Why It Hurts When Starbucks, Churches Forget You
I've been watching different people enter the store with me. The baristas call out their names (think Norm from "Cheers") and then call out their beverages, asking if they want the usual.
"Alice! Chai latte, with soy milk?" or "Steve! Double tall cappuccino, extra dry?" Alice and Steve smile happily. They nod and pay for their beloved beverage of choice, feeling cared for.
But each day I walk in, always with a tinge of expectation in my heart. Will this be the day? The barista smiles at me (maybe with a hint of recognition?). My pulse quickens.
"What can I get for you?"
Sigh. "Tall. Skinny. Peppermint mocha. Stirred."
"Do you want whip cream?"
I've never wanted whip cream. What's different about me, I wonder. Are Alice and Steve tipping better? Are they dressed nicer? I always smile and chit-chat with the baristas. I've even asked them their names. But alas, it seems I'm forgettable.
I've shared this experience with some of my friends. I even posted about it on Facebook. Everyone gives me tips on how I can get the baristas to know me.
But for me, it's really more of an experiment to see how or when the baristas might remember my name, or just my drink order.
I walk into lots of stores where no one recognizes me, and I don't give it a second thought. I've been going to the same Kroger for more than six years, sometimes more than once a day, and it never occurred to me that the folks there should take notice of me. But Starbucks is different.
Starbucks prides itself on its customer experience. In fact, it clearly states on its website:
"When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers – even if just for a few moments. Sure, it starts with the promise of a perfectly made beverage, but our work goes far beyond that. It's really about human connection."
There. That's it. That's why I feel different at Starbucks. When they put it out there for all the world to see, and then somehow miss the mark, it screams all the more loudly.
Now here's the real reason I'm curious about all this.
There's another place I frequent that puts its mission out there for all the world to see. A place where I spend hours on end, trying to uphold and fulfill that mission. But how often am I missing the mark?
How many people do I encounter each day that I forget? What am I doing that makes someone feel small and forgettable? What child at church is trying to get my attention, but feels constantly overlooked?
"Why did Mrs. Marti not remember my birthday?"
"Mrs. Marti didn't even ask about my ball game/art show/recital."
"Mrs. Marti gave her a hug but not me."
We have a charge to fulfill in our churches, and it's harder than it seems, I fear, when seen through another's eyes.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and love your neighbor as yourself."
All our neighbors, all the time. No, we can't humanly do that, but each of our neighbors expects it, and each of our neighbors knows we're supposed to try.
They know the church's goal is a lofty one, and they walk in wanting to feel loved, respected, cared for. So each time I walk into Starbucks, I must remind myself that I, too, forget the least of these each and every day.
But recently, my barista surprised me. After I ordered, she said, "What's your name? I'm going to try really hard to remember your order tomorrow."
I won't lie. I felt great. In fact, the next day, despite the fact that I was running late, I stopped in to give her the opportunity to remember me.
Instead, I was given the opportunity to show a little grace. She ducked her head and moved aside, letting someone else take my order. I think she knew she was supposed to remember, but couldn't.
I wasn't upset. I thought of all the kids at church and smiled.
Tall. Skinny. Peppermint mocha. Stirred. No whip.
Marti Andrews is interim minister to children at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga.