Using Starbucks As Your Office? Here Are Some Tips

150 thoughts on “Using Starbucks As Your Office? Here Are Some Tips”

  1. I used to be a barista in a UK coffee shop and we regularly had local office workers using the store as an informal venue for business meetings, worker performance reviews, or even interviews. They kept their mess to a minimum, always bought lots of drinks and food, and they took the time to get to know our names, so they were certainly welcome repeat customers. Always be nice to the baristas and they’ll be nice to you!

      1. I am nice to baristas if they know what they’re doing. In my experience, the ones at Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, etc. are hacks. I really appreciate the baristas at Intelligentsia in Los Angeles. It’s like comparing Michael Jordan to…Jeffrey Jordan.

      2. Mr. Padilla – your condescending attitude is what will ruin places like Starbuck’s and non-chain stores for the rest of us. Keep your snobbery to yourself. Those kids are neither hacks nor incompetents.

      3. @dstrauss I’m being condescending because I understand that most people that work at Starbucks aren’t good baristas? You’re doing an awful lot of projecting.

        @rick Thanks for that classy comment. Are you nice to bad waiters? Also note that I didn’t say I was being rude to them. If the barista is a hack then I pretty much ignore them and go about my business. How is that being pretentious?

      4. My apologies Mr. Padilla; since you are a part of the Intelligensia your opinion of lesser citizens should be given great deference. My “projecting” reminds me of that famous movie line – “I’m laughing at the “superior intellect.”

    1. Let me get this straight – you write a blog from Starbucks. But you object to the spectre of “freeloaders.” Wow. Hypocrite much? I am sick to death of walking into a Starbucks on a sub-zero-degree day, wanting to sit down and enjoy a cup of hot whatever, and there is not a seat to be had because the “freeloaders” — you included — have decided that your home or apartment is just not hip enough (or your own coffee isn’t good enough) to warrant setting up shop THERE. Newsflash: Starbucks isn’t your office. Staying more than an hour or so is selfish, hoggish, inconsiderate, rude, and vile. Can I go to another coffee shop? Maybe 5 years ago I could have, but Starbucks took over the industry and drove the little guys out of business.

  2. I am not writing to you from a Starbucks but I plan to in the very near future.

    I do agree with you — services that companies like Starbucks provides are invaluable to start-ups. I just hope that the companies that benefit from these free services don’t forget the little people.

  3. “P.S. I would love to hear your tips of working at/from Starbucks.”

    How about not? I can hardly find a starbucks seat as is. 3 cups of coffee in exchange for a work place doesn’t mean you’re not a freeloader.

  4. in reference to your rules for being a respectful guest while using starbucks as a work location, I applaud you and your guidelines and beg others to take careful note. If someone came into your workplace, made a mess, was loud, demanding and ungrateful for 30 hours a week, I think you’d be less than pleased as well. In reference to Mr. Padilla, he is a barits’s nightmare who could neither perform nor succeed at the plethora of tasks that baristas are bombarded with every moment of every day. Good day, sir, they can have you.

    1. Thank you for the petty insults. I tip well at any coffeehouse I work out of, but I’m not going out of my way to be nice to a crappy barista. Why should I be nice to someone that makes bad espresso? Certainly I’m not going to be rude, but I find it silly to be especially nice to bad baristas. Are you friendly to bad waiters?

      1. If you’re abusing their restaurant/cafe as an office, then definitely, you should be especially nice to bad waiters or baristas.

        If you think they make crappy coffee, buy bottled water, but still be civil and tip them well for the space you’re using.

  5. i don’t regularly go to coffeeshops to work.. Because i find it quite cramp and noisy working there..

    Sometimes, i really wonder if Starbucks kind of stores are really making money from a lot of us who go there for a cup or two of coffee while working there for several hours. Not to forget, i also used their electricity as well.. Hence, i also buy a piece of cheese cake to cover my guilt. 🙂

    Nevertheless, i will try to keep myself within a small table so as to give more space to other customers.

  6. I’m of the “please, please don’t have business meetings in my coffee shop!” mentality. The last four times I tried to work at a coffee shop, the business meetings were disruptive to my ability to work. (Sorry, Om, can’t do the headset thing for various reasons.) Several times I was tempted to walk over and participate in the meeting, because I wasn’t getting any of my own work done. (Medical supply folks – take note!)

    I also think you should add two rules:
    – If you need to use a power source, be polite and bring a small strip, so you can offer to share the outlets with other people.

    • If the shop gets crowded at specific times, consider packing off to somewhere else and letting the office dwellers and soccer moms have a moment to relax and eat their lunch. Nothing’s more annoying than hoping you can get out of the office for awhile and finding your shop swamped with squatters on computers.
  7. I work from home and there is a starbucks nearby, two in fact, and I think the suggestions are good common sense courtesy. I had a major broadband outage last year that forced me to work there for a day or so and the biggest problem I found was the noise. I just found the noise and the chicks floating through (south Florida) too distracting to get any work done.

    As for Raymond above, I don’t know what to say about him. Show some class dude.

      1. It has nothing to do with how you tip…it’s all about respect, and blanket condemnations of these young folks who are often doing a good and under-appreciated jobs is your lack of class. The mere fact that you don’t even recognize how condescending and demeaning your comments were shows you don’t understand the problem.

      2. How am I showing a lack of respect. I’m not being rude to them. I’m just not making an effort to be nice. Your assertion that I’m being demeaning is laughable. I think most Baristas that work at Starbucks are poor. So what? It’s true. I also don’t expect most chefs at McDonald’s to be great cooks.

      3. Because that barista is somebody’s son, daughter, mother or father, just like you. Granted, they may not be the best barista, but may be a decent human being, and even they are not, they deserve to be treated with some empathy, kindness and a minimal amount of respect. I think the expression is, “There but for the grace of God go I”.

        You may want to read Josh’s post below to see what is important to him. If you cannot say something nice about somebody, you might consider not saying anything at all. IMHO, words often say more about their author than their subject.

      4. @Ken I’m choosing not to be especially nice. That has nothing to do with being disrespectful. Why is everything so black and white with you people?!?

        And yes, the proper response is, “Huh?!? What do you mean YOU people?”

      5. @Mr Padilla Be nice to the people there regardless of how they make coffee. And that means not ignoring them and getting to know them well even if you think they are bad baristas. Heck, if you are on a good footing with them, you can even politely make suggestions on how they can be better at what they do. That helps everybody. The general conversation with them also relaxes you in between your work.

