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Cafe Woes

Let's start by discussing the "back room". This is where we store every product we sell, we do dishes, we bake, we replenish bake case plates, we prepare sauces and soups, we store gallons of milk, we get ice to replenish the bar. It's where we find aprons to wear (usually pre soiled), check our schedules, and fill out meaningless paper work. It is where we store the mop, the broom and the large trash can which we use to bring all of the trash from around the cafe to the dumpster. There is a lot that must happen in this back room, but there is very little space. The area is about 3 feet wide...maybe 12 feet long. If the trash bin is back there, the mop bucket will not fit through the alley way. If the dish washer door is open there is no room to get by without hoping over it. Also, the dishwasher will fly open and spray 200 degree water on your legs if you don't hold it shut for some time after pressing "wash" because it is broken like everything else in our cafe. If the oven timer goes off while you are slaving in the sink, you will most likely stub your shin on the dishwasher door while hopping over it in order to quickly retrieve the baking product. Despite injury, you must be quick or else the baking product will burn and you will be expected to buy it. Whenever you take something out of the oven you are required to announce it over the intercom, "Please come and visit our cafe for some warm, freshly baked blank"...because this has been proven to be effective in generating sales (NOT). (No one does this unless hassled by cafe drill sergeant.)

So now it is lunchtime and your co worker is on break (which they will most likely only take half of because they feel guilty). A line starts forming and everyone wants multiple drinks and food items. You are very stressed and trying to multitask steaming milk, cooking food, and ringing people up. Instead of applying your own developed rhythm in order to quickly serve each person, you must direct your focus on up-selling,writing names on the very cup that will not leave your hand until you place it in theirs, logging soup temperatures, ringing books etc etc. If a manager finds themselves bored and takes a stroll though the cafe, discovers a soup timer off or a cup unmarked, it will be their main concern and you will get spoken to. All the while you can not help but notice booksellers chit-chatting and sipping lattes behind the registers at the cash wrap while they leisurely scan books and then bag them... big woop. We literally do what they do plus like 1,000 other things at least (but we all bring home the same paycheck OBVIOUSLY).

All of this hard work may make you thirsty, but a new rule has arisen which bans all water consumption in any area that customers could potentially catch the act! This is because many people have complained about us employees drinking water in their presence...NOT. This is just some random unjustified act of discipline.

Your customers can see you are working very hard at providing a pleasant experience as well as moving quickly, so they would like to reward you with a tip while they gather their belongings on the counter. They have a perplexed look on their face because they cannot find the tip jar. This is obvious when they ask "Where is your tip jar"? We are supposed to reply with a smile and say "Oh we just use the counter" (like that makes any sense at all....). But I tell the truth and say that we must keep it hidden under the counter. At least 5 customers per shift will comment on the fact that all other "Starbucks" have their jars on display. Many think this is unfair, going so far to flip over the upside down venti cup that we keep on the counter (we are required to use this as a prop to up-sell) and put their tip in there. I recognize that we are not technically a Starbucks Co. barista so we are not entitled to show a jar. This is because we are owned by Barnes and (Not)noble, meaning that we have more responsibilities and fewer benefits than Starbucks employees.

If you are lucky enough to be the closer that night you spend a lot of time in that cramped back room area. You must wash endless dishes all night in the sink. Bowls and plates with used napkins stuck to the glass and half chewed sandwich ends that you must pick off before washing (because people don't even think to throw away their own trash) must chip away at hardened soup and plastic-like cheese remnants stuck to dishes. The plumbing is poorly maintained so there is an awful smell constantly emitted from the drain. It smells like feces and dead animals.

Two people can not walk by each other with out brushing against each other and/or the many things stacked on the walls. Things fall down and your shirts will rip when caught on sharp stuff. This tight space makes being efficient a joke. It also makes one feel like a rat in a cage...going back and forth...imprisoned by authority ay after day after miserable day.

BUT! You must forget your pain, return to the counter and attend to each prospective customer (and by attend I mean to attempt to con every penny possible out of all unsuspecting visitors). For example, my boss demands we ask each person if they would like to add extra flavors, extra shots of espresso, extra whatever that will make the drink sound better. 90% of the time we will be shut down...usually accompanied by a sarcastic compliment of our "sales skills". Every once in awhile the naive first timer will agree. "Why not?" they say, thinking the we're just giving them a nice suggestion to try something new. Then we must ring them up and charge anywhere from an extra $.70... to $2.00... to infinity. We must also ask if they would like something to eat...but we are forbidden to say those exact words. We must offer something specific! "Would you like a slice of red velvet cheesecake or a ham sandwich with that?" If you're wondering where we get these specific items, look no further than "the expiring list" that we make daily on a post it note and stick it to the register. Barnes and Noble would rather serve a gummy, crusty, old slice of cheesecake than put it on the waste log. So, when the customer gets back in line to complain about their stale dessert, guess who looks bad? US! So naturally we only conform to these senseless practices when the boss is present. SOOOO when she is not around we provide exceptional service, going above and beyond to make sure the customer is not pressured and receives only what they truly want. Criminal aint it?

Every move you make is commented on. If it isn't "up to standard" you get a lecture. Even if it is you also get a lecture on how to be even better or they'll just walk away without a single word of praise. The focus is NEVER on the customer, it is always on the money. Your best is never enough and satisfied customers that will return don't mean a thing if you didn't meet your dollars per transaction goal.

These are just some of the daily annoyances my 5 cafe co-workers deal with. I could not possibly state them all. Which reminds me of people NEVER have EVER assisted me with any opening or closing procedures such as wiping tables or stacking chairs or taking out trash or anything. But,they do order drinks before we even open and proceed to buy things/make us fill a venti cup with ice and water for them on their 3269361 breaks AND during their shifts...because they can walk around and do whatever they want. My point is Barnes and Noble does not appreciate their employees (particularly in the cafe) and I would loveeee to hear about others experiences working in the cafe.


( 69 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 17th, 2014 06:47 am (UTC)
Go work for starbuks. you know how to do it. I wouldn't work cafe. I don't feel like it.
Feb. 17th, 2014 09:10 am (UTC)
You're obviously way smarter than everyone else in your store. You should move on and open your own coffees shop. Then you could put your skills to work. Or maybe, you're just not very good at your job?
Feb. 17th, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, way to miss the point of this Community.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 17th, 2014 07:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 17th, 2014 02:51 pm (UTC)
I hear you on all these points, and I haven't worked at B&N in years. When I did work there, I was in Cafe when I started, then bookfloor, then cafe when I had to cut my hours due to school (which ultimately were my final months with the company).

It SUCKS to see that very little has changed since I worked there -- and what has changed has gotten worse, due to company policies enforcing more complicated upselling & other strategies.

What I can say is that if other employees in your store don't help the Cafe shut down, that's what YOUR STORE does -- mine was much more helpful and awesome with the Cafe, though, granted, it's because they wanted the store to close earlier, rather than because they wanted to help us out of the goodness of their hearts. Still!

I agree with the first commenter who mentions working for Starbux. Same job, less bullshit, more tips. :)
Feb. 17th, 2014 07:10 pm (UTC)
"I havent worked at B&N in years"..... but I miss it so much I hang out on here and dream of the good ole days.
Feb. 17th, 2014 03:51 pm (UTC)
Do you work at my store? :/

This is exactly what I've been dealing with for nearly 10 years.

The tip jar thing infuriates me. I've been told by management that it wouldn't be fair to the other employees that we get tipped and they don't. That it would cause fights if somebody came over to cover our break and didn't get a portion of the tips. Well, nobody covers our breaks anyway, so that's not an issue. And if they want that impressive extra, what, $2 per shift? They can work in cafe.

I've worked on bookfloor as well as cafe, and you're absolutely right that the cafe servers get a lot more abuse. It's awful.
Feb. 17th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
You must work in San Antonio!
Feb. 18th, 2014 03:17 am (UTC)
Yup. How did you guess!
Feb. 18th, 2014 12:39 am (UTC)
The not drinking water thing cannot be legal.
Feb. 18th, 2014 12:55 am (UTC)
Last time I checked, a break is when you get a drink of water. Too many people think their entitled. If you are not getting your breaks, demand it. In my store, whenever café calls for back up, they get it. Also, they get their breaks. If anytjing, managers sometimes do not get breaks because we rather let the booksellers/café servers get theirs.
May. 11th, 2014 03:29 am (UTC)
At most stores, breaks are scheduled well in advance. If you are working an 8.5 hour shift, in many states, that's a lunch (30 minutes) and a 15 (break).

It's not unusual for a barista to be scheduled for a 15 about an hour after they arrive and their lunch at about 4 hours in. A person should not have to go 4+ hours without a drink of water. They should not have to go 2 hours. If a person can do their job without any substantial problems, they should not be denied water or need to ask permission to drink it, period. I can see not wanting to encourage people drinking branded beverages or sipping company product but water is a different matter entirely.

