Opinion: Dutch Bros customer service needs reform

Dutch Bros' extreme focus on 24/7 upbeat customer service leaves employees vulnerable

The Dutch Bros Coffee stand on Rural Road is a staple among the ASU community for not only its specialty drinks, but for the show the "broistas" have to put on for every customer.

"Hey! How's your night? Where are you going? What music are you listening to? Do you go to ASU? What's your major?" are just some of the questions the excitable employees ask patrons, a.k.a. the "Dutch Mafia." Dutch Bros, founded in 1992 in Oregon, now has over 400 locations across the West Coast area.

No matter the time of day, the 24/7 stand is expected to uphold the coffee chain's fun atmosphere and mantra, "coffee is what we do, but it is not who we are." 

But sometimes that mantra goes too far.

One employee, an ASU freshman, said Dutch's constant requirement to exude happiness and positivity can get overwhelming. 

“Dutch Bros wants to encourage you to leave your troubles at the door when you come to our stands," said the employee, who remains anonymous for fear of job loss. "We make customer connections from the back of the line all the way to the front window great."

Dutch's culture wants customers to leave struggles at the door, and it also want employees to do the same. 

"It doesn’t feel like the best place to have your own personal struggles," the employee said. "We work a lot of late shifts and a lot of people take advantage of the happy nature. When I started working at Dutch, I had the mindset that it was just my job, but I hit a point when I just felt like I wasn’t getting respect."

Due to the pandemic, Dutch Bros has changed a lot of their normal procedures but didn't want to sacrifice the experience that customers receive when they come to a store. This meant that the walk-up windows were closed and instead everyone had to use the drive thru, creating long lines with employees working extra hard to accommodate.

"The reason we work late hours is because our stand caters to the college lifestyle at ASU. It is fun to see kids enjoying our stand at late hours but sometimes it can be overwhelming to be positive and upbeat, especially when they start to abuse our happy nature," the employee said. 

Dutch Bros staffs their stands to match the demographic they are marketing to, meaning the majority of the staff at the location on Rural Road are college age. While the lack of an age gap helps customers relate to employees, some customers can take advantage of their customer service.

“There are several students who come through frequently and consistently try to swindle free drinks," the employee said. "They talk to the staff like we are just their normal peers in class and disrespect our 'Dutch love' because they know we will respond with a smile."

This friendly attitude — especially when done by female employees — can be misconstrued as flirting, resulting in catcalls and random men hitting on them from within the stand.  

"We are required to interact with customers the minute they enter the line to our stand. It's difficult when what our job requires us to do makes us vulnerable to personal comments," the employee said, noting they have had to reject customers after requesting their phone number.

Although the friendly and outgoing vibe of the Dutch Bros Coffee stand draws in customers, it also has a negative impact on customer interactions with employees. There are many instances where the Dutch Bros staff have to fake a smile and deal with inappropriate interactions because they don’t want to tarnish Dutch Bros’ customer service image. 

ASU students need to be more understanding that even though it is the employees job to create a unique experience for every customer, the staff still deserves to be treated with respect. 

At the same time, Dutch Bros’ customer service mantra needs to address negative interactions with customers as well. Female employees should not have to put up with derogatory comments and catcalling just because Dutch Bros emphasizes positivity at all times.


Reach the columnist at atretsch@asu.edu or follow @alexistretschok on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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