        I had a barista at a local Starbucks who I used to have casual conversations with. Most of the time I would complement them for good coffee. Once or twice when the coffee was not to the mark, they would –without asking– give me a second cup and made an effort to make it better the second time.

        You don’t get that kind of service by ignoring them completely.

      6. @Manpreet Singh You are more patient than I am and I admire that. Personally, I rather just go to a place with good baristas and free WiFi. Depending on where I am, that’s not always possible. As average as Starbucks is, they’re never hard to find.

      7. As a Starbucks barista I honestly resent how you talk about us in broad strokes. Starbucks is not the first coffee shop I’ve worked at, either. I’ve worked at independent coffee shops with delicious coffee.

        I would agree with you that our drip coffee leaves something to be desired. One friend of mine (also a lover of coffee) says it like this: “Starbucks brewed coffee is like a bad break up, but their espresso is like a great first date that ends with a kiss.”

        You asserted in some other comment that we make bad espresso. Which is kind of silly since we do not make the espresso. The farmers and the roasters make the espresso. We just push a button and pour it into a cup. We use automatic machines so it’s hard to mess up espresso drinks.

        You’re just being snobby. And, in the process have insulted thousands of people who are working a difficult and menial job just to make an honest dollar and get health insurance.

        It has nothing to do with if you tip or not. Most of my favorite customers never tip. Never. But, they treat me with respect and kindness. I speak for all my coworkers when I say kindness speaks louder than your lousy change.

      8. @Tommy Welty
        You prove mr. Padilla’s point when you say “… we do not make the espresso. The farmers and the roasters make the espresso”.

        Espresso isn’t the coffee bean, nor the roast. It is the method of preparing the beverage out of it. If you want to make yourself noted as a good barista, you should know that.

        You also, despite your claims otherwise, demonstrate why Starbucks coffee isn’t good. “We just push a button and pour it into a cup. We use automatic machines so it’s hard to mess up espresso drinks.”

        Automatic machines aren’t the best way to prepare an espresso, but I have to concede that they are the most common nowadays, even in Italy. Still, a good barista should be able to tell a ‘ristretto’ from a ‘lungo’, and know how to prepare each, not only a ‘press the button and voilà’ kind of coffee most coffeehouses serve nowadays.

        So that’s probably what mr. Padilla means when he says Starbucks baristas ‘don’t know what they’re doing’. Dare you say he’s wrong?

        (FYI, I’m not a barista, I’m just passionate about my espresso. And I order ristretti doppii.)

        @mr. Padilla
        Sir, you seem to, unlike most American people, know your espresso. Yet, there are two thing condemnable about your attitude.

        First, same way as you don’t go to McDonald’s for a prime steak, you don’t go to Starbucks for an espresso. Both are big chain stores, they sell what the customer wants to buy – a cheap burguer or an espresso-like drink that fits the American taste.

        If you know real espresso, you know it can’t possibly come in a tall cup. Not because it’s too much caffeine, because it would be cold before you’re finished. You don’t need to boil your tongue in it, but espresso must be hot.

        Second, if your barista isn’t good, you are completely right not to compliment him. I wouldn’t – as someone suggested – give him tips about how to do a better job, either, unless he asked. I know I hate when people try to tell me how to do my job, even when it could be better. Whenever I want to know, I ask someone (and, for me, that’s frequent).

        But that’s no excuse not to be nice to him or her. Being polite means returning the treatment they give you, which is the least any decent person should do. It’s not about tipping either, which is why some are throwing criticism at you.

        Being nice could be simply asking “How do you do?” with a smile and actually waiting for an answer. Or make a joke. You don’t have to engage long conversations or help people with their problems if you don’t want to. If they say they’re ‘not so well, actually’, you can just ‘hope everything works out alright’ and smile.

        No matter how lousy anyone is as a barista, being nice isn’t a way of complimenting their skills (you can just say the coffee is great if that’s the purpose), it’s not the right thing to do, it’s not your single purpose in the world. But it might make their day better, and certainly won’t hurt yours, will it?

        Personally, I agree with you in that baristas at Starbucks – and most chain stores – are poor. But whenever I go there, I just ask for something else. And say my name is “Superman” with a broad smile.

  8. Spot on Om about the tipping and buying items at least three times a day. I have never worked in a coffee shop, but anyone with half a soul can see that their jobs can be quite rough at times. If you go above and beyond you can be assured the baristas will as well when it matters most.

    With this weekend being the 4th, I am going to keep my eye out and see if more people are hanging around Starbucks than usual. I have a slight feeling that most locations will not see a serious uptick in the amount of freeloaders just because the wifi went free.

  9. great piece.
    more items for your list:

    -bring a 4 slot surge protector and share it
    – be courteous to other laptop workers
    no skype voice–just text chat
    use video streaming sparingly
    throw out your own trash in the bins, and others as you find it at table area
    – put your phone on vibrate is a must if you get a lot of calls
    – don’t hog the comfy chairs all day
    – listen to your own music….hearing the Starbucks network loop 4x in a morning is numbing …..

  10. Keep logs of everything if you feel you have to do this in multiple cities. Some good advice here.

    If you’re nice to them you might make a suggestion for them to carry a drink you or your associates like to make for them the next time you’re around.

  11. I am the founder of a start up in Germany and am currently visiting the to meet people. (Will be in the bay area as of th 12th) I heard of startups being run from Starbucks. I am currently sitting in one and trying to work and can truely agree that noise canceling headphones would be nice right now.

    For programming I find it very hard because of the constant movement in the room. Having experienced this I will probably enjoy my startups office a lot more.

    Thomas
    -I would love to meet and talk about our startup with you. Just send me a quick mail 🙂

  12. Here’s my rules:

    1) If you are having a meeting, make sure everyone buys a drink. I have actually seen five people come into a local, independent coffee shop, take over a couch and table for an hour, and leave without buying a single thing. (They were also loud so I overheard that they had just come from lunch and this was a more comfortable place to work.)

    2) Don’t bring pets or children. Don’t spread your junk out across multiple tables or chairs.

    3) Never carry on loud phone conversations inside. Never use the speakerphone feature of your phone, or use your computer to Skype without a headset.

    4) Don’t bother other people that are obviously head-down and working – I really don’t care that much about your kid’s soccer game, and if I look busy it probably means I don’t want to talk.

    5) If you know the place has a busy morning, lunch or afternoon rush, don’t hog a table during that time. Find someplace else to work during the coffee shop’s busy time.

  13. Time for some input by an actual Starbucks barista (Southern CA, USA).

    I’ve worked in well over 20 locations (though admittedly only “permanently” at 4) all across the southland and have dealt with every caliber of businessman possible.

    They tend to come in packs and cycles; the rude ones come in when the doors open, the socially responsible just before the rush, then the rude ones come again till just after the morning rush.

    I’d like to make some amendments to your rules: that whole tipping generous thing? It’s a great thought, but don’t stress. Honestly, if we enjoy your company and you don’t get uppity because we can’t maintain a full conversation with you every time you come in, you’ll be welcome with open arms. Tips and money are nice but we understand: it’s a recession. Be a great conversationalist when possible but otherwise don’t add more to our otherwise overburdened workload.

    Oh, and the most important amendment: let’s combine the first (favor a single location) and last (meeting group < 4) and just provide the golden rule: favor a location that will allow you have larger workspaces. Many of the stores have been retrofitted with meeting tables, etc. You’ll be sorely disappointed to learn just how much you’ve been inconveniencing yourself with small, cramped tables when four miles up the street is a veritable golden palace of GTD just waiting for you.

  14. Don’t want your stuff when the place is run over by an army of (usually) to go customers. Wait until the line dies down.

    Don’t agree with the no pets rule. My dog most people don’t even notice she is there. It really depends on the animal.

    1. @Levi – In most places in the US, the no pets rule is actually the law. Unless they are service animals, pets are not permitted in any location that serves food. YMMV where you are of course.

      Nick

  15. Mindful about WiFi/network security when you are using public WiFi for business. For example use https whenever possible, turn off file-sharing if you can, and run a firewall on your laptop (which all the major OSes now do).

  16. I totally agree that the music is too loud. Sbucks is a last resort for me as a digital worker, I am loathe to use it as a working environment. Even some independent cafes are too loud. Cafes with quiet and space are few and far between.

    I much prefer co-working spaces, but they’re just getting started. Hopefully in the future, they will be more widespread.

    Also, with the free wifi, I am guessing there will be alot more outages.

  17. I use our esquires (pretty big chain in the UK). It has free wifi also, they certainly attract a lot of Mac Pro Users that hog the plug points. Any way all the wifi users there spend at least £10-£15 a day. Mc Donalds has had free wifi for years over here but thats not really the best business meeting place. Anyway my favourite place now as an “office” is now my local pub! It has free wifi and there is alot more room especially for me as i work with building plans and architects etc. Its a lot quieter too and its nice to sneak in the odd half pint!

  18. I love working out of Starbuck’s. My clients are spread throughout the state, so I do have to visit several. My local one in Atlantic County, NJ rocks though.

    The best is on occasion, when I need to have my 5 year old come with me, he loves it too. He calls it the Chocolate place. He loves their hot chocolate. He also gets a cheese and fruit plate, which is sometimes healthier than I can get him to eat at home.

    It’s great, he eats, I work, and then he puts on a small dance show by the table. He loves the music there:)

    Recently, my business partner bought him a Fisher Price laptop, so he wants to go and work like Mommy at the Chocolate place. Too funny!

    Hooray to Starbuck’s for doing free internet for all! I’ll drink a Light Mocha Frappuccino to that:)

  19. I read many comments and tips. I am really wondering what a store owner thinks of this? I can’t imagine that the regular wi-fi user spending 6-8 hours there spends enough to make up for taking up table space for that long. I have gone in and not found a table and seen many workers sitting at a table doing their work. It seems a good rule would be to limit time in general and limit it to non busy times of the day. I lost power once and needed to go for a couple of days but I kept it short and picked a time when they were not crowded. I left when it got to be lunch time.

  20. Om,

    Very cool piece, and thanks for the link back to my Xconomy article. You may want to check out the Entrepreneur’s Census, our not-for-profit research on entrepreneurship, that ties into this topic (www.bit.ly/entrecensus).

    More importantly, my rules:

    comfort

    1) sit away from the door (poor temperature control) and far from the counter (lots of noise).

    2) find a wall outlet. sit near it.

    3) face a window. even looking outside reduces stress.

    4) bring a water bottle. help the environment, share cost savings with baristas.

    5) prop your laptop up to eye level. it will reduce poor posture, back and neck pain.

    Etiquette

    1) clean up after yourself always.

    2) help other customers. you know the ropes. become the mayor. it will benefit everyone.

    3) say thank you every time you leave.

    best,
    matt

  21. Om – your story resonates in so many ways with my life for the past couple of years! I frequent a coffee shop called “Jitters” (love the name) – they have had free WiFi for years. The place isnt fancy but the coffee is better and the baristas know my order and keep it ready when they see my car 🙂 – There are also a bunch of 80 something old ladies who provide daily entertainment for an hour or so.

  22. Question regarding the “Keep your mobile phones on vibrate and leave the store for conversations.”

    How does this work in practice? Back when I used to study at coffee shops and the like, I ended up only staying as long as my bladder could hold out because just like “leaving the store for conversations,” leaving to go to the bathroom meant leaving your laptop and other valuables sitting around (or worse, picking up all your stuff just to return a few minutes later to find that your seat/table has been taken.

    How do people manage this, or is it all about trusting in the good faith of your fellow man that someone won’t pickup your things as they walk by?

    1. I’ve had the same problem, with leaving my stuff…however, when I had a regular shop that I worked from, I knew the barista’s they knew me, and I’d leave my stuff there to run the the bathroom when the shop was quiet, trusting them to keep an eye on it for me.

      They key is to have a relationship with the baristas (or other regulars) and pick a time when they shop wasn’t busy.

      Also, I rarely take calls. For me, hitting the coffee shop to work is my “out of the office” time, for me to work with out interruption.

    2. Invest $15 – $20 in a security cable for your laptop. Loop it around the base of the table, even through the straps on your backpack. Yes, someone COULD upend the table to get the loop off, but that would be noticed by others 🙂 I do this when I need to for a quick trip to the restroom or a refill, never had a problem.

