OPINION | Mobile order madness

In December of 2005, I landed a job with Starbucks Coffee Company at its then-new location at the Freedom Centre on the corner of Airport Blvd.

The store had only been open for six months—and I had only had a couple other “real” jobs preceding that. Everything was new, and I was ready to work hard.

Working at Starbucks was challenging, both physically and mentally. But it was a good gig. It had flexible hours so I could start taking classes at Cabrillo College, and I received health benefits even just as a part-time employee.

Things have changed at Starbucks since I last worked there. Some good, some not that important… and one really bad:

Mobile ordering.

Before people bite my head off, a disclaimer:

Mobile ordering is obviously convenient. For people on-the-go, it can be helpful to not have to stand in line for a long time behind a bunch of other caffeine addicts when you are in a hurry to get to work.

But from my perspective, the choice to order items on your smartphone and then run in to grab them from the pick-up station hasn’t done much good for our society.

Mobile ordering ignores one of the first things I learned as a barista: the importance of customer service. We were taught that giving someone a positive experience inside the store was our number one priority. Connecting with people—looking at them in the eye, greeting them and saying “thank you” and “have a good day” was drilled into us.

With mobile ordering, neither the barista nor the customer has to do any of this. I’ve seen people run into a shop and make a beeline for the counter, grabbing their drink and leaving without a word. They will often put their hands all over other peoples’ drinks, looking for their name. I’ve actually been cut in front of by a mobile order customer who thought hers should have come first:

Me: “Oh, that’s actually my drink.”

Her [looking closer at the cup]: “Oh, right. I ordered online, so I just thought…”

Talk about creating even more impatience in this already fast-paced world.

Mobile ordering has also discouraged people from using reusable cups and mugs, adding to coffee cup waste. And from what I’ve heard from one former coworker who is now a manager, lots of drinks are being remade because of mistakes from ordering digitally—at least at her store.

Starbucks is not the only coffee company who has jumped on the bandwagon. Peet’s Coffee recently joined in, and even other smaller chains and companies have adopted the practice.

Listen: I don’t think all automation is bad. The self-check machines at grocery stores are very handy. Drive-through car washes are great. And it’s fantastic that I can now do some of my banking online from my smartphone.

But when convenience and speed overshadow quality and personal interaction—I’m not down for that.

All I ask of anyone wanting to use mobile order services at coffeehouses is: don’t abuse it. Remember that there are still human beings making your drink, and other customers who waited in line before and after your order went through.

Just stay human.

And maybe once a week, get up early so you can enjoy your morning cup of joe in a mug “for here.”


Johanna Miller can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 761-7303.


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