If you think wanting a drink of water off-schedule is an 'entitlement' you have been drinking the company koolaid for way too long. There is almost not other universe except retail where it is acceptable to deny a person access to water, particularly at minimum wage.
Feb. 18th, 2014 01:03 am (UTC)
As a former Starbucks employee, you made get tips but you deal with the same bullshit. Cleaning bathrooms and cleaning outside tables/chairs. Dragging them in and out each day and night. Not enough staffing either.
Feb. 18th, 2014 01:09 am (UTC)
That's ok Barnes and Noble will go out of business and all of you bitching on here will be out of jobs. Then you will move on to another place and bitch some more.
Feb. 18th, 2014 06:58 am (UTC)
Can we expect to hear from you then?
Feb. 18th, 2014 01:28 am (UTC)
My store was never that bad, but then again I quit awhile ago. We could have drinks in the back room since the customers cannot see us there. I do agree cafe is given way too much to do. We never need half the food we served, it's just a waste and gross. The one thing that pushed me over the edge after many years of working there was the lack of cross training. I never called in sick unless something was really wrong, but because I was sick it didn't mean I wouldn't have to work. Our store would force sick cafes workers to come in (a health issue) because literally no one else would take the shift and book floor workers had now idea how to make anything. Even with the cheat cards! It was ridiculous. Don't even get me started on how cafe's breaks got skipped because book floor workers forgot to come over and my calls for back up went ignored. Nowhere near worth the pay you got. Go to Starbucks, at least they pay more.
Feb. 18th, 2014 02:32 am (UTC)
If you have the skills to work in a B&N cafe then go and get a bartender or server job. Bn will never love you back. Bn does all this wacky stuff on purpose so you won't stay around. You win by getting out of this dump.
Feb. 18th, 2014 07:13 am (UTC)
I've been a bookseller for 10 years at BN and I completely agree with the original post and see the same exact issues in my store. I always tell everyone how bad I feel for the cafe crew because I feel so guilty when I'm doing little projects here and there, then I look over at the cafe and there's one person over there completely swamped with customers and no back-up help. They also get paid less than the bookfloor people. It really sucks. What I've been told, after working here for so long, is that the company likes part-timer, college students because they'll work for the $8.25/hr. and not complain because they know, and we know, that they won't stay with us long. They quit and we immediately hire another part-time college student. It keeps company costs down because cafe employees don't stay long enough to get raises, unless you're the cafe lead or cafe manager. If it was up to me, I'd have everyone cross-trained in cafe, cafe servers would make a minimum of $10.00/hr., there would never be one employee alone in cafe (meaning a bookfloor person would actually be scheduled to cover a break), and the tip jar would be visible with booksellers knowing and accepting that they aren't allowed to collect tip jar money unless they're scheduled a full shift back there. I could never work back there because I'd be fired within the first week for saying something bad to a customer who complains about me or what I make for them that they claim they never ordered. I can't handle people like that.
Feb. 18th, 2014 11:03 am (UTC)
Booksellers/café servers start at the same pay. B&N take into account any food handling/ retail experience a person has. A lot of stores do cross training over in the café. I start all new people there. If someone doesn't want to be part of the whole store team then I won't hire them.
Feb. 18th, 2014 07:10 pm (UTC)
So, basically, you are cutting your nose to spite your face. There are some genius book people out there who know books and literature upside down, backwards and right way round. But you aren't going to give them a chance to sell the hell out of books because they can't pull an espresso. Wow. What happened to skill sets and talent mapping? And putting people where they can perform their best. One more reason why BN is failing.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 18th, 2014 10:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Feb. 18th, 2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
Anyone who is hired in our store has to be willing to work in Café - if they aren't they don't get hired. Back up calls to Café are always answered and we have about a 1/3 of our booksellers cross-trained. I know working in Café is not perfect, nor is our store - but not every Café is as bad as the original poster.
Feb. 19th, 2014 11:44 am (UTC)
I agree. People start in café in our store as well. Once they are trained a lot of them don't like to leave their comfort zone. Most café crews become pretty close. But it opens up more hours for them if they cross trained. I've always seen it as a good thing. When café calls in our store - everybody wants to go!!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 20th, 2014 07:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 19th, 2014 05:05 pm (UTC)
Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Facebook.  Join us!
Feb. 19th, 2014 08:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, please....Give this Facebook invitation a rest!!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 20th, 2014 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - smithback - Mar. 17th, 2014 03:08 am (UTC) - Expand
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Feb. 20th, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
Ha Ha. I did it again.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Facebook.  Join us!
Feb. 20th, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC)
Very mature. I'm surprised you even know how to read.
Feb. 20th, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC) (Our Wal-mart) (Our Wal-mart twitter) (How to start a union)
Feb. 20th, 2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
You hit the nail right on the head :\ I used to be a bookseller and then they moved me to cafe after asking if I could help out up there. Thus far I can definately state that the cafe is a lot harder then book selling, and thus laugh when booksellers come up and state, "Wow... Book selling is challenging!" Anyways, on the upside, you don't have to worry about dealing with multiple incompetent coworkers... Thus far these few have made working in the cafe more challenging. One in particular argues and fights customers, and to too it off... After 2 months of working the cafe purposely put soul in a plate. Not even a big plate. A small one. And then serves soup (tomato bisque) with a fork. And they refuse to fire him, he's also notorious for allowing to cafe to fall into shambles and then just standing around staring smuggly at customers... <--- this story is meant to cheer you guys of cafe woes up. Makes me laugh every time I think about it.
Feb. 20th, 2014 10:34 pm (UTC)
Barnes & Noble Pinterest.

