Uncomfortable Discussions To Have With Your Starbucks Barista

At Starbucks – as in life – everyone has an objective. The customer wants some damn caffeine. The barista wants to do their job, then get paid. And the Starbucks corporation wants to start a racial dialogue. All in a morning’s coffee run, eh?

Starbucks is facing a lot of crinkled brows and quizzical expressions – basically, everyone is looking at them with Jaden Smith Face – because of their new initiative, #RaceTogether. A barista has the option of writing Race Together on your coffee cup (in Starbucks tradition, probably spelled wrong). That can start a conversation about race between the barista who just wants to do their job, and a person who presumably hasn’t had coffee yet. Sounds awesome. If it seems familiar, that’s because this was also the plot to an ill-received country song that we live-blogged a few years ago.

But listen. I don’t want to go to Starbucks knowing that I’m going to face an uncomfortable discussion about race with a side of Grande Americano with skim. I want to go to Starbucks not knowing what kind of uncomfortable discussion I’m going to have. Starbucks making me discuss racism with a stranger sounds an awful lot like classroom group work, something I hated my entire educational career, but fine. While we’re at it, let’s talk about everything that’s taboo in polite company.

Here are some conversation starters to get the discussions rolling with your favorite barista or customer:

Money
  • Wow. Venti? How much do you make?
  • On your way to work? Cool. How much do you make?
  • Gold card? How much do you make?
  • How do you feel about poor people?
  • POOR PEOPLE. Am I right?
Gentrification
  • You know, this Starbucks used to be a family-owned barber shop. Which reminds me, how do you feel about your role in gentrifying a once-vibrant, diverse community?
Politics
  • Anything. Literally anything political, pre-coffee, ever.
Religion
  • Decaf macchiato. Do you want whip on that?  Also, is it decaf because you’re Mormon?
  • Yes, I believe the salted caramel sweet square is Kosher. And I’m interested in your thoughts on Israel.
  • So, here we both are, at Starbucks, 10 AM on a Sunday. What do you suppose this says about the rapid decline in millenials who would self-identify as Christian?
Mortality
  • Sporting a few more greys there, Ralph! Hey, Ralph. Do you ever think about how one day – not very far away, in the scheme of things – you’ll be dead?
  • Yeah, we have a lot more customers now that the Starbucks on Maple and Elm closed. Well, you know what they say: all things come to an end and eventually every thing we are and everything we have will become part of the past, right?
  • Do you ever just lie in bed at night and thing “man. Someday I’m going to die?”
Disability and Illness
  • Some people are in wheelchairs. Let’s talk about it!
  • You’re in a wheelchair. Let’s talk about it!
  • I’m in a wheelchair. Let’s talk about it!
  • I see you reading the drink menu. How would this experience be different if you had dyslexia?
  • I see you reading the drink menu. How would this experience be different if you were blind?
  • Hi, buddy. Walked right up to the counter, didn’t you? What if you couldn’t? [Insert :mind blown: hand gesture here]
  • I have lupus. Here’s your macchiato!
Obesity
  • Two out of three Americans are overweight or obese. What’s it like to be another statistic?
  • This conversation:
  • One vanilla latte! Also, has anyone told you that you have a really pretty face?
  • Great outfit! Did you have to buy it at a special store, or can you still go to regular stores?
Relationships
  • Didn’t you always used to come in with that one guy? What happened?
Parenting
  • Aww, what a cute baby! Hey, do you go through every day wondering if you’re somehow failing him?
  • An organic apple juice for the little guy! No problem! By the way, do you struggle with bringing a child into such a violent and tumultuous world?
  • Cranberry bliss bar, coming right up. You know, this purchase is just part of the $200,000 it takes to raise a child to age 18, on average. Knowing this, would you have even had children?
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5 thoughts on “Uncomfortable Discussions To Have With Your Starbucks Barista

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