Your name matters.

Your name matters. It really does. No one likes to be called “hey, you” or perhaps worse called nothing at all. I met several “hey, yous” this past week on a business trip. The airport janitor. The doorman. The porter. The hotel gardener. The hotel maid. And then I met Maria. 

Contrary to the classic song from the “Sound of Music,” Maria is not a problem. She’s quite the opposite. She’s friendly. Efficient. Pleasant. Kind. Accommodating. Personable. Maria is the best barista I have ever encountered. Maria runs the Starbucks café 2 – 10 p.m. in the Phoenix-area hotel where I stayed. 

Maria is not a problem at all. The problem is people like me who get too busy to notice Maria and all the other hard-working individuals who serve millions of us in everyday life. The trash guys. The gas station attendant. The store stock clerk.

Rattling Off Our Orders

This week, I watched people confuse Maria’s name. They’d march up to the counter and instantly call her “venti-doubleshot-whole-mo’whip-latte” or “grande-regular-halfsweet-mocha-frap-and-blueberryscone.” These customers failed to look at Maria’s nametag or her winsome brown eyes. Instead, like programmed automatons they rattled off their order and flicked their credit card. Order. Swipe. Next. Order. Swipe. Next.

I met Maria Tuesday evening and she opened a mini honey bottle just for my latte and wrapped the leftover honey in the jar in a paper bag so I could take it to my room. Thoughtful touch. I sat down at a table near the counter and just had a little conversation about the weather, the Arizona teacher’s strike, whatever came to mind.

Wednesday night I stopped back to the café and gave a shout out, “Hi, Maria.” She turned from emptying the espresso tamper and exclaimed, “Hi there, Beth.” Surprised that she remembered my name, I asked, “You get a lot of people in here. How did you remember my name?”

With a big smile, Maria quickly replied, “You talked with me. And you sat down.” 

Conversing with Maria

You talked with me. You sat down. [Hand me a tissue, please.] I was just being me chatting with Maria. But apparently most customers only speak order dialect to her. “Venti-doubleshot-whole-mo’whip-latte.” They pay and leave.

Conversing with Maria while I sipped my latte and she worked behind the counter, I learned a lot about this even-keeled barista. She and her husband used to live in Colorado Springs. She has a Welsh corgi who doesn’t like to exercise.

Next month Maria and her husband will fly to Virginia to visit friends. And when they do, I bet Maria warmly greets the airport janitor and every Starbucks barista by name.

Your name matters. Maria’s name matters. It really does. No one likes to be called “hey, you” or grande-regular-halfsweet-mocha-frap-and-blueberryscone.