Venti Rage

As mystery shoppers, we know that employees are expected to say certain things and ask certain questions when they interact with customers. For example, they may ask questions to lead to suggestive selling, such as, “Would you like to make that a combo?” or questions about preferences, such as the kind of bread you want in your sandwich.

One New York professor decided that a Starbucks employee asking if she wanted butter or cream cheese on her bagel was an outrage. According to a report in the New York Post,  Lynne Rosenthal ordered a toasted multigrain bagel — and became enraged when the barista followed up by asking, “Do you want butter or cheese?”

“I just wanted a multigrain bagel,” Rosenthal told The Post. “I refused to say ‘without butter or cheese.’ When you go to Burger King, you don’t have to list the six things you don’t want.” She also has a long-standing tradition of refusing to use Starbucks terminology such as Grande or Venti when ordering. She’s quite the rebel, this one.

As well as refusing to answer a simple question about her preference, Rosenthal screamed at the barista and escalated the situation until the manager called the police. Police told her to leave or be arrested, according to Rosenthal.

My first thought on reading this was that she is an arrogant bi—, but never mind my first thought. My second thought was that she is just flat wrong.

First of all, most people do not want their bagel served dry. They want butter, cream cheese, jelly or something on it. Asking means the barista can give the customer exactly what they want.

Secondly, getting angry, screaming and calling an employee an a–h— (as she is reported to have done) for trying to serve you is simply obnoxious. Even if this were an upsell (“Do you want the combo?”) a simple, “No, thank you,” handles the situation, and does not result in the police being called to toss you from the premises.

Third, you do have to tell Burger King what you don’t want on your burger. If you order a burger, you do not get a plain patty. You get a patty on a sesame seed bun, topped with mustard, ketchup and pickles. Heck, they might even ask if you want cheese on it, or if you want fries. The nerve!

People complain about the quality of service in many businesses these days, and it is true that there are employees who do not give a whit about being helpful to customers. However, there are also customers who are rude, arrogant and just plain nasty to service employees.

“Linguistically, it’s stupid, and I’m a stickler for correct English,” said Rosenthal. But apparently she is not a stickler for accuracy, common courtesy or simple human decency.

Is the customer always right? Absolutely not. And certainly not if the customer is Lynne Rosenthal. She says she will never set foot in a Starbucks again. Good news for Starbucks, not so good news for Dunkin’ Donuts.


  1. Janet Collins says

    This is unbelievable. And a professor? If I had been a customer when this happened, I probably would have jumped to the employee’s rescue. The customer definitely is NOT always right.
    Janet in Tulsa

  2. va b says

    There is part of me that screams in sympathy with the customer. I have gone through years of hostesses seating me by the bathroom, at the smallest table, by the kitchen (once even BETWEEN the swinging doors, simply because I’m a woman. I’ve had more greeters ask me JUST one?, as if I can’t get a date for dinner, and rude service because it’s assumed women don’t tip well (get a clue!) We’re don’t tip because we get treated poorly. I resent attempts to sell up, even though I preface orders with “All I want is….”. So listen up folks. You are in the customer service business. Don’t assume. You know the three words!

  3. Steven says

    @va b, I understand most of your post, but I do not understand the last part.

    >> Don’t assume.

    So a barista shouldn’t assume what a person wants. If the barista needs more information to complete the order, is the barista allowed to ask the person for the information?

    “Do you want butter or cheese?” is a request for more information.

    I don’t understand how the information is transmitted unless the barista asks. Perhaps the person making the order has made an assumption about what information the barista needs, and has already given the information?

    Perhaps you are referring to your examples and not the example from the article? I’m just trying to understand.

  4. Anne says

    If customers were always right. We wouldn’t have websites which poke fun at them like Not Always Right.
    I’m not a mysterious shopper but there’s a Tim Horton’s in my province which runs out soup, or lasagna about 6 in the afternoon (whether its July, August, or even October) and it’s suppose to stay open till 9pm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *