What’s It Like to Work at Starbucks During Pumpkin Spice Latte Season? A Former Barista Answers

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It’s easy to get excited as a Starbucks customer during Pumpkin Spice Latte season… but what’s it like to be a Starbucks barista during Pumpkin Spice Latte season? Interestingly, it’s not as bad as you might think — at least, according to one former barista. On Quora (which cross-posts on Slate), Nadia Singer answers a riff on one of the Q and A site’s most popular question genres: "What’s it like to work at X?" As you might expect, the back-to-back PSL and peppermint mocha seasons — so, pretty much September through December — make up one of the chain’s busiest times; since Singer used to sling cappuccinos with the best of them, she put in her two cents about how the job changed during those months. The whole answer is worth reading, so head on over there to check it out; in the meantime, here are the salient points:

  • The customer demographic changes. Not only that, but it happens in two ways: First, people who don’t typically go to Starbucks start showing up just to order a PSL or peppermint mocha; and second, people who habitually order the same thing start switching out their usual drink for one of the seasonal ones.
  • The red holiday cup makes a difference. Although peppermint mochas began life as a seasonal beverage, they’re actually available year-round now (TIL, right?). But although she often tried to explain to customers that they could drink them whenever they wanted, she writes, “it just didn’t seem to click.” She continues, “The drink would be ordered at a magnitude higher during the holiday season, but the minute the red cups disappeared, so did the orders.” Weird, right?
  • Customers complain more. It’s no secret that retail environments, which tend to be kind of maddening to begin with, get even more hectic around the holiday season — but at Starbucks, that means not only that there’s a higher volume of customers, but also that more people are complaining about their drinks. Singer writes that she remade drinks much more frequently during PSL and peppermint mocha season, likely because customers drinking something other than their usual order found the beverages too rich, sweet, or heavy.
  • Everything feels a little more festive. Sure, the morning rushes could be scary, but generally, the spirit of the season resulted in a positive environment.

So there you have it. I’m actually quite surprised by the answer; I’ve always assumed that working at Starbucks during PSL and peppermint mocha season would be absolutely terrifying. Then again, I kind of hate people (I should really consider carrying a sign wherever I go that says “MISANTHROPE” in big, red letters), so I’m not really the right type of person for a retail environment, anyway. If you’re a people person, though, I would imagine it’d terrifically fun. And hey — with all those people coming through the store on a daily basis, just think how many names you can misspell purely for your own entertainment!