Being a barista @dinglebobs

By Ben Conway 

 I spent three months as a full-time Barista in John Lewis Oxford Street, so whenever I see a Christmas ad I feel some affinity to it; then I remember the warts that lie underneath the penguin’s flippers and how the general vibe of the partnership was centered around those bloody adverts.

First thing I learned, the customer is ALWAYS right (something that could be applied to a client in adland). Countless times I had moments when I would swap a tea, but the soup was then cold, so I swapped the soup then the tea was cold. It seems like the process is similar to iterating for an ad, you might be changing something to be correct but there’s another element that is falling behind.

Back to the customer and we had just voted to leave the EU. In walks the archetypal John Lewis individual – white, ‘middle’ class, has some disposable income; was showing a regular pattern. Other than casual racism towards my Polish coworkers, this is what stood out the most:

Gluten. The knowledge of what you are serving. EU regulations deemed that a certain gram percentage would make one of our (frozen – oh yes frozen) cakes, are not now gluten-free. A queue of 30 customers and I’m faced with one of our typical demographics pressuring me as to why the cake she usually gets isn’t gluten-free.

“Sorry to disappoint you, ma’am…”

Yes, they made us say, ma’am, let’s throw this story back to when telephones were used by witches, it just became part of my vocabulary.

“…but UK regulations deem that this cake isn’t gluten free anymore and we are leaving the EU. We have a gluten free flapj–“.

She did not give a flying. She pressured me for a DICTIONARY definition (her exact wording) of what gluten was. Inside I was saying to myself “…isn’t it in bread and pasta right? I’ll say bread and pasta”. NO!! It’s a protein found in [blank]. I forgot what it exactly is and I’m on the tube right now. The learning I wanted to put across in this SCAB has been lost in me not remembering the definition, but it is really the crux of what I am trying to say.

In that moment, she had the knowledge gap on me. I was just a coffee server and she was a customer. We are here to prove ourselves, and our ideas might be bomb, but without backing them up with the correct knowledge and credibility then how are we ever going to win the fight against someone in a weight class above us? I think from being in that position to being in SCA, the same attack plan can be adopted.

Smack em down with knowledge and you’ll win, or dash the cake in the face and make her have an allergic reaction (I didn’t actually do that please don’t report me, we had to sign a contract about defacing the soppy John Lewis image online) xo

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