Seattle Barista Matt Watson Fired For Bitter Blog Mocking Customers
Lots of baristas are disaffected, quietly cursing persnickety customers, and sneaking caffeine or full-fat milk into those patrons' drinks. But if they want to keep a career in customer service, they would be wise to keep their gripes off the Internet. A Seattle coffee shop worker has just been fired after he was outed as the "Bitter Barista" blogger.
Matt Watson, 30, got a bachelor's degree in philosophy in Pennsylvania before coming to Seattle eight years ago -- because he "followed a girl," he told The Seattle Times. Watson had been working at All City Coffee in the Georgetown neighborhood for 2½ years, while he pursued his hip-hop dreams as "Spekulation." And then two weeks ago, he told the Times, he started his blog.
As Watson explained to the Seattle newspaper, a barista "is probably an artist, overqualified, people with pretty much college education across the board." And then they find themselves, like Watson, waking up at 6 a.m. and earning $15 an hour.
Introducing the "Bitter Barista," who offers up a daily dish of snark on the grind of the over-educated coffee-maker, with comments such as: "Please pour your coffee into the trash can so it can ruin my day later"; "I really hope this coffee career takes off so I can finally stop making music"; "Yes, coffee is expensive. But you're more than welcome to go to Ethiopia and get it yourself"; "My only goal for the month is to figure out how to pour a picture of a middle finger in latte art."
Watson never named himself on the blog, or his coffee shop, but he did mention his alter ego, Spekulation. The coffee gossip blog (yes, a coffee gossip blog!) Sprudge.com published its discovery, and condemned Watson's tone as "an all-out assault on whomever walks through the door of your cafe."
Anticipating hellfire, Watson emailed his boss, and tried to recast his online popularity as good for business, given its presumably young, hip and satire-loving clientele. "This isn't bad press, it's actually good press," he wrote. "... it could turn out to be a fun something that gives the place a little spike in the publicity."
But despite Watson's pitch and his coffee skills (one Yelp reviewer said the "Hip Hop barista" did "Espresso as high art"), his boss let him go. "It puts me in a difficult position," his manager told the Times, "where if I don't respond that means I endorse what he's saying."
Watson isn't the first barista to lose a job for satirizing it. At the end of 2011, a 25-year-old Starbucks employee released an acoustic ballad on YouTube that recounted certain improprieties, like making Frappacinos out of whipped cream. Starbucks ultimately fired the guy but were apparently "really cool about it."
Watson says he's already received offers from other coffee shops, and his blog has received an uptick in traffic. "My ex-boss thinks the website is gonna stop because I don't work there anymore," he writes. "Man, I didn't even work there when I worked there!"
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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