Customer films Starbucks worker taking orders outside

A TikToker recently filmed Starbucks employees taking orders from drive-thru customers who were still waiting in line, going viral and unexpectedly sparking debate on the platform about the ethics of the situation.

The original TikTok, posted by user James (@itsjamesstarr), shows a Starbucks employee taking orders on a tablet from a customer queuing at the drive-thru.

“Name something that feels illegal but isn’t,” James wrote in the TikTok’s text overlay.

The video currently has over 1.5 million views.

@itsjamesstarr Is it your pleasure too? #starbucks #coffee #barista #chickfila #food #fyp #foryou ♬ About Damn Time – Lizzo

At first, some users jumped into the comments to simply let James and other users on the site know that this was relatively normal.

“Since when did Starbucks start doing this?” James asked in the comments section.

Viewers’ responses were mixed.

“Ex-barista here April 2021,” wrote one user.

“Current barista, I’ve never seen this before,” claimed another.

“Current barista here! We’ve been doing this since August 2020,” added a third.

Quick-Service and Fast Casual Restaurant magazine reported on Starbucks’ plan to line up more tablet orders in July 2020, a practice it said began in the early days of COVID. These comments seem to indicate that the rollout of this program has been gradual.

As for why Starbucks actually did this, users weren’t sure either.

“It’s called line busting. Apparently it’s supposed to help the line go by quickly,” said one commenter.

“A lot of places do it… it cuts drive-through times I think,” agreed a second.

This idea is confirmed by the same QSR article.

“…We’re able to get out of the store, get in line, place an order and join a queue much quicker, and cut down on out-the-window times and beverage and grocery items much quicker to the customer faster,” Roz Brewer, Starbucks COO, told QSR about the new tablet system.

Commenters on James’ video note that they have seen similar “line busting” at places like Chick-fil-A, Dutch Bros, Taco Bell, and a variety of other locations.

While this can reduce wait time for customers, it can be a negative experience for employees, according to some users.

“The line goes by quickly, but gives the chefs little to no time to breathe,” said one commenter.

“I was working on sticks and they sent me out several times in 108+ degrees and during a monsoon storm,” shared another. “It’s hell for the employees.”

Having to work in the heat was a common thread running through many comments.

“What y’all don’t understand is that it can be over 100 degrees outside and they still let them go outside for minimum wage,” wrote one commenter.

“I’m a barista in Az and there’s no amount of money they can pay me to stand outside in the 120 degree heat and do this,” said another.

The Daily Dot contacted James via TikTok comment and Starbucks via email.

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*Initial publication: May 31, 2022 9:08 am CDT

Braden Bjella

Braden Bjella is a culture writer. His work can be found in Mixmag, Electronic Beats, Schön! magazine and more.

Braden Bjella Customer films Starbucks worker taking orders outside

Jaclyn Diaz

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