April 12, 2009

Road Trip Philosophy - How to Avoid Getting Decafed

When I'm on the road, I live on coffee. Hell, I live on coffee even when I'm not on the road. The other day, I went to a drive thru to treat myself to a latte. Suddenly, a car pulled up next to me at the pick up window. The driver got out and started to yell at the barista for not giving her a receipt. I laughed at how ridiculous she was being and after she left the barista told me she had made a comment earlier about high maintenance the previous customer had been. Oh, hypocrisy! As I drove away I thought, "I hope he decafed her."

To "decaf" someone is a trick I learned as a barista for dealing with particularly obnoxious customers. When someone is being obnoxious, offensive or just plain rude, you give them decaffeinated coffee instead of regular. The logic being if they are that horrible already, they don't need any caffeine to make them worse. It's passive aggressive, but in customer service sometimes it's the only kind of relief you can get.

I'm sure you're thinking that no barista has ever done this to you. Yes, he/she has. "But I wasn't that obnoxious!" you say. Yes, yes you were. "But I didn't deserve it!" Yes, yes you did. Managers know about this trick. In one case, I had a manager encourage employees to decaf customers.

Here is how to avoid getting decafed to make sure you get all the caffeinated coffee goodness you need for your road trip:
  1. Be polite - Never underestimate how effective this is. When your nice to your barista or anyone in the customer service industry, then they want to help you and will often go above and beyond to make sure you get whatever you need.

  2. Be patient - I don't care how long the line is, be patient. If you're running late then that's your problem and not the barista's fault. I used to work by a Metra station and constantly had customers screaming at me that they were going to miss their train. But that was their mismanagement of their time and there is nothing their yelling at me will do about it except get them decaf.

  3. Tip - No one decafs a tipper. So if you have been rude and impatient, I suggest you make sure the barista sees you drop a nice big tip in the jar. A little money can always make up for your bad behavior to an overworked and underpaid barista.


  1. Who do you think provides the best-tasting, strongest road coffee? I always look for a McDonald's while on the road, since I find their coffee the strongest. Other coffee from certain truck stops tastes disgusting and I end-up chucking it out the car window! Would be cool to see your ratings on this subject one of these days!

  2. I should definitely do that! I'll have to start taking coffee notes during my trips. But one thing I can say for sure: QuikTrip coffee good, 7-11 coffee bad. Actually, I don't think 7-11 serves coffee, I think they sell brewed scrapings from the undercarriage of a fourteen-wheel crude oil truck.

  3. 7-11 coffee is the worst! Have never seen QuikTrip on in my area. But there are now mini-Starbuck's off the New York Thruway.