It’s so common it’s practically a cliché. Are you a writer? Then there’s a good chance you’re currently on your laptop in some sort of coffee dispensary.
As a long time, barista, I have spent my fair share of time both in front and behind the bar.
I’m also acutely aware of what is and what isn’t ok when it comes to coffee shop etiquette. And as it is Travel Tuesday, I thought I would give you a quick guide to coffee shop etiquette for writers. A travel guide for writing in coffee shops if you will.
Just a side note: Most of this is meant in humor, so if you’re guilty of one or two of these, no worries. It’s all in good fun.
You’ve packed your laptop in your messenger bag and you decided it was time to get out and about. You want a change of scenery, maybe getting away from your desk will yield a new wave of Wrinsperation. (writing inspiration). You have the perfect place picked out. You know the baristas, you love the coffee, the Wi-Fi is easily accessible, you even have the password saved on your computer. But, where do you sit when you finally enter the doors and the aroma of freshly ground coffee hits your nose?
Don’t Hog the Space
Don’t do the equivalent of “manspreading” in your favorite coffee shop. I know, you’ve got your laptop, your phone, your notebook, your pens, your planner, your various charging cords, your iPod, your water bottle, your wallet, your keys, your jacket, your sweater in case it’s cold, your emergency kit, your backup hard drive, your Gameboy, etc. But, no matter if you’re equipped with enough stuff to backpack through Europe, be courteous when picking a place to set up your “office”.
If it’s the lunch rush, don’t take over the 4-person table, try the couch or counter, if there’s not a small table available, get ready to move if you see a big group coming in. You might have a lot of stuff, but you don’t necessarily have to have it all out all the time. And if you do spread out at a big table, make sure it’s during a lull.
No, the Busy Barista will Not Charge Your Phone
If you forgot your charger, or if there’s not a readily available table with access to a plugin nearby, don’t instantly hop up to the bar and ask if you can charge your phone behind the bar. Chances are you’re interrupting the baristas who are hard at work and who are already using all the available outlets for their own devices and the various equipment they use. Also, if you’ve never worked with an espresso machine, you should know it gets messy. We’re talking espresso splash back, coffee grounds, milk dripping, water, sticky syrup. We baristas are always cleaning that bar, wiping the machine down, and keeping it tidy as we can. It’s not the barista’s job to make sure your new iPhone doesn’t get splashed, or worse, shoved or dropped.
This also includes not asking the barista to lend you their charging chord. If you forgot your cord, it’s too bad.
Bottomless Cups of Coffee Only Go So Far
Don’t take advantage of your local shop’s goodwill. We all need to save up those pennies. But sitting at your favorite coffee shop for hours on end, using the Wi-Fi and the bathroom, and only purchasing a single cup of coffee with endless refills, will not make you the customer of the year. Try and purchase something at least every few hours. Chances are there is something equally cheap to try or offer to pay for refills based on how long you’ve been working.
I know, you’re a starving writer just waiting for your big break, a cup of coffee is your splurge. Well, then just don’t camp out for the entire day.
Use Headphones and Turn That Music Down!
If you’re anything like me then you have a steady stream of music playing in the background while you’re furiously typing out your manifesto, novel, screenplay, or article. And if we have that in common it’s more than likely you’re streaming the Hamilton Soundtrack which you have memorized in its entirety and sing along with…. poorly…. in the car.
But, if you are blasting those jams, your fellow patrons can hear them and they probably don’t want to hear Katy Perry, Hamilton, or whatever you’re listening to. Keep it down to a level where you can still rock out, but not bother other customers. And please for the love of coffee, use headphones!
It Might Be Your Second Some, But It’s Not Your Home
Obvious as it might seem, that coffee shop where everybody knows your name and your favorite drink is ready the minute you step in the door is not your home. Don’t take your shoes off, don’t take a nap on the comfy couches, don’t binge-watch the new season of Kimmy Schmidt. Keep it business casual. You’re there to work, after all, remember?
Monopolizing the Baristas
Your new book idea is fascinating. Your dog did a super funny thing this morning. You can’t believe what’s up with the weather. Your friendly baristas may love chatting with you, but there’s always a limit. If you find yourself awkwardly waiting at the counter for a lull in business just to finish that story you started 3 hours ago, it might be time to reconsider.
Your barista might be friendly, but is not necessarily always your best friend. I know that sounds harsh, but someone is getting paid to do a job and someone is supposedly finishing up a new chapter. Let your barista give the cues for conversation, if they keep asking questions, then talk away. If they say “hey I’ve got to make this thing, do these dishes, ring up this customer, mop this floor” then you know it’s time to cut the conversation.
Don’t Forget to Tip
But they didn’t even bring your drink to the table, right? The coffee shop employees might not do as much as your average server, but they are still in the service business. There is still a lot of craftsmanship that goes into making those delicious beverages, yes, even the plain old drip coffee. A little tip goes a long way for those behind the bar.
Well, there you have it! Kay’s coffee shop do’s and don’ts. Follow these guidelines and you will always be welcome, and have the most brew-tifull coffee shop etiquette in town!