  23. I think the next step will be “caffices” — somebody (probably Starbucks) will have a section of their shops, or additional shops, with tables even more convenient as office space, while still retaining their cafe vibe. If working customers play nice and don’t wear out their welcome, and continue to show they’re worth it, economically, this trend could put abundant freelance open officespace everywhere.

  24. I’m a barista at a Barnes and Noble cafe, where the wifi has been free for a few years now. I go there myself to study when I’m not working. Usually we have plenty of tables (I think more than the average Starbucks) so that’s not an issue, but outlet hogging certainly is. This has only been distracting to my job when would-be outlet users complain about people camped out at the (one!) outlet. I feel the onus should be on the person who comes in the afternoon, during our busy time, and complains loudly to management about the spots near the outlet already being occupied, to bring their own power strip. Please don’t expect me to manage your internet access, as that is not my job.

      1. Really? Maybe these coffee shops want you to treat it as a cafe, not free business premises? If you want to take the advantage of free heat, light, furniture then buy an iPad with 10hour battery life, or buy a second battery. Paying $10-$15 a day for coffee etc is NOT a fair trade – can you rent business premises for that price?

    1. Get an iPad. You will no longer have to worry about outlets unless your work requires demanding applications like Adobe. The iPad has phenomenal battery life and I have found I can perform most tasks with it other than photoshop and those types of tasks.

  25. Wow this has to be some of the worst advice I’ve ever read. You end up spending more money on tipping and coffee than just getting a cheap level net connection at home, you waste gas getting there (or time if you walk or bike ride), you take up a space that the business could turn over many times and make much more $$, you waste money on headphones to make it quiet in a place you don’t even have to be in, you give money to a huge corporation responsible for running decent mom and pop shops out of town. You lose productivity having to deal with the outside world instead of just working. All for what/ So you can be the dooshbag at Starbucks with the fancy laptop? Wow… ponderous man…

    1. Sometimes people need to get out of their house so they don’t feel confined. Or perhaps they live in a very dense urban environment where space is at a premium. Its great that you may not need to visit a coffee shop, but why be so harsh, especially when the article is focusing on good behavior?

  26. Great post.

    I think most of the rules and tips are applicable to just about anywhere you might decide to get work done that is a place of business. I like to do occasional work from the local tobacconist (that also has free Wifi) it is nice to sit and enjoy a good old stogie while I work.

    I think the same goes there. I’d love to see some of these guidelines applied to airport work. One thing that I would point out as an additional tip.

    If you are in the medical field and need to work on a PowerPoint presentation that lets say includes graphic images that might be disturbing to others… do not do it in a public place! (Yeah talk about ruining my coffee.)

  27. A very inspiring story.I think the price of star bucks would not make it an idea place for me to launch a startup 🙂 Those who have access to internet at work can make maximum use of it and probably outsource small gigs

  28. Mr Padilla, i agree with you 100 percent sir. These people’s altruism is laughable. If i pay extra for coffee, just because i want to enjoy the “starbucks” experience, they better god damn well be paying their employees a little extra as well. I, like you, have no sympathy for apathetic 24 year olds who are bad at their job. If i wanted inferior service id go get a damn mcCafe. If that makes me an eliteist, go ahead and label me as such, but at least i dont take pleasure in regurgiating politically correct prevarications.I actually have the capacity for abstract thought and reasoning, My feelings arent governed by third party perspective

  29. From the point of view of a worker, this article is great advice for anyone wanting to take advantage of Starbuck’s space.

    I worked at Starbucks for years. At the store, there was a group of five men who “worked” there. Evey time a new employee started, they took the time to learn names, and a little bit about their lives. They always tipped, and even even defended us against extremely rude costumers. In turn they got free products and guaranteed table space at the extremely busy store. Being polite goes a long way with kids who have to deal with ice being thrown at them when there is a chunk in their frapaccino.

    And by the way, most people who work at Starbucks are their for the friendly work environment and awesome benefits, not to become some superstar barista. And if you want a perfectly pulled shot of espresso by a great barista, don’t go somewhere that has automatic machines like Starbucks does. No one has the right to be rude to an employee because they “don’t know what they’re doing” according to your standards. Starbucks baristas are trained to Starbucks standards, nothing less, nothing more.

  30. I’ve spent a fair bit of time at free wi-fi locations grading papers, doing research, reading, and doing online grading. When my home internet was out for a few weeks this Spring I became a pro at finding and using free wi-fi. I’ve learned to use my phone and aircard to give some business to non-wi-fi locations, too, because I get bored easily.

    Vary the shops you visit so you aren’t hogging the space, electricity, and bandwidth at any one storefront. You won’t get to know the staff quite as well but I think they’ll appreciate that you don’t take up paying tables and use them all day for your meager 3 coffees. Of course you should buy a food item or meal if you are going to be there a while. Sometimes at Panera I’ll buy a loaf of bread to take home and leave it on my table so the manager knows I’m not a freeloader. (Guess that’s my guilt talking, because one of my best friends always buys the tiniest item even though she’ll stay for hours. Crass!)

    Try the many restaurants now offering wi-fi, like Village Inn in the US. Not the most amazing food, I know, but they do have nice people working there and free pie on Wednesdays. 😉 I always reassure the waitstaff when I bring out my laptop by saying I’ll leave if it gets busy (and then I keep my word and tip generously).

    Switch between restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries. It keeps things interesting. You’ll soon find who has the best speed, hours, etc.

    I agree with the folks who say bring a power strip to share. I bring an extension cord and a 3-Prong adapter, too.

    Above all, consider that although they offer free wi-fi to bring you in, these are all places of business trying to make a profit, so don’t build your business by sponging and freeloading. It’s just good karma.

  31. Besides the overroasted and overpriced coffee, this is the second reason I avoid $tarbucks. And it’s almost as bad at Borders — you can’t find a place to sit down and peruse a book or two because the squatters have taken all the seating. Now that McDonald’s is offering free Wi-Fi, it should be interesting to see what happens when hordes of freeloading hipsters descend upon them.

    1. Fully agreed. The acceptance the freeloader mentality amazes me. Even my local Dunkin Donuts has become overrun by squatters who monopolize table space and prevent valuable customers from finding a brief place to enjoy their purchase. Just because CAN sit at the same table all day long doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. At a certain point this is just manipulation and taking advantage by setting up an el cheapo version of a virtual office.

