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‘We have GOT to get paid more’: Starbucks workers fed up with Gen Z ‘hacking’ the menu with complicated drinks orders they see on TikTok


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Social media is rife with so-called Starbucks “hacks” that involve convoluted recipes aimed at slashing prices or opening up secret menu options.

The hashtag #starbuckshack has almost half a billion views on TikTok alone, and social media accounts dedicated to the detailing of formulas for drinks that aren’t actually on the menu at Starbucks have thousands of followers.

However, many Starbucks workers are fed up with customers walking into their stores and ordering made-up drinks they’ve seen on social media—many of which the staff themselves have never heard of.

Last month, the Starbucks Workers United union vented its frustration toward those intricate orders, suggesting in a tweet that the company wasn’t paying its employees enough to be dealing with increasingly time-consuming orders.

A spokesperson for Starbucks was not available for comment when contacted by Fortune.

Many Starbucks employees have spoken publicly about their hate of having to fulfill tailor-made orders that comply with customers’ whims rather than what they’ve been trained to do.

One barista who works at a Starbucks in Kentucky told U.S. food publication Eater this week that around a quarter of the drinks she makes have some form of customization, adding that customers often didn’t consider that staff hadn’t actually heard of so-called “secret menu” items before.

“A customer ordered a blended latte with strawberry cold foam by a secret menu name, and when I handed it out, they said, ‘That’s not what it looks like’ and showed it to me on their phone,” she said.

“It brings me to a screeching halt, trying to figure out what they want, how to make it, actually making it, and more times than not, remaking it, both because I messed up somewhere or because the person sent it back—either because it didn’t look like the pictures they had or because they didn’t like the taste.”

Another Starbucks barista, who has worked at stores in New York and Ohio, told Eater around two-thirds of the drinks he has to make are “a hack drink or a TikTok drink.”

“I have begun to unironically dread seeing younger customers come into the store,” he said, noting that the number of specialty drinks being ordered had increased over the past year and were becoming increasingly complex.

At the end of September, a stressed-out Starbucks employee’s TikTok video urging customers to stop trying to game the system went viral.

“Just get a Pumpkin Spice Latte,” he said, explaining that menu “hacks” are creating tough working conditions for the coffee chain’s baristas.

Last week, another barista’s TikTok video racked up more than 4.2 million views, with the woman revealing she and her colleagues had canceled an order because a customer purchased a 5-cent bag on the Starbucks app and then placed their entire order in the “extra request” section in a bid to drastically reduce the price of their drink.

However, some baristas are on board with the growing menu hack trend, sharing their own content online that tips coffee fans off on how to open up more or cheaper menu options.

This story was originally featured on

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