A TikTok trend in which Starbucks customers order creative and complicated drinks is making baristas who abide by the company’s generous customization policy work hard.
“On today's episode of why I wanna quit my job,” Josie, a Starbucks barista in Southern California, tweeted on Saturday, along with a photo of a beverage for a customer named Edward. The viral tweet has since been deleted and Josie did not immediately return Yahoo Life's request for comment.
The drink, a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino (coffee, milk, ice, dark caramel sauce, whipped cream, caramel drizzle and a caramel-sugar topping) had been embellished with five bananas, extra caramel drizzle, whipped cream and ice, cinnamon dolce syrup, seven pumps of dark caramel sauce, extra caramel crunch, one pump of honey blend syrup, heavy cream and more, double blended together.
In response, empathetic baristas tweeted their own picky customer orders, and the Twitterverse argued over whether the customer is always right. "I feel you," someone wrote, sharing three mobile and delivery beverage stickers bearing a long list of ingredients. Another tweeted a receipt with multiple drink orders, noting that "a lady ordered this in person with a completely straight face."
you’d be surprised . a lady ordered this in person with a completely straight face 😐 pic.twitter.com/2OuTuN3Hti
— baby velociraptor (@tunafishpro) May 3, 2021
One barista confirmed that the line in her store is "ridiculously long" due to people ordering "the TikTok drinks" and another tweeted that it was "exhausting and defeating" to serve multiple drinks in succession.
While Starbucks has an extensive beverage menu, it also offers 170,000 customizations, a perk known as the "secret menu," a term for off-beat orders. "If customers would like to order a beverage that is not listed on our menu boards, we recommend they know the recipe so that their barista can handcraft the beverage perfectly for them," a Starbucks spokesperson tells Yahoo Life.
The TikTok trend captures people ordering off the "secret menu." Anna X Sitar (who did not immediately respond to Yahoo Life's request for comment), who considers herself a Starbucks influencer, reviews Starbucks potions for her 8.9 million followers. In a February video, she asks an employee to make her the "longest order they have ever received" with more than 20 ingredients. "It's going to be bad," said Sitar, before taking a sip (spoiler: it was). And TikToker Claudia Oshry orders a different Starbucks drink each day to find one that suits her palate.
Social media users are generally unimpressed with the trend, sympathizing with baristas who already juggle multiple drink orders and long lines. "Orders with more than 8 changes should automatically charge a tip for the baristas," someone tweeted. "Like what they do when you go to a restaurant with a large group of people."
Others say the outlandish orders are a natural outcome of the chain's many offerings. "This is a service Starbucks offers, customized drinks," one user tweeted. "People like that and pay extra for it. The employees are trained how to make them. It's their job to make custom coffee and tea drinks. Be friendly to everyone. It's not their job to be nice. It's yours. Do your job. Or quit."
California barista Bianca, who tweeted a photo of a customized drink with nearly 30 add-ons, tells Yahoo Life that the beverage, ordered via mobile every two weeks for a period of two months, stunned staff. "It smelled bad and cost an estimated $20 dollars, factoring in the price of each banana, espresso and serum shots." In Bianca's store, staff have nicknamed two beverages "TikTok orders:" a venti iced mocha with extra caramel drizzle and extra sweet cream foam and a "Summer Sunset," an iced tea-lemonade mix with colorful syrup that creates an ombre effect. "But it's difficult to keep the strawberry flavor from mixing in with the other ingredients especially during rush hour," she explains. "Customers get frustrated, but they just want the look of it."
And a Starbucks employee (whose name Yahoo Life agreed to withhold for privacy reasons) who tweeted a photo of an order she filled at her Northern Utah store, tells Yahoo Life that she has been taking "TikTok orders" for the past six months. "The Venti Iced White Mocha with sweet cream cold foam, no whipped cream and extra Carmel drizzle is, quite literally, the bane of every barista’s existence," she says, adding that the term TikTok "gave life to the movement."
"Making one of these drinks isn’t the end of the world, but rather the sheer quantity of them," she says. "Menu items are created so baristas can make high-quality drinks in a short amount of time through a process called 'sequencing,' but secret menu drinks don't take that into account. While monstrosities like Edward’s are difficult and time consuming to make, they usually are one-off inconveniences rather than a trend."
Her advice for people ordering "TikTok drinks": be prepared before arriving at the drive-thru or register. "We don’t have time to watch the video tutorial you want to show us," she says.
"[However], I am a huge advocate for customers experimenting with our drinks!" says the barista. "…For complicated drinks or requests that take more than twenty words or seconds to say, I recommend going [to Starbucks] at a slower time such as the evening, not the morning, when we’re focused on fast service and quality."
However, Starbucks has officially ended the debate, telling Yahoo Life in a statement, "Customizing beverages at Starbucks and our baristas’ expertise in helping customers find and craft the right beverage has and always will be at the heart of the Starbucks Experience. There are many ways for customers to modify their favorite beverage and most customizations are reasonable requests from customers."
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