Starbucks has deployed a new type of employee

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Starbucks has deployed a new type of employee at its 58th-St. store in New York, and Joel Spolsky is displeased:

This employee wore a radio headset. Her main job was to go down the line of people waiting to order and ask them what they wanted in advance of their arriving at the cash register.

What’s the problem?

There [at the register], they would be asked to repeat their order before paying and finally joining the line of customers waiting for their drinks to appear.

I have to agree; that sounds truly annoying. Someone at Starbucks Gossip explained the “benefit” of this system:

I learned from the website that the woman I had seen in the headset taking orders was officially called an expediter — but the job title is something of a red herring, according to the collective wisdom of the Starbucks staff members chatting on the site.

Expediters are not really there to see to it that a customer’s order is filled more quickly, they believe. Rather, expediters exist solely to prevent people in line from giving up and wandering off, maybe to go to the Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner. Once a customer places an order, the logic goes, he or she feels an ethical obligation to wait for it to be filled, no matter how long the process takes. Expediters are there to lock in that order as soon as possible.

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