“Just get a Pumpkin Spice Latte,” urged a Starbucks employee in a TikTok video that went viral earlier this September. Posting under the handle @the_hip_barista_, he explained that baristas know when you’re trying to game the system—and they don’t appreciate the trying conditions it creates for them.
He’s responding to another viral video, in which a user details a cost-effective tip for getting the standard $6.45 Pumpkin Spice Latte for just $2.45: Simply order like you’re a part of an intricate Ocean’s 11 plot line by requesting an iced espresso with customized options like a splash of heavy cream and 2% milk.
But @the_hip_barista_ pushed back against this strategy, explaining that these “hacks” cause employees undue stress and extra work. “Stop with the hacks,” he said. “Stop making minimum-wage workers do circles for you.”
When an order sticker looks like a CVS receipt, he said, it’s pretty obvious what the customer wants—and there’s a lot of legwork involved in the complicated order that results in a a lose-lose situation for Starbucks workers.
As he explained it, splashes of milk are about 4 ounces maximum, less than the typical PSL calls for. Workers fill the cup to the top with milk instead to keep the customer happy, but it angers management, which feels it’s a waste of product. But if they keep the milk to a splash, customers complain that their customized drink isn’t the latte they wanted, prompting the manager to ask workers to heed the company’s internal catchphrase and “make the moment right.”
Just reading about the whole process is enough to spark a stress headache, let alone for the employee who @the_hip_barista_ says has to deal with a backed-up line and lectures from management.
Starbucks employees are fed up with their working conditions
Such lifestyle and consumer hacks have blown up on TikTok recently. Perhaps born out of the rising cost of goods, people are looking to cut corners seemingly now more than ever. Just look at Six Flags’ unlimited meal plan, which also became exploited and untenable once TikTok users shared they were saving up by eating every meal at the park. The hack resulted in clogged lines and lost the company money.
As @the_hip_barista_ points out, such discounts come at the price of the workers, who often aren’t earning enough to deal with the agita of it all. “The ‘hack’ is [to] force the minimum wage worker to give them stuff for free,” he wrote in his comments section.
Indeed, Starbucks workers have been fighting for better working conditions for some time, as their jobs became more stressful during the pandemic. In the battle for union recognition, some workers created a popular TikTok account named Starbucks Workers United. Over 200 stores have unionized, despite continual pushback from the company.
They’re part of the many service and retail workers from places like REI, Amazon, and Chipotle, who have started pushing to unionize. In the wake of the pandemic, poor working conditions became even more apparent as white-collar workers worked from home and service workers continued to work on the frontlines. A lack of livable wages, dealing with hostile customers, and visible disparate working conditions led to a labor shortage in the restaurant and hospitality sector as workers quit.
Already unhappy with their work environment, Starbucks employees feel they have enough on their plates without adding a customized latte hack to their day.
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