Don't Ignore An Empty Milk Pitcher At A Coffee Shop

There's an entire handbook of unwritten rules for coffee shop etiquette, like not overstaying your welcome, not taking a long phone call or (gasp!) a Zoom meeting, and not bringing a loud gaggle of kiddos during peak work hours, to name a few. But, these rules all pertain to customers who are sitting in. What if you're just grabbing a quick coffee and passing through? New flash: There's one important etiquette rule you should still know about and it involves the milk pitchers.

Let us set the scene. You swing by a café, open the door, and the place is slammed. You're dreading the line, so to save time, you skip the triple shot extra foam latte and order a simple drip coffee instead. Good thinking. Only, before you can congratulate yourself for expertly expediting the process, you walk over to the condiment bar and the milk pitcher is empty. Now what? You might feel tempted to ignore it; you don't want to bother the busy barista, which you think is the polite thing to do, but think again. It may feel like you're being a burden for calling an empty milk pitcher to the barista's attention, but we promise, the gesture is very much appreciated.

Bringing attention to the empty pitcher helps everyone

When you give the barista the heads-up about an empty milk pitcher, you aren't interrupting — you're actually making their job easier. Now they don't have to go check the pitcher, which can be tough to do during a busy shift. By hand-delivering the pitcher to them, you allow them to quickly complete a task they were going to have to do anyway. Plus, food service workers rely on tips and regulars, and if the milk pitcher stays empty for a prolonged period then picky customers might be less inclined to come back.

When speaking up, there's no need to be demanding or make the barista stop doing whatever task they're doing, but don't wait in line again, either. Simply approach the register with the empty pitcher, inform the person next in line that you're about to ask for more milk, and then let the barista know the pitcher is empty. Considering it's their job to keep the milk pitchers full, it's really no big deal — just ask for the refill and be nice about it. For perspective, if someone is comfortable spending four minutes holding up the line asking about every single item on the menu, then you shouldn't feel weird about asking for milk in a customer service establishment in which you've already spent money.