Halfway through ordering my breakfast at a coffee shop recently, I was interrupted by a loud “really?” coming from a customer about two positions behind me.
“What’s his problem?” I silently wondered.
I was about to find out.
At 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, the Park City, Utah, Starbucks was already hopping. It doesn’t have a drive-through and it’s the most convenient coffee shop for visitors, so it was packed tight. A long line of customers snaked across the store and toward the exit.
As is my family’s custom, my three kids scoped the area for a table while I stood in line to order. I think of this as a public service. This way, we’re not adding congestion to the line and I have our order ready to go once I reach my barista.
Apparently, not everyone sees it my way.
When it was my turn to order, I started with the drinks. Grande Americano for Chris — no room. Awake tea for me, please.
“Will that be all?” my barista asked.
“The kids wanted three of your breakfast sandwiches,” I added.
“Really?” exploded the patron, who was just a few steps behind me. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Now I should admit when I’m at the deli and I see somebody carrying what looks like a list of sandwich orders they’re placing for a group, I do an involuntary eye roll. But I wouldn’t go so far as to voice my irritation.
This guy had no filter.
“Maybe you should have gone to the diner,” he added.
The employee took our sandwich orders. She was efficient and polite but the comments of the other patron had ruined the moment. And I was ready to let him have it.
Then I thought: hang on. Maybe I’m the rude customer.
I scanned the faces of other patrons in line to see if anybody else agreed. Some looked annoyed, but maybe it was their pre-coffee demeanor. Are people are looking at me assuming I’m a single person in line? Then when they find out I’m really ordering for five, do they get mad?
Should I have made the kids stand in line?
But past behavior has shown that when they wait in line my kids will change their selections, leading to chaos when it’s time to order at the register.
So what is the proper etiquette when ordering for a group? We can’t be the only family to ever eat breakfast at a Starbucks.
Maybe the bigger question is: What’s the proper etiquette for waiting in line? Is it OK to fuss and complain about other customers if you think they’re taking too long?
How about employees? Should they step in to defend a harassed customer or keep themselves, separated?
Fortunately my better half could tell I was getting worked up and joined me at the register. He stayed to collect our orders while I sat with the kids and fumed.