  32. Mr Padilla, it’s not your opinion that those who work at Starbucks are not good baristas, which leaves readers believing you are condescending. It’s the fact that you are a pole smoking a## clown, and, well, just a d#ck. Yeah, yeah, I’m projecting, you’re not really an a##hole, you’re just a d#ckhead who thinks it’s OK for you to mistreat Starbucks employees, because they don’t live up to your expectations of what constitutes a great barista.

    I do have to give you credit for one thing: it’s been awhile since I read comments from someone who is as big a sh#thead as you.

    Thank you.

    Raymond Padilla Friday, July 2 2010
    “@dstrauss I’m being condescending because I understand that most people that work at Starbucks aren’t good baristas? You’re doing an awful lot of projecting.”

    1. I’m impressed that you’ve jumped to the conclusion that I mistreat Starbucks employees. I’m not sure how you got there, but keep smoking what you’re smoking. I’m amazed that not making an effort to be nice = mistreatment. Ha!

  33. It’s great to hear abotu your experiecne at Starbucks, I did not knwo that is where you started off from, great story indeed.
    I used to frequent my local Starbucks at Westin Bayshore in Coal Harbour Vancouver when I was in the planning phase of Virtual LockBox http://www.vlockbox.com
    Two things that worked for me which you have highlighted were to know the entire staff at the store and keep on buying coffe and snacks throughout the day and thank them when you left the store for the day.In fact the staff got to know me so good that as soon as I entered they started to fix my drink right away as they knew what I ordered each day, and yes I tipped them well

  34. More reasons why I don’t work at Starbucks:

    Once, a reunion of some kind consisting of middle aged women came up to the second floor. Several people including me were quietly walking away. This group, of over a dozen, put four tables together and suddenly sounded like a big party with hollering and hooting and cackles and loud laughing. Those who were working including me, shot dirty looks and eventually, some got the message.

    Another group of religious evangelicals had a 4+ group meeting and loud conversation about morals and fire and brimstone completely turned me off.

    Language tutor sessions.

    Stinky guy that came to expressly sleep.

    Those damn machines with the hissing. They are loud.

  35. [I posted this @ Lifehacker, but I’m not an approved commenter so I thought I’d share here!]
    The only tips I would add are:
    1. avoid crowded/busy times times
    2. don’t take a table that’s too big for you.
    3. When the baristas comp you anything you should tip them at least the cost of the comped item.
    4. Bus your own table, if that’s an option.

    I am dissertating and find the ambience of my local coffee shop / bakery to be more conducive to writing than any office, the library, or my home–it also lets me see people! Because the staff know me (and that I tip well and buy bread every week and at least one meal and a coffee every day I’m there) I can come in, park my shit, and not order anything for a few hours (until I’m hungry or in need of a break). If it’s crowded, I’ll go someplace else, even if my table is free, just in case anyone else who might spend more wants to sit there. It’s not cheap, but the price is right for a pleasant day’s work, and more than makes up for the ramen at home.

  36. How talented does the barista have to be? The barista can’t make good coffee from inferior ingredients, and I’ve never had a really good cup of coffee from a Starbucks. I get consistently better coffee from independent houses wherever I’ve been, and all that I’ve been to have had free wifi for years.

    I notice the cubie atmosphere at coffee houses these days that seems stranger tome now that I’m not the only person with a computer or handheld device. These days, everybody’s laptop is open, and people reading a book or writing on paper just look quaint, let alone just conversing.

    It makes as much sense for workers who pick a poplar public restaurant to resent families with kids as families with kids to resent the presence of people working who got there ahead of them.

    Batteries and earplugs.

  37. @Padilla

    Mr. Padilla,

    I happen to be a Cafe Manager with my company. I wanted to share with you a more authoritative insight.

    My staff is composed of all college students. Each with a highly respectable major and GPA. One in particular is a dual major in Biology and chemistry. They all display intelligence; maturity; good character; impeccable manners; and charismatic personality.

    They all take pride in their work; and are very consistent with how they produce and serve the products. None is a hack.

    I have no doubt in my mind that you simply don’t like the Starbucks brand of products. I not simply saying this; nor did I in any way take offense to anyones comments.

    I too, prefer another brand. I tried and loved ‘Seattle’s Best’; as served at a Borders bookstore. I thought it was great. I think that Starbucks blends are a little too strongly flavored for me.

    Now, as for are customer spread since free WiFi –

    1) Most of our guest are young professionals. they stop in and have coffee and snacks; meet with friends and go on with their life in a reasonable amount of time.
    2) The second most dominant group is college students. And it is perfectly understandable their need for free WiFi and access to caffeine. They have all been incredibly polite and conscientious. and they never fail to clean up after themselves. We love almost all these kids and get to know them well.
    3) But, then there are those who impose. They can’t afford an office. And with gall; set up shop by moving the furniture; taking extra chairs for make-shift desk expansion; speak loudly on cellphones; and think offensively that the purchase of a small coffee entitles them to do this for hours on end.
    This isn’t meant as a blanket statement – those who aren’t this way know who they are – and we give them recognition openly for being the better of the lot.

    In close, I would like to share a few cafe office pointers from the cafe perspective.

    1) Be polite. Your dealing with someone who may be potentially more educated and successful than you and respecting everyone’s dignity is the only thing rational.
    2) Clean up after yourself. Its conscientious and in good character. You represent who and where you come from.
    3) Don’t rob additional furniture from the other guests. And if you are that way; at least be decent enough to move things back when your finished.
    4) Buy something. Occasionally throughout your stay. Not just once. But every two hours at least. If collectively people don’t – companies will change policies and start charging again. Having no room/seats for paying customers isn’t profitable or sustainable.
    5) The power strip idea by one commenter is an excellent and thoughtful idea. Kudos for that.
    6) Don’t personalize your product preferences onto the staff. That would be projecting Mr. Padilla. They do not grow; dry; or roast the beans. They also have no control over the choice of grinder or espresso machine provided. But will try to help you find that combination of tweaks you need to make drinks your happy with. Which brings me to #7.
    7) Communicate. We can make things with some altering of variables. Different temperatures; milks, etc.. So lets find what you personally like.

    To all the supportive commenters – THANK YOU!
    And Mr. Padilla – your still a welcome guest.

  38. I had a band manager who worked out of my Starbucks for two years. Every year at Christmas he gave us each a $10 gift card to Borders, and he always tipped 20%. For a yearly expenditure of under $1000 we always made sure he had his favorite table clean and empty, and he was the first person we hit up when we were sampling products.

