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January 30, 2007


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Does anybody give pregnant women decaf drinks when they order regular? I know of a few baristas who will do this. I don't feel right doing it...the drink could be for someone else. Also, caffeine is supposed to be okay in moderation. When a pregnant woman will order like a quad mocha, then I feel uncomfortable serving it to her. Weird situation. I'm just glad I'm not an actual bartender.


First it is not our job to be coffee police. Second it is not possible for us to know who the drink is for. Third its not our job to be coffee police.


If someone is obviously pregnant and they don't order decaf, then I ask, "Did you say decaf?" Half the time they gasp and thank me for asking. If they are getting their regular drink, they just forget. I don't think that is policing them.


i got pregnant while working for starbucks,and everyone watched out for me. they still do, since i'm so used to ordering regular (heck 9 months of decaf versus 10 years of regular).... i would ask tho before just giving a pregnant woman decaf, since i order drinks for my hubby all the time. and he's a quad espresso at the least.


Well said C - it is not your job to police the public. Not to mention, I have also heard reports that decaf coffee is worse for pregnant women because of the chemical caffine extraction process - so go with the all natural caffine (in moderation). Pregnant women can also have an occasional glass of wine (gasp!) - so unless you are their primary care provider- mind your own business!

fiat lux

Asking, "did you mean decaf?" is one thing, but it is amazingly rude to assume that you have the right to unilaterally change a customer's order because they happened to order a caffeinated drink while visibly pregnant.

Here's a tip: the first few months of pregnancy are the most critical ones when it comes to fetal formation and the possible ill effects of what a woman puts into her body. But since a woman isn't visibly pregnant during those months, you as a barista won't know that you are giving caffeine to a pregnant woman.

So -- maybe you should just decaf every adult woman every time you make their drinks, that way you'll never accidentally give a pregnant woman caffeine. Sure, you'll inconvenience all your non-pregnant customers, but hey, you mean well, so it's OK.

Or you could stop being the pregnancy police and assume that an adult woman, whether or not she happens to be pregnant, is intelligent enough to make her own decisions in life.

Would you secretly give an obese customer non-fat milk in their drink instead of the regular they ordered because you think that's better for them? No.


We ask the nonfatters if they want they whip. How is this any different? They don't have to get decaf, we are just offering it in case they forgot. I am minding my business--the business of serving customers.


From what I understand, the main danger of caffeine in pregnancy is more prolonged exposure rather than one time exposure. There is a risk of the baby basically getting hooked on caffeine if the mother drinks a large dose every day during pregnancy. A pregnant woman on one day having a Venti coffee with all the caffeine that entails, if it isn't a regular habit, probably isn't going to hurt the baby very much.


I also feel uneasy serving caffienated drinks to pregnant women. But I feel more uneasy suggesting decaf because what if *gasp* she isn't pregnant!? Many years ago, I assumed a woman to be pregnant when she had recently given birth, and I've been scarred ever since.


"Would you secretly give an obese customer non-fat milk in their drink instead of the regular they ordered because you think that's better for them?"
Yes, Fiat Lux, I do this on occasion. Saving people from themselves seems like the least I could do (considering how much we contribute to obesity and juvenile diabetes). I believe everyone has the right to make these choices for themselve in life, but I think a splash of non-fat milk is the least I can do for the occasional person who may not realize how many calories they are DRINKING. I don't want to insult them by suggesting it (cuz like said previously, i am not their doctor), but they won't know the difference if I sneak it on them.


Xpresso, you said "but they won't know the difference if I sneak it on them."

Sorry, but as a non-fat drinker, I can tell if I get whle milk in my mocha. What makes you think that a whole milk drinker can't tell when you slip them the non-fat?


CDL Lover

I would be able to tell if a barista gave me a nonfat vanilla latte instead of my usual with whole milk. I drink skim milk with meals, but this is only my opinion, but nonfat milk is tres nasty in espresso drinks.

I agree with the people who don't screw around with customer orders, don't substitute what you think is best for an individual, it's not like any of you are dieticians, etc. As for thinking you're doing an obese person a favor by using the nonfat milk instead of whole, they certainly didn't become obese from merely drinking whole milk since birth.


When I was pregnant, the baristas at my regular starbucks always asked me "sorry, did you say decaf?" I felt tht it was a very polite and subtle way of getting past the issue. I always did mean decaf, but almost never remembered. What did make me remember was after giving birth, they stopped asking, and well, breast feed a baby after drinking a quad grande latte.... and you're not sleeping that night because neither is she.

It's not our place as Sbux partners to secretly replace what a customer ordered with an alternative. That's just wrong, IMHO. Who the $*%& are you to intervene in her/his life that way? What gives you the right?! People have the right to do what they want with their own body. Hey, I inwardly cringe when the couple orders a Venti Breve (half-and-half)latte, but I serve it with a smile and a cheerful "Enjoy!" I cringe thinking *I* wouldn't want to put all that fat in my body--but I do sincerely want them to enjoy the drink.

It's quite another thing, however, if a customer says they're watching their weight to suggest they can still enjoy their favorite bevvie with the sugar-free syrup and the non-fat milk. Or if a pregnant woman mentions she loves Sbux but is watching her caffiene intake. If asked, I'll gladly tell them about alternatives.


It is pretty arrogant to assume that you know what a person wants better than they do. It's one thing to remind them by asking politely; It's another to substitute without their knowledge.

Perhaps volunteering at a charity will make you feel better about yourself so that you can stop saving people from themselves?


I feel uneasy selling fat people disgusting pastry.

SM Tdot

This is one of the many reasons Starbucks gets a rap for bad customer service. If someone orders a whole milk latte...give them a whole milk latte.
Otherwise it just looks like we dont care enough to get their drink right.

And I can definitely tell if my drink is made with non-fat or whole milk...2 pumps of syrup or 3...and I bet some people realise they aren't getting their regular caffiene shot too.


I just want to clarify that I was advocating asking--certainly not substituting. That wouldn't be legendary service, now would it?!


I do the same as pp- "sorry, did you say decaf?" And I would never, ever change what someone ordered b/c I thought it would be better for them..... unless maybe they're an @$$ and then they might get decaf ;)

And ummmm giving nonfat instead of whole or vice-versa? Are you serious? Tastes completely different!

Oh and I think some people get breve lattes because of Atkins- it has a lot less carbs. Although if it's a breve mocha- that's different.


I didn't drill down, but isn't it the case that Starbucks and other well-roasted coffees actually contain less caffeine than, say, Maxwell House or Dunkin' Donuts? Was the comment about only one cup of Starbucks coffee meaning because you can't buy a short drip without asking specifically for "short" coffee?


while the caffeine content of our beans themselves may be lower, the ratio of beans to water that starbucks uses (which is well over the 'standard' ratio used in most places)is what would make a drip at the bucks more caffeinated...

Dima K

60mg a day is a limit. But eat all the chocolate you want. Chocolate is good. BTW I said chocolate, not Hershey's.

Dima K

It is 60 mg of caffeine, of course, not coffee.


A couple years ago we had a pregnant customer who drank about 3-4 venti ice coffees each day...she made her husband come through our drive through on the way to the hospital and he was back about 12 hours later after she had given birth o pick her up another coffee. The intresting thing to see now though is that the child is now turning 3 next month and she lets her have short toffee nut lattes...I think the poor child was addicted in the womb!!!!!

Lou Sussler

It's one thing to suggest or bring up decaf or non fat.

It's another to substitute your judgment for the customer's request.

If Xpresso is telling the truth, he or she should be fired.

Dima K

This was posted by K.
"From what I understand, the main danger of caffeine in pregnancy is more prolonged exposure rather than one time exposure. There is a risk of the baby basically getting hooked on caffeine if the mother drinks a large dose every day during pregnancy. A pregnant woman on one day having a Venti coffee with all the caffeine that entails, if it isn't a regular habit, probably isn't going to hurt the baby very much."

Actually it is not about addiction.
Consumption of caffeine during the pregnancy, just as smoking or alcohol consumption may lead to severe congenital defects, as well as Down syndrome.


Giving an overweight customer skim milk to save them from themselves...(I don't do it because I drink skim, and whole makes me gag, so I assume I am not the only one who can differentiate). Good thing Starbucks is removing trans fats. Save them, Starbucks! Save them!



Are you a doctor? I'm not sure that's true.


If somebody decided to give me non-fat i would know. It completely changes the taste of their drink. Non-fat milk is watery and thin and you loose lots of flavor. That is why Howard Schultz didn't want to serve nonfat at all. Plus it might just be their splurge day to get whole milk. It is quite rude to give somebody something they didn't order. Decaf or nonfat or whatever these people spend a lot of money in our stores....too much for us to change their drinks.

If I was a big guy and ordered a drink and you put non-fat in my drink I'd be pissed!

But what about the children? THE CHILDREN! Isn't that the mantra in this day and age... we must do everything for THE CHILDREN!!!!!!


You can not cause Down Syndrome by eating or drinking anything.....it is an extra chromosome issue.


To 47peratioshift who said they feel uneasy serving a "fat person" a pastry: Once you gain some more maturity you will probably enter a level of life where you are less judgmental of others. I hope you look forward to that day-it's a fun one!

JUNE, you are most correct, Downs Syndrome is not caused by what we eat or drink.

I realize other people have said this, but for many reasons it's a very important point...it is never, ever someone's self-righteous duty to change what a customer orders because they think it's "best for them". Many women can consume a small amount of caffiene during pregnancy without side effects...this is usually decided by their doctor and them...not other people, and certainly not the barista at the local retail store.

so, i'm sure i'll get flamed for this, but i've been known to add in a splash (not substitute the whole drink, cuz i know that would be noticable) of non-fat milk in things. and in almost all of the hot chocolates i make i use the sugar-free vanilla, same with many caramel macchiatos. i don't often do it with a vanilla latte tho, sicne i've been told you can taste the differnce (tho i myself can't) maybe it's just an opinion (compulsion perhaps?) of mine and i rightfully shouldn't be enforcing it on other people, but i am honestly disgusted at some of the drink orders we go thru (venti no-water eggnong chai, anyone?!) and there's a part of me that feels somewhat responsible for contributing to the unhealth of other people. and i really don't like that feeling. and that whole "go venti!" scheme? i can't do it. when i'm at POS i can't make myself try to get people to order something bigger than they want, and something bigger than is healthy. and offering a pastry? forget it. if they ask, i won't refuse them or say they shouldn't be eating that monstrously unhealthy glob of fat and sugar, but i'm not going to suggest it. i can't morally do it.

Former Barista

I really hate how, once a woman is obviously pregnant, her body is public domain for perfect strangers to pass judgement or even make comments regarding what she should and shouldn't eat or drink, etc. I can't wait to have a baby, but it's this invasion of privacy that makes me dread it because I've seen it too often. Complete strangers in grocery stores taking inventory of an expectant mom's cart, soccer moms staring at the soon-to-be-soccer mom satisfying a crave by drinking a frappuccino, martini-guzzling patrons gawking at the one glass of wine my pregnant friend had with her Valentine's Day dinner... even fellow baristas freaking out because a pregnant woman ordered herself a grande white mocha! Just like Seattle said, mind your own business.


Someone above wrote: "and in almost all of the hot chocolates i make i use the sugar-free vanilla, same with many caramel macchiatos."

What if someone were allergic/intolerant of the artificial sweetener? I've not known anyone with this type of allergy...but with so many food allergies out there, I'm sure this is a possibility.

I'd love to see the lawsuit if someone had an allergic reaction and it was traced back to a barista changing a drink order on purpose to make it "healthier."

A person's health isn't based on one thing they drink. How do you know that I haven't been very careful about what I eat/drink all week and then choose to splurge on a high fat/high calorie drink on the weekend? I can't believe that baristas are purposefully giving customers something other than what they order!


Oh, and here's an article on a pregnancy website about caffeine and pregnancy. It sounds like the research about the negative effects is pretty inconclusive, but certainly one day caffeine consumption isn't going to be too harmful.



Sugar-free tastes different in EVERYTHING. That artificial sweetener is very distinct and to some, incredibly displeasing. I would never make this substitution without the customer's direction. The calories v. chemicals? I myself would choose calories.

Boston Starbucks Rebel

I agree that I feel wrong giving a woman who is obviously pregnant and tells you so regular because a continual high dose of caffeine can have deletrious effects on the fetus.
If you were a bartender and there was obviously a pregnant woman who was downing tequilla shots would you feel obligated to continue to serve her knowing that she was exposng the fetus to dangerous levels of alcohol? Fetal alcohol syndrome is a very bad thing. Caffeine may not have the same effect, it can inhibit normal human development.
Concerning the issue of non-fat, if they are obviously obese I don't think giving them non-fat milk will actually help. They obviously lack the necessary will power to change their lifestyle and to improve their health. Those people do not deserve our pity because they are obviously unwilling to help themselves. They only person they will have to blame themselves while they gasp their last breath in the ER as they suffer from a mycocardial infraction.
At least the trans-fats are being taken out of the pastries.


How long do you think it ill be before someone sues starbucks for drinking too much espresso while pregnant and the baby came out screwed up?
I don't get why you people feel bad for serving a woman what she wants? It isn't our jobs or our business to assume they want anything.


BSR -there is a HUGE difference between a pg woman ordering a frappaccino and pg woman ordering tequila shots (and downing them in front of you). The comparison is absolutely ridiculous.

Have you discussed the affect of caffine on a fetus with your obstetricion? Are you a research expert on the topic?

Next time a pregnant woman downs multiple expresso shots in front of you - you have my permission to ask her if she wants decaf- until then, butt out!

"I can't believe that baristas are purposefully giving customers something other than what they order!"

i can't believe people are ordering some of the awful things that they do!
it's death in a cup people, death in a cup!

and if you're allergic to artificial sweeteners/ingredients, please never eat out in public places, sicne nearly every processed/manufactured food has artificial stuff in it, and that is a nightmare waiting to happen

Boston Starbucks Rebel

First, its not BSR, its Boston Starbucks Rebel. Use the entire name just like you are suppose to say frappuccino(r) blended coffee not frap or frappuccino.
Anyway, sometimes BREEDERS have to be saved from themselves, after all won't somebody think of the children?


I simply ask if they want decaf.

As for that whole not serving fat people pastry's um....have you had a look at the frapuccino blended drinks lately.

It's their body and it's their call. Personally I don't think it's hard to stay in shape and drink starbucks since I kickbox and do karate while drinking a good 3 or more starbucks drinks a day and still manage to lose weight.

And sometimes people just can't help it.

It's not our place to judge or to police. Back when I worked fast food we had a girl who refused to serve a 400 pound man any food that was high in fat.

Needless to say the guy got pretty upset and stomped out. Went one block down the street to another fast food joint and more then likely got his food there.

Point in case just give it to them. If they want to be healthy there will always be someone with training out there to help them. It's NOT us.


As a Perinatologist (Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist) practicing in Atlanta, be advised that coffee has not been shown to be harmful to human pregnancy. On occasion I will see a patient with a fetal arrhythmia which may be caused by caffiene (not just from coffee, but chocolate, Mountain Dew etc.) These arrhythmias are self-limiting and resolve in 1 - 2 weeks with no adverse effect on fetal growth and development.

My wife, who is also a physician (Plastic Surgeon) drank coffee through her 3 pregnancies, and our children are fine.

Also be advised that coffee (and caffeinated beverages) are the worlds most popular drink consumed by millions of pregnant women outside the U.S. Have you ever heard of an epidemic of any problems or health related issues.

And no, you cannot cause a fetal chromosomal abnormality (e.g. Down Syndrome) by drinking coffee.

It's disengenious to not sell coffee to someone who you think is pregnant, especially if it only becomes obvious after 5 months; having missed the most critical phase.

Again, I repeat, coffee or caffiene has not been scientifically proven to be harmful to human pregnancy. Drinking in moderation is intuitively protective, but pointless. Consumption of alcohol has been scientifically proven to be harmful to human pregnancy, and no one would support the moderate consumption of this fetal tetratogen.

To all Barista's just serve your customers what they ordered and expect.



Wow, thanks 'Carmel' for your expert opinion. I have to agree that most of the things I've read about prenatal care and caffiene are INCONCLUSIVE. Therefore, I would never be presumptious enough to serve or suggest decaf to a woman who looks pregnant.

BUT...(Since I've already been flamed for this, I'm not stopping now.) Excess consumption of fat/sugar, on the otherhand, has been conclusively shown to cause obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea, among MANY other conditions. Therefore, I sometimes feel guilty serving multiple drinks of excessive calorie content to unsuspecting customers. 'Legendary Customer Service' has many aspects. Perhaps this includes the fact that customers trust their baristas not to poison them. So if I have the customers best interest in mind, slipping percent milk in 'Joe-Blow's' venti, extra carmel, extra whip, carmel white mocha does not merit my termination from the company. It's just a personal guilt issue I have with the obesity epidemic in this country. And my customers trust my judgement as their barista...I think they'd understand where I'm coming from.

Sorry...that's my rant.

Dima K

June said

"You can not cause Down Syndrome by eating or drinking anything.....it is an extra chromosome issue."

My bad. I just confirmed with my relative who is a scientist in the field. As a matter of fact high caffeine consumption before the conception REDUCES the risk of Down syndrome!
But, the high caffeine consumption during the pregnancy does increase the risk of the low birth rate and some severe birth defects as well as chance of miscarriage.

Dima- please provide links to the research you are citing. I would like more information on the "severe birth defects" that caffine causes.

Boston Starbucks Rebel

I believe in Plato's Republic, therefore stupid breeders should simply stop breeding.


BSR said:
"They obviously lack the necessary will power to change their lifestyle and to improve their health. Those people do not deserve our pity because they are obviously unwilling to help themselves. They only person they will have to blame themselves while they gasp their last breath in the ER as they suffer from a mycocardial infraction."

if this were the case 100% of the time, then i would agree with you...but it's not. how do you know that fat person in front of you doesn't suffer from a metabolism disorder? or is on a medication that caused them to gain weight? oh, right, because it isn't okay to discriminate because of someone's age or skin color, but it's okay to do the same thing because they're fat. gotcha.

oh, and BSR, thanks for referring to us women as BREEDERS. nice. thanks for reminding me of what i really am. i'll now trudge barefoot and pregnant back into the cave.


Boston Starbucks Rebel

My name isn't BSR, its Boston Starbucks Rebel. I didn't mean to offend you in particular Cutebarista in particular and I do apologzie. But us fags here in Boston have a tendency to refer to straight people as breeders so if you're a lesbian, then you aren't a breeder. Straight men are also breeders, not just women, it wasn't meant to be a chauvinistic comment in anyway.

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