Barista burnout

Rhonda Dredge

Some baristas in Southbank are getting sick of explaining the law to anti-vaxxers. They want to be people pleasers, but at what cost?

Hayley, Charlotte and Julia have worked through the pandemic at Frankie Walter Peta in Freshwater Place.

When you’re working that close to people it’s not the same as a polite chat on Zoom.

“We’ve had to become people pleasers over the lockdown,” Charlotte said. “I have a sleep as soon as I get home.”

“One thing that has changed is that a lot of customers are coming in with their problems,” Hayley said. “We’ve been the customers’ back-up.”

She’s getting sick of being on the front line of health regulations when baristas are employed to deal with coffee beans.

“I don’t speak to the public, only about coffee. It’s easier,” she said.

This cute little café is tucked beneath the infrastructure at Freshwater Place and its three young baristas are trying to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony.

Hayley prefers to arrange yoga lessons than deal with annoying customers.

But Charlotte manages front-of-house and some of their regular customers have turned out to be anti-vaxxers and they want to argue the point.

“We’ve had some controversial customers,” she said. “We nod our way through the conversation. They want to chat because they will have an anti-vax conversation.”

“It’s too much of an effort to argue the point. You don’t engage with a girl at the checkout to disagree with them.”

She said customers were more aggressive than they used to be. “They want to pick a fight. One guy was full-on, swearing at me. He never came back. We’re just following the rules.”

She said another was an office worker and regular customer.

“One guy who argued was a nice customer, friendly until he found out the rules. He had a fight with the owner.”

Sometimes the girls are working by themselves. “People come in and tell you their life stories. Because it’s not reciprocal I can’t take any more,” Julia said.

She had situations where a customer would come in and say, “my father just died” or “I’m going to see my sister on her death bed.”

Working in a café is not as bad as working in a bar where someone will sit up at it and talk at you non-stop.

“We call them punishers. At least here we deal with people for five minutes at the most,” said Charlotte.

People go to their baristas for a bit of cheek and gossip and that’s what you’ll find at Frankie Walter Peta.

Some baristas act as if they’re human resource managers but at this little café with its homely supply of plants, books and yoga, they know how to please •

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