  39. @Padilla

    I am currently working for Starbucks going on 7 years now and i understand about bad baristas. While i blame the training nowadays, one week vs. a month of training, the automatic espresso machines do make bad shots. I would much prefer to use the manual machines. I’m sorry that you have had your drink made in such a poor fashion that you had to switch coffee shops.

    @Everyone
    I’ve dealt with tons of rude people and the way Padilla is describing that he just ignores the barista is totally fine. I’ve had people throw hot coffee/frappuccino/water/pastries in my face, been cussed out, and even almost got punched just because their drink was wrong. So being ignored, like Padilla says, is perfectly fine and baristas don’t even think twice about it. I think that if he cannot get a good cup of coffee then he shouldn’t tip, which he says he does. Even I have had bad drinks make by people that i work with, am i’m sure that you too have had bad drinks made for you. If your drink was made bad on a consistant basis you would go to another coffee shop as well.

    1. Thanks for a reasonable and understanding response. I still go to Starbucks if it’s the most convenient choice in my business travels. In LA and SF I rarely do, since I know places with better beans and baristas.

  40. @bluespapa:
    “It makes as much sense for workers who pick a poplar public restaurant to resent families with kids as families with kids to resent the presence of people working who got there ahead of them.”

    Actually, from a business standpoint, it makes NO sense to allow those who come in and camp out to do so. There’s a limited amount of seating, no matter how large a place is, and to maximize profit, a business owner needs to maximize the turnover at each table, booth, or chair. Someone who comes in and commandeers seating for half a day and spends $10 or $15 during that time isn’t as valuable as MULTIPLE customers who use the same space, where each new customer or group of customers might spend as much or more as a single occupant. And BTW, barristas, if you work at a place, it behooves you to try to maximize your company’s profits, at least if you value your job security (see: Radio Shack). As for anyone who gets upset with or resents paying customers who are too noisy or disruptive for them to get any work done, I suggest working from home.

    1. Totally agree – it seems a lot of people think $10-$15 a day is a fair price for being allowed to run a business from a coffee-shop – in reality, that is taking advantage of the coffee shop. Find out how much they pay daily in rent and utilities and offer to pay 10% – then you’ll probably decide to work from home.

    2. Yes, yes, certainly, and although I have, I rarely camp out myself, certainly not more than if I were not reading/working with whatever I’m having. That’s probably more a function of my back than my sensitivity to restaurant economics.

      Some screaming children family places chase away another type of customer, and I’ve been both. But feeding hungry kids who exhibit the need for food doesn’t mean that the people who got to a popular lunch spot before me are wicked. But someone down on parents for having hungry kids because that person wants a library should go to the library. They also have meeting rooms at libraries.

      Turnover is obviously desirable, but so is good will, and someone who feels comfortable recommends and brings in friends. For that matter “free wifi” is another business cost, and I’m aware of that, as well.

      Some places that actually set up library type work stations with outlets seem to be inviting people to use a spot. A billiard room I worked in charged per person per hour, but ten or fifteen bucks a day, if nobody else is waiting, or avoiding a place because of rude people who spread out and sit for hours.

  41. Carry a PowerSquid – power outlets are scarce in coffee bars and other public work spaces. A power squid lets you share one outlet with four other nomadic workers. Builds camaraderie instead of ill-will.

  42. Why do we all care so much what this vain jerk Padilla thinks? He thinks he’s some hot shit video game critic… But look at his website, he’s not even a good critic, not even a developer, just some aging fanboy with a superiority complex. Padilla, go waste some more time tending to your “2010 backlog” pretending to blow shit up with your internet “friends”, and try not to get in the way of the rest of us living real lives in the real world.

    The rest of us: stop feeding the troll. He’s getting off on all this attention.

    Also, dug the article, though it’s kinda disheartening that all this stuff isn’t common sense.

    1. How am I being a vain jerk? Ignoring people that provide poor service makes one vain? That’s an interesting definition.

      And no, I’m not getting off on the attention. I’m highly amused that ignoring bad baristas causes some people to hurl personal insults. Also, thanks for visiting my site!

      @Om I apologize for all of this, but the reactions have been so entertaining.

  43. I have been working remotely for years and have outlined my tips for building a virtual cubicle years ago. I agree with all of Om’s good advice here and second those who mention bringing a power strip to not only share the precious outlets but even increase the number of them. Everyone loves the guy who brings more outlets. 🙂

    I would add one thing to Om’s list: talk to the manager of the coffee shop up front and make them a part of your effort. It is an effective way to forge a relationship and to determine if your long term presence will adversely affect the shop’s operation.

    http://jkontherun.com/2008/08/14/build-a-virtual/

  44. I never seem to have trouble finding a place to sit and use my laptop at coffee shops, but that’s because if someone is camping on the outlets I will boot into a portable version of backtrack and bomb their connection off of the router repeatedly until they get tired and go away.

  45. Not against any form of getting business but….

    There are so many Facility Renters that can provide you with an identity without the Voice mail press 3 response; I can only meet at your offices, There is something to be said for privacy when I meet with clients and discuss their business and personal financial details.

    I know its an extra expense but I really prefer the solitude and privacy that being alone provides. There would be too many distractions for me

    David Pylyp
    at Square One Starbucks
    Maybe Chapters on Rathburn
    Google Me and see

  46. There are so many great topics and points that spin from this article; The points from the Coffee shop Managers are all excellent! Thank you Ron Pemberton.

    This from James is best “James Kendrick”
    Sunday, July 4 2010
    I have been working remotely for years and have outlined my tips for building a virtual cubicle years ago. I agree with all of Om’s good advice here and second those who mention bringing a power strip to not only share the precious outlets but even increase the number of them. Everyone loves the guy who brings more outlets. 🙂

    I would add one thing to Om’s list: talk to the manager of the coffee shop up front and make them a part of your effort. It is an effective way to forge a relationship and to determine if your long term presence will adversely affect the shop’s operation.

    http://jkontherun.com/2008/08/14/build-a-virtual/

    Bringing a power bar Thats so cool! Three thumbs up

    But hey This is someones business! We need to respect that.

    Thank you to Raymond Padilla for starting a great topic exchange.

    David Pylyp
    Living in Toronto

  47. @ Tommy Welty:
    “Which is kind of silly since we do not make the espresso. The farmers and the roasters make the espresso. We just push a button and pour it into a cup.”

    Dude, are you just playing word games or do you actually not understand that espresso is a WAY of making coffee and not a KIND of coffee? Here’s the definition provided by the SCAA (the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the world’s largest coffee trade association which sets standards for coffee in this country):

    “Espresso is a 45ml (1.5 ounce) beverage that is prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee through which clean water of 192° – 198° F (88° – 92° C) has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, where the grind of the coffee has made the brewing “flow”* time approximately 22-28 seconds. While brewing, the flow of espresso will appear to have the viscosity of warm honey and the resulting beverage will exhibit a thick dark gold cream foam (“crema”) topping. Espresso is usually prepared specifically for, and immediately served to its intended consumer.”

    Notice it doesn’t say anything about whether it’s wet-processed or dry-processed, City roast or French roast, or the country of origin of the bean. That is all irrelevant — espresso can be made from any coffee, although some are obviously more suited for the task than others. But to say that you don’t make espresso is like a bartender saying he doesn’t make drinks. Yeah, he doesn’t grow the barley and distill the mash and bottle the bourbon, but the end product reflects his ability. On second thought, if all you do is push a button, maybe you DON”T make espresso, just something Starbucks calls espresso.

  48. I did started on a Starbucks but now we have a CoWorking space in Monterrey, MX so we don’t need to go there anymore.
    Working on Starbucks is nice, but is nicer to have your own office. If you are interested, please check our site http://www.colectivolabs.com the first mexican CoWorking space 🙂

    I preffer CoWorking spaces rather than Starbucks. Are so much more affortable and is nice to have people around you that also Telecomute.

    Regards!

  49. I see these idiots at a popular starbucks here in my town too. All they do is take up a table for the entire day while the rest of PAYING customers have to wait around for a table to open up just to sit down for a half hour. Buying 3 cups of coffee a day doesn’t give you an automatic all day pass. If your business skills are so lousy that you can’t rent a cheap office or better yet, work at home like normal people, you deserve to be brankrupt.

  50. I have also found service in the DC Starbucks is not geared toward “keeping the customer happy”. Caribou Coffee has a great atmosphere, wonderful barista, and no charge for using the internet, although it is a bit slow. Starbucks charges $5 for a card with the password in order to use their internet services, so not sure what “free” means.

  51. Thanks for this cool post Om! I have been coffee shopping lately, thanks for the reminder to tip more 🙂

    To the folks wondering why its worth the price of admission. Working at a coffee shop isn’t an alternative to working at home, its an escape from home. The real comparison is the cost/committment of a small office or co-working space. Compared to this, $10-20 a day at the coffee shop is pretty reasonable.

    That being said, I wish more shops had longer hours/nighttime hours. I’d gladly pay higher prices for a 24 hour spot!

    Props should be given here to Panera Bread aka St. Louis Bread Company. Very friendly and ubiquitous, they have been a lifesaver for me. Plus they have great good. There’s also a new Panera knockoff chain called “Camille’s”, they are awesome and usually real quiet.

    1. Call me old school but if you guys are running start-ups why aren’t you looking more closely at your outgoings? $15 a day for coffees and cake x 20 days = $300 per month, plus tips, travel, headphones etc!!! I assume none of you make a packed lunch or go home to eat a proper meal. Work from home, it’s cheaper. Just turn on the lights and heat in the room you work in. No matter how paltry, it means more cash in your pocket to enjoy leisure activities with your friends and families or, if you don’t have a life, more $$$ to invest in your business.

  52. It drives me a little bit crazy to be in a coffee shop, in a space that’s open to the public, where I too have paid for service, and to be shooshed by business people on their clickty-clack laptops who wish to conduct business with their clients who are miles away, while I’m attempting to have a conversation with the person next to me.

    Coffee shops and other such public spaces owned by private enterprise have always been SOCIAL places where COMMUNITIES have space to discuss their day. So although you as commercial business somehow feel the right to these spaces, please don’t sush the other customers who do have every right to have normal level conversations right next to you and your shiny new start-up. (I too love my laptop, and smartphone, and mp3 player, and I even enjoy “social media” but believe it or not – I actually like being social with the people right in front of me too once in a while).

    If you wish to have an absolutely quiet space which is also a usable work space with free wi-fi and has space for meetings, why not also try your local LIBRARY! I love the library! Your taxes are already paying for this service and you may be surprised to learn that many local libraries have extensive support for businesses!

  53. I hate people who run a business from a coffee shop.

    It’s nigh on impossible for my friends and I to get a table at out local place because the laptop crowd are there from open to close.

    They also seem to think that they have some divine right to ‘their’ table on the occasions we do get there first.

  54. If anyone wants to promote their favorite coffee shops, check out this little website we’ve been working on. You can list your favorite places to get caffeinated and work like this:

    http://coffeeandwifi.com/location/Kick-Butt-Coffee-10138

    We’re trying to support independent shops, especially quirky places like the martial arts/coffee shop called Kick Butt Coffee linked above. Owners of some shops have uploaded photos. If a shop uses Twitter, or is a Foursquare venue, we list that information and give customers a place to put comments directly on our site.

  55. as start ups and indie business operators, I’m always surprised at how you use the name of “Starbucks” to note coffee shops. there are plenty of indie coffee / tea / espresso bars that truly appreciate folks working from the shoppes.

    why not help the small business owner, and not just the corporate giants, while you build your business? think local, we do!

    modernleafandbean [dot] com .

  56. Great comments. As an advisor to small business on the tax and financial side, small business entrepreneurs tend to be too tight-fisted with those who help them most. Your tips on tips is great.

  57. What kind of loser are you that you have to use someone’s business as your personal office. Work from home and stop being a freeloader. Oh 3 coffees per day, yeah that’s a justifiable and equivalent trade for you not having to fork out for office space, electricity, seating & WiFi.

    Baristas. There is no need to be rude to them but I am sure they would appreciate you shutting your hole so that they don’t have to hear about your boring sob story. They are there to make money and go home. You are there to bug them.

    I used to work in restaurants before I finished my education. You people are the worst people for businesses. Every time we see you coming groans fill the room and everyone flips a coin to see who has to put up with it that day. There is nothing worse than being busy a new paying customers having to be turned away or having to wait excessively long to due to people just idling around.

