Striking TV Writers Are Forced to Find Other Employment

Starbucks – 6th & Morrison (SE corner)

TO: New employees Rick, Diane, and Marcus
FROM: Store manager April

Hi guys!

I know it’s been stressful for you to join the Starbucks team. I hope we haven’t been too scary! <grin> I know it can be tough to jump in to an operation that’s already in full swing and be expected to learn the ropes. If you ever have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask me!

You guys are doing a great job so far! However, there are a few things that I think need to be addressed. I just want to make sure we’re all “on the same page,” to use some writers’ lingo! 🙂

First of all, the menu board that lists all our products and their prices does not need to be “punched up.” All three of you have mentioned this at some point. It might be fun to put some jokes up there, but I really don’t think there’s room. No, it isn’t “boring.” It’s a menu board. It’s not supposed to be a good read.

I’m also a little concerned about how you guys only want to work for 22 minutes every half-hour, or 44 minutes per hour. That just isn’t how we do things. You work for four hours straight, and then you get a 15-minute break. The timing of your breaks is strange, too. You seem to prefer to go on break just as things are getting interesting. A customer orders something we’re out of; a homeless man walks in and starts yelling; one of the other employees mentions she’s pregnant — and that’s when you want to go off the clock for a few minutes. What gives?

Different stores have different policies about this, but at this Starbucks location, we write our customers’ names on their cups. It helps identify their drinks, and it also makes them feel more like valued customers. But all you need to write is their first name. You do not need to add “FEMALE – MID 40s – PLUMP, WITH A ROSY AND CHEERFUL DISPOSITION” or “MALE – LATE TEENS – TYPICAL MALL RAT W/PIERCINGS – MILD TEXAS ACCENT.” Likewise, it seems counterproductive to jot down where you think the person is from, their hopes and dreams, and their relationship to other people in the store. Marcus, you told me this is known as a “backstory,” but I don’t see how backstory is relevant to selling coffee.

We had a complaint from a customer that I think refers to you, Diane, but I don’t want to single you out, because I’ve seen all three of you do this. If a burly, masculine construction worker comes in and orders a half-caf skinny double mochachino latte with extra foam, sell it to him. It doesn’t matter if it “doesn’t fit his character” or if “people wouldn’t believe that this guy would order that.” Our customers have the right to buy whatever they want, regardless of their motivation for doing so.

By the same token, you may not try to persuade the burly construction worker to buy a froofy drink just because you think “the juxtaposition would be funny.” We do not sell drinks based on how funny they are. Rick, your suggestion the other day that we should call it “crappuccino” because of the effect it has on your system was way out of line. When nobody laughed at your joke, you said, “We can sweeten it in post,” and I don’t even know what that meant.

Of course we all enjoy joking and laughing here. Starbucks should be a fun place to work! But we have to remember the image of the company, too. It’s inappropriate to call the store “Central Perk,” “The Peach Pit,” or “The Regal Beagle.” It is Starbucks. That’s what it says on your apron, and on every square inch of space around you.

Finally, when you answer the phone, please remember to say “goodbye” at the end of the call. I don’t know where you guys got the idea that people end phone calls by just hanging up, but it’s rude.

Please see me if you have any questions. Welcome to the Starbucks team!

Store manager April

There's not really a 6th and Morrison in Los Angeles, which is presumably where out-of-work TV writers would live. There is one in Portland, where I live, but there's not a Starbucks there. In fact, it's the only intersection in Portland that doesn't have one.

When the studio audience doesn't laugh enough at a sitcom joke, they'll "sweeten" it later, i.e., boost it with some prerecorded laughs. "Post," of course, means "post-production."

My old friend Craig, a talented and funny non-WGA writer in his own right, helped me with some of the jokes for this column. Thanks, Craig! You will receive no payment or residuals for your work. Now you know what it's like to be in the WGA.