Job diary: I've been a Starbucks barista for 8 years. Working at the coffee chain sometimes feels like a social experiment.

Partners — what Starbucks calls all employees — who work 20 hours a week or 15 during the pandemic are eligible for medical benefits, according to Gina (not pictured).Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters
  • Gina (not her real name) is 49 years old and has been working at various Starbucks locations in New Jersey for eight years.
  • Despite Starbucks' good benefits like medical coverage, 401(k), and stocks, she says that employee turnover sometimes feels "like a revolving door."
  • Dealing with customers can be exhausting, especially when it comes to people who refuse to give their name when ordering, or teenagers who want complicated drinks off the 'secret menu.'
  • While she does enjoy working at Starbucks, Gina also admits she'd prefer a cup of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts "any day of the week."
  • This is what her job is like, as told to freelance writer Jenny Powers.

I began working at Starbucks eight years ago because my other job didn't provide health insurance. As part of the onboarding process, I had to take a pass-fail test with questions like How many shots in a grande? and Is a coffee cycle eight or twelve minutes long?

I cheated on the test because I was nervous about failing and I really needed insurance. Shameful, I know. Come to think of it, I cheated on an Olive Garden test once too.

Starbucks pays whatever minimum wage is in your state.

In my state, New Jersey, that's $10.50. Since COVID-19 started, we get an extra $3 an hour for working. If our location was closed or we felt unsafe working, we got catastrophe pay, which meant we were basically paid our standard wage to stay home. Advertisement

Partners (what Starbucks calls all employees) who work 20 hours a week (or 15 during the pandemic) are eligible for medical benefits. We also get a 401(k), stock through the Bean Stock program, a free drink and food item during our shift, a pound of free coffee or tea every week, and a 30% in-store discount.

I guess I'd be more excited about the free coffee if I liked it, but I'm more of a Dunkin' type — I just prefer their coffee quality. Give me a Dunkin' coffee jacked up with whipped cream and flavor shots and I'll take it over Starbucks any day of the week.

Coffee culture is like a mindset.

You've got your Dunkin' culture — the blue-collar, everyday man — and then you've got the Starbucks culture: the upper echelon elitists. Some want to look cool and come in, mispronouncing their order which is harmless but amusing. Others are downright rude, barrelling in on their phones, putting their finger up in the air for me to wait before taking their order. Then there are the Meg Ryans of Starbucks right out of the "When Harry Met Sally" script, basically changing everything and filling every box on the cup with different directions and customizations.
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We have one woman who literally takes the lid off her coffee to inspect our work, and when she spills it on herself she complains to the manager. Then there are the teenage girls we love to hate who order off the Secret Menu created by fans. It's a huge pain because these drinks require extra steps and break up our workflow. We aren't required to know this menu, but at one of the locations where I worked previously, we'd print it out. Now I just say 'Show me your phone' so I can see what the heck they are rambling about. There are already 87,000 possible drink combinations, and those don't even include these concoctions that people assume we know.

During the pandemic, every shift we have a temperature check and answer a series of safety questions before we can clock in.

The company issued masks for us to wear, but they are itchy and hard to breathe in, so I wear my own. Right now our location is not allowing dine-in or outdoor seating. We only permit seven customers inside at a time and they must also wear masks. If they don't have a mask, we will provide them with one, or bring them their order outside.

Observing our customers is truly a wonderful social experiment — it's like an alternate universe all centered around a cup of coffee.

Some customers place orders using silly or obscene names. We get a lot of "Batman" and "Bruce Wayne". If it's obscene, we call out the drink order instead and report them to the manager. We also have a Facebook and WhatsApp group to tell other locations to be on the lookout for these people. Advertisement

Some people refuse to give their names. I've never understood this — I'm not asking for your phone or social security number. One time I wrote "Phone Lady "on a woman's cup who wouldn't give her name and she reported me to corporate. I received a verbal warning for possible disciplinary action (being written up) for not representing the company culture, and was reprimanded by my manager.

Anyone working as a barista will tell you the worst drink ever offered by Starbucks was The Unicorn Frappuccino. It tasted disgusting and had about 87 ingredients and some special magic powder dust. Most of these hyped drinks taste awful and are created so Instagram can drive in-store traffic. Once they get their 15 minutes of fame, they're gone, until it's time for the next one.

Then there's our infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte which, believe it or not, will debut in a few weeks. Every season, hordes of health-conscious women show up in their workout clothes to order it. They insist on nonfat milk to make it healthier but then they ask for whipped cream which is pretty much the equivalent of ordering a Big Mac with a diet coke. Advertisement

Overall, I do enjoy working at Starbucks.

I like my colleagues. My team is made up of a diverse group ranging from recent high school grads to people in their 50s. But despite our great benefits, employee turnover is like a revolving door. I think some people find the job too stressful. In some instances, younger partners feel they deserve more money for what they're doing, which I think is ridiculous. After all, it's a coffee shop; we aren't performing brain surgery. I refer to it as "As the Store Turns." Me, I'm a lifer here.

Editor's note: The employee's identity was verified by Business Insider.

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