    Thanks for abusing the generosity of a business for your own financial gain, This is why we don’t have nice things.

  58. I have started all three of my businesses in a local coffee shop. Although that particular one wasn’t a Starbucks, I have used many of their locations for meeting with clients over the years. Each location has its own rhythm (when their rushes happen, how crowded they are at certain times of the day, etc). Once you get into their rhythm, go with it, and use it to your advantage. I have three or four locations for networking – in other words, just by observing and getting to know the regulars, I learned who is in which location when, then became became acquainted with several locally well known folks who are also regulars there (local celebrities, sports figures, business people, local politicians) – then have used those contacts to introduce prospective clients when I “happened” to be meeting with them at a time when someone I knew they wanted to meet would likely be at the same spot at the same time. This will appear to be an impromptu meeting to both parties and will not take up too much of anybody’s time.

  59. The only thing I’d caution is for people to use discretion when talking about business and on the phone. I’m always appalled by what I overhear in Starbucks and in train cars. Finally, if you need a credit card for your business, go with the Amazon Chase card that awards points. Among them, $50 Starbucks cards. 🙂

  60. I don’t understand all the hue and cry about being very nice with baristas and waiters irrespective of how they work. It’s their job. They better be good at it if I have to be “especially” nice. Else I am just normal with minimal tips.

    People really get hung up about being especially nice and very careful with waiters. Infact giving undeserved niceties is actually condescending. You are essentially saying :”I am being nice to you and tipping you well because you are a pathetic and make little money.

    In the tech field, if I dont work well, will I get raises and will people be ncie with me? I will be on the streets in one day.

  61. I tend to spend all my time at 2 coffee shops, a Starbucks 200yards from my house or an Australian coffee shop called Toorak Coffee. I’ve actually become friends with Tooraks owner and set him up on FourSquare and Google Business. The Starbucks is also nice but they keep it freezing cold.

    My only problem with working at coffee shops used to be making work calls (going outside for them of course) because I didn’t like to use my cell phone number. How do all of you handle this issue? I’ve been using Phone.com (a client) but want to know what you all use and what you look for?

    1. I have been using Google Voice for a while now. It allows me to give out one virtual phone number and have that ring on my cell, desk, home, or wherever I am. It even rings on my iPad if I want. I made the transition gradually to make sure it would be reliable, but I’m very happy with the results. Google Voice is available free to anyone now – no more invitations required.

      If you work for a company with a corporate phone system you might be able to use a softphone app on your cell. That would allow you to receive/place calls “from your office” even if you are on your cell phone, or using a computer.

      1. I don’t believe Google Voice is available in Oz. We Americans have a tendency to forget that the Internet is global, and that what works in the U.S. might not be an option elsewhere.

    2. Jeb, one more thing about Google Voice. I was once working in a friendly coffee shop and expecting an urgent call from a client. Unfortunately, my cell phone battery was almost dead and I didn’t want to risk driving home with a dead phone and possibly missing the important call. With Google Voice I was able to instantly redirect my calls to the coffee shop office phone (another very good reason to get friendly with the owner and workers) and take the call there with no stress.

  62. My tips are:

    1. Share the power: Make sure that your battery is charged, bring an extra battery, bring an iPad with long battery life, or use the outlet only when you need to, making sure to share. Having only one outlet was a great way to restrict laptop users a few years ago.
    2. Take the smallest table possible if you aren’t expecting guests.
    3. Keep your area tidy
    4. Tweet, Foursquare, Facebook, or whatever about the establishment, giving them a little free marketing, since you are using their space.
  63. Does anybody know what system is being used for the Wi-Fi in the Starbucks? In the UK it seems to be based on BT Openzone and in my experience in a handful of stores it has been pretty poor.
    I read Meraki where putting their mesh network kit in Starbucks, is that the case in the US?

  64. I gave up on the game of musical chairs at Starbucks to find a seat, especially one near the coveted electrical outlets.

    I got a complimentary 6-month membership at Regus BusinessWorld and can use any of their hundreds of business lounges (dozens in NYC) with free coffee and wifi and a clean, quiet and professional work environment.

    Once the freebie expires, I plan to renew for just about $2-300 a year. Save that just in coffee!

  65. I think that Rule #1 should always be:

    DISABLE your file sharing applications. No bittorrent, limewire, etc and please keep the silly youtube video watching to a minimum.

    It’s rude to hog up a coffee shop’s bandwidth with your p2p activity. Sadly, I have seen this many many times. :/

  66. I feel like I ought to have a bag of popcorn with me, that’s how good a show this Padilla dude is putting on. LOL WTF go get a life instead of spending all day eating up criticism from strangers on some whatever-blog, probably the high point of your day innit? I’m only posting anyways because I know you’ll love it, it’s the best thing since you found out how to smell your own butt. Now go ahead and say whatever you want back, I’m not gonna ever check back anyways LOL! I actually have something to do with my life most of the time. Thanks for the laughs.

    And to everybody else, shame on you, somebody else’s place of business is not your office! Also shame on you for encouraging this Padilla dude LOL.

  67. As far as being rude to baristas or anybody else: Never a good idea. You never know when that person you dissed turns out to be the surgeon who’s handling your case. Yes, she’ll remember you and she’ll make the surgery scar B-I-G….
    Also, it’s never EVER a good idea to be rude or even uppity to the people who have access to what you eat or drink. Think about it; it just isn’t smart.

  68. For all of you who love to work with that white noise- now opening on September 20th is the we work lounge!! You can become a member of this innovative lounge that promotes an organic mixture of collaboration and creativity. Equipped with conference room, wifi, copier/printer, and modern decor, the we work lounge is the perfect place to be productive. In december there will be a cafe right next to lounge as well. Hurry up before all the memberships are taken!

  69. For those of you who love working with that white Starbucks noise -now opening on September 20th is the we work lounge!! You can become a member of this innovative lounge that promotes an organic mixture of collaboration and creativity. Equipped with conference room, wifi, copier/printer, and modern decor, the we work lounge is the perfect place to be productive. In december there will be a cafe right next to lounge as well. Hurry up before all the memberships are taken!

  70. Haha. They draw you in with free Wifi and COUNT on you feeling so that you buy 3 cups of coffee and a cheesecake. Without the free WiFi which costs them about 10 pence they wouldn’t sell that cheesecake! suckers.

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