The Baristas at Starbucks Think I'm Cheap

An amusing look at my Scrooge-like ways just in time for the holidays!

This piece is like a listicle gizmo, but it’s a story with benefits. Like friends with benefits. But a story with benefits because you may be amused at how cheap I am.

I’m a writer. I write in the morning in my home office. In the afternoon I get coffee in the Starbucks cafe at Barnes & Noble, where I edit the material I produce in the morning.

Here’s what happens to me on a typical day:

“Hi, Lisa!” my super-friendly barista Donna says. I really like her.

“Hi, Donna!”

Sometimes my barista is Donna, sometimes Kevin, sometimes Sarah, sometimes the shy one.*

They all know my name. I really enjoy my daily interactions with my Starbucks baristas.

“Want your ‘uze’?” Donna asks. As in my “usual.”

I act surprised. “How’d you know?”

She laughs. “You’re funny! Anything to snack on today? I saw you eyeing the bake case.”

She already knows my answer because I order the same thing every day, rarely anything extra, but she likes tempting me.

I check out the super-sized baked goods like I’d love to eat everything in there if I weren’t on a major diet and a four-hundred calorie snack was a good idea. The Cinnamon Chip Scone is $2.45 and has 480 calories. I love them.

But, there’s a but: I’ve already had a 150-calorie granola bar in the car on the way over that came out of $2.50 box of six, so I got a munch better deal. Forty-two cents.

I shrug. “Naw…I better not. I’m on a diet.”

She smiles. “Swipe your member card,” she says because she keeps track and knows I have one. This gives me a :)

I swipe my Barnes & Noble Member card and get a ten percent discount.

“That’ll be $2.16,” she says.

I hand her the exact change. I like to spend my pennies.

“Your drink will be right up!”

“Thanks, Donna. Have a great day!”

I hold my head high, even though I’m cheap, and command the end of the counter to pick up my tall Americano, wondering if Donna thinks I’m cheap. I’m pretty sure she does since I only spent $2.16.

I truly love the Cinnamon Chip Scone, though, and was sorely tempted. I mean I love, love them. But, I saved!

Next day:

“Hi, Lisa!” my barista Kevin says. I really like him. He’s super nice.

“Hey, Kevin!”

“What can I get you?” he says, even though I always order the same thing.

“A tall Americano, please. You didn’t guess!”

He laughs. “Want anything to go with?” He already knows my answer. He knows.

Smiling, I shake my head. “I’m so boring, right?”

He laughs then makes my drink, while I’m proud I’ve resisted the temptation to order something to “go with.” Like the Cinnamon Chip Scone.

Of course I ate a granola bar out of my box of six on the way over, like I did the day before, and the day before that, and the day….I love snacks.

“Tall Americano for Lisa,” Kevin says loudly enough for the entire cafe to hear.

I pick up my Americano, a little embarrassed that’s all I got. “Thanks, Kevin! See you tomorrow!”

“Yep! Have a good one!”

As I empty three packs of sugar into my Americano, I wonder if Kevin thinks I’m cheap. Most likely! I conclude.

One week Kevin told me the cafe was having a contest to see who could sell the most, so that week I made my Americano a grande. $2.62 with tax. But just for Kevin because he asked…and so he doesn’t think I’m a total skinflint.

Most people, like me, are easy to shame. I realized I’d have to bury my sense of shame to save money on coffee because my Starbucks baristas are always, always wanting me to super-size my snacks, grande my Americano, get extra shots, buy two when I only need one.

I tried a little test to exorcize my sense of shame. I looked deep inside myself and saw that my parents aren’t watching, my old teachers aren’t watching, my old bosses are not watching, Santa Claus isn’t watching, God is most likely busy with people with more pressing problems than mine. The only person who matters in my life and knows how cheap I am? Me. Well, and my husband, when I choose to brag to him about how much money I save. Oh, and possibly my daughter. She might know.

I whittled that down. Nobody, outside of my immediate family, knows how much I spend at Starbucks. Except me. And my baristas. And it’s okay if they know, because my desire to save money is bigger than my worrying about their thinking I’m cheap.

When I asked my barista Donna, who’s the cafe’s manager, what the most popular drink is, she said it’s the Pumpkin Spiced Latte. I check the board on the wall behind her. A tall costs $4.25 plus tax. Woah.

Luckily, even though I see the appeal of the luscious PSL, I was able to resist because that sucker has 300 calories. My tall Americano with three sugars and a splash of nonfat milk has about 50 calories.

I average twenty-two days a month buying coffee at the Starbucks cafe. A tall Pumpkin Spiced Latte would cost me $90.04 for the month with tax. My tall Americano costs $47.52. Roughly half! I saved $42.52 for the month of October at Starbucks. And that adds up to $510.24 for the year.

I conclude that I should not feel cheap-shamed into up-sizing my coffee or up-ordering my snacks because I’m saving $510.24 a year!

I also conclude that it’s helpful to link saving money to another goal, like not gaining weight. Saving money and keeping extra pounds off is a constant struggle for me in our venti-sized consumer society.

Please share my story on Facebook if you think it’s okay that I’m cheap at Starbucks. Ho, ho, ho! Ha, ha, ha! And thank you!

* * *

P.S. The holiday drinks just arrived in the cafe! I love the holidays. There’s a new drink called the Chestnut Praline Latte. Yum, yum, I’m sorely tempted. I’m thinking about it now while I edit this piece. I stare at the poster-sized picture of it behind the counter. Tomorrow, I’ll check its price. Do the math. Hopefully, pass it up. Think of the number of calories it contains, I tell myself! Plus, I’m sure it costs just as much as the PSL. $4.25 plus tax. This gives me a :)

* Not my baristas’ actual names.

(This piece originally appeared on Medium.)

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