BOSTON. Elise Del Guardo, a veteran barista at one of the six Starbucks outlets that dot the three-block length of Federal Street, has always brought a certain attitude to her job of making overpriced espresso drinks for impatient yuppies. “I like to give each customer a sense that, while they may be bossing me around today, they’re still insufferable bourgeois pond scum,” says the 28 year-old part-time performance artist with a sneer.
“Enjoy your iced dolce venti caramel frangiapanno pianissimo forte–it’s the last one I’ll ever make.”
All that may change following a ruling by a US Court of Appeals yesterday holding Starbucks liable to its Massachusetts baristas to the tune of $14 million for splitting tips with shift supervisors. If the award is upheld, it will mean a new life for people like Elise, who is preparing current customers for her upcoming change in circumstances. “Where before I was a robust blend of snotty and indifferent,” she says, “now I am mixing in notes of downright hostility.”
“That’s funny–there doesn’t seem to be anybody at the counter.”
Del Guardo and her fellow baristas say they have adopted a more “hands off” policy when faced with long lines of overbearing customers placing orders with multiple variables including light or dark roast, whole or skim milk, foam or no foam, iced or hot, window seat or aisle. “Given that we’re all going to be filthy rich soon,” she says, “we just toss them a cup and say ‘Make your own damn coffee.’”
“Don’t look back, Father–Starbucks is gaining on us!”
Boston is a major Starbucks market, with 2,460 stores, or one outlet every twenty feet. The coffee giant has grown rapidly in the Bay State, opening a new facility every thirty-five seconds in 2012, except for June when it took a lunch break. It is the fourth largest landowner here, after state government, the Catholic Church and Harvard University.
Starbucks attorneys say they will appeal the ruling, and have not ruled out charging the judge with bias. “We’ve got videos of her buying her morning coffee,” says Matt Daniels, who represented the coffee company at trial. “She’s been getting extra espresso shots for free.”