Starbucks (or wherever your location choice) be sure to remember you aren’t alone!


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  1. Bozo on a bus

    You’re preaching to the choir. Similar issues at McDonalds, which gets a lot of businessmen and women who need to combine work with meals. We’d rather have a nice lunch at a decent restaurant, but here we are. Families, can you restrain your wild children for just a few minutes? This isn’t recess. And don’t get me started with cell phones in rest rooms.

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  2. leftcoasttrader

    In Vancouver Canada there’s a street called Commercial Drive, which is popular amongst the young hippy/artist crowd. Coffee shops there are not places of business, they are places to see and be seen. If you are sporting your new pre-ruined clothes, with your mac book in hand and manage to snag a spot at the front window, you will be the coolest person to ever sit and check your facebook account.

    People fight over those seats. Then they set up shop. You have to have your iphone conveniently next to your mac book. That way you can facebook while you facebook.

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