Barnes & Noble Glassdoor.

Barnes & Noble Flickr.

Barnes & Noble Yahoo Images.;_ylt=A0LEVxLaSPJSMV8Ab23BGOd_?p=barnes+and+noble&fr=yfp-hrtab-901&fr2=piv-web

The Corporation Documentary.
Feb. 21st, 2014 05:19 am (UTC)
Any other stores out there having booksellers trained as "acting managers?"
Feb. 21st, 2014 01:21 pm (UTC)
Haven't heard that one yet. Not a good sign for keyholders.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 21st, 2014 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 21st, 2014 02:58 pm (UTC)
The less overpaid managers we have the better this company will be.
DM's are expensive and have no value to the workplace.
Feb. 24th, 2014 06:01 pm (UTC)
fewer not less
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 26th, 2014 09:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 27th, 2014 02:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 27th, 2014 08:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 28th, 2014 07:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 28th, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC)
Barnes & Noble Pinterest.

Barnes & Noble Glassdoor.

Barnes & Noble Flickr.

Barnes & Noble Yahoo Images.;_ylt=A0LEVxLaSPJSMV8Ab23BGOd_?p=barnes+and+noble&fr=yfp-hrtab-901&fr2=piv-web

The Corporation Documentary.
Mar. 6th, 2014 04:14 am (UTC)
Good job! Have you ever worked in a real restaurant - a Denny's, Steak n' Shake, or even a Waffle House? (Or God forbid, an Outback, Olive Garden, or a Chili's?). Restaurants are not for the easily-offended...or for those who cannot multi-task. Tips are great for those who can handle the stress. But for those who can't even handle a BN Cafe...
Mar. 7th, 2014 04:36 am (UTC)
Apr. 4th, 2014 12:55 pm (UTC)
I think your store has got a serious management issue on their hands. I work in the Café at my store as well, and bookfloor staff that are trained in café not only cover our breaks, but spend a shift or so per week as a server, so they can keep their skills sharp and pick up slack. Those not trained in our area do what they can to help - wipe tables, put up/down chairs, restock the beverage case, etc. My store has a cross-training program that starts off most employees
May. 24th, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
I must say, our situation in my Barnes & Noble is much, much different. I guess different than most everyone's Barnes & Noble here! I spent just about 12 years working the bookfloor and just switched over to the cafe right before the holidays and I am MUCH, MUCH, MUCH happier there. It is WAY easier. I don't know how people possibly think it's harder back there. I can always produce something for someone. I don't have to search for half an hour to find a mocha (only to never find it). I don't have to come up with the title of a drink that the customer "thinks was blue" and "it was on this table just a week ago!". I don't have to spend an hour troubleshooting a cappuccino and, of course, the goddamn customer can't remember their goddamn username and password. I don't have to answer the phone except for the very few cafe calls that we get. I make a drink the way the customer wants and hand it to them. Boom. It is absolute heaven. Sure, it gets busy. Sure, we have our own brand of crazy customers. Sure, I'm not perfect at everything and mess up sometimes. But I just start over and try again and everything is fine. The customers are MUCH easier to deal with and easier to make happy. The only people in my store required to be cross-trained are the managers, leads, and head cashiers. Most other people are on a volunteer basis (like I was when I was cross-trained years and years ago). We have plenty of people who are good enough back there to cover breaks. We also have somewhat cramped conditions due to the fact that we have an older store, but we make it work! We have a great team! I can't even explain how much happier I am. I nearly just outright quit. I was applying for other jobs. Giving interviews. I was so ready to leave. B&N USED to be a great place to work for, but it has gone grossly downhill and I was so tired of being expected to take on the jobs of 5 people (I do the job of ONE (1) PERSON back in the cafe!!!) while getting all of my benefits cut and certainly never seeing extra pay for the extra amount of work I was taking on. I love being able to accept tips, and even though we don't get as much as an establishment that allows tip jars, I still get enough extra to slip into a savings account for a rainy day. That's more than I can say for the bookfloor!

I love the cafe.
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