Payton Scott is a model employee. Four years ago when she started slinging joe in her undies at Baristas, she was assigned to the chain’s poorest performing stand, in Auburn. Eighteen months later it was the most popular. That earned her a transfer to Tacoma, where she pulled off another worst-to-first transformation. (Not bad for someone who applied on a whim.) You can still find Scott in the shadow of the Tacoma Dome, every weekday from five until noon—or starting this fall you can stay home and watch her on Grounded in Seattle, a new Baristas-centric reality show on WE tv. But wherever you catch her, just know that her success has as much to do with working her butt off as it does with showing it off. —Matthew Halverson
I wake up at three in the morning, five days a week. It’s early and it’s painful. I’ve got a 20-minute commute to work, so I just open my sunroof, blast the music, blast the heat, and get noisy. By the time I get here, I’m mostly awake. And the rest of it, I just smile and fake it until I wake up.
Ninety-five percent of my customers are here every day, so I don’t even have to ask them what they’re drinking. I can’t remember my own shopping list when I go to the grocery store, but I have thousands of peoples’ drinks memorized.
Never let a customer leave until they get exactly what they want—even if they didn’t know how to communicate it to you. Anybody can say they want a sweet vanilla latte, but that can mean 10 different things. You need to be able to interpret what they want and give that to them.
People ask me, “Do you have that job because you like the attention?” Absolutely not. If I was a seven-foot-tall guy, I would be expected to be in the NBA. And if I had a genius IQ, I would probably work for NASA. I look the way I look, so why not make money off of it?
I have dressers—dressers—full of lingerie. I would never be able to go through all of it to pick something out. So sometimes when I’m trying to figure out what to wear, I’ll scroll back a month or so through my Instagram photos to see what I haven’t worn in a while. But sometimes it’s about comfort. If it’s really cold outside, you’ll see me in a lot of boots and snow hats and leg warmers. If it’s 28 degrees outside, there are times when I can’t feel the skin on my legs.
I don’t mind when a customer compliments the way I look. But if they want to talk about a certain anatomy part or anything at length, I say, “I’m not going to come to your job and say those kinds of things to you, so you probably shouldn’t come to my job and say them to me. We’re both professionals, and you need to be respectful.” Those people—the ones I’ve had to slap on the wrist—will turn into my best customers.
When I train new girls, I tell them two things: Take any shift you can, because that’s how you prove yourself. And two, do not ever be flirty or slutty. Just be friendly. Once a customer thinks you’re accessible and attainable, they’re not interested anymore.
This is not real life to me. Yeah, I give great customer service and I make good coffee, but it’s all just a role that I play. I probably wouldn’t want to admit that to everybody, because I do care about everyone who comes through here. But they don’t know me at all, no matter what they think.
I’m sure my customers assume that I’m this life-of-the-party girl who’s glammed up all the time. And that’s not the case. I’m a homebody. I have a small group of friends, and we rarely ever go out. Actually I don’t like being out a lot because I always run into people who know me from here. Here you have the protection of the stand. When I’m out there and somebody walks up to me, I feel exposed.
When I get a job where I need to wear pants, I’ll do something in the business field. When I was growing up I wanted to be a lawyer. I started to go to school for that, but then I realized it wasn’t what I thought. It wasn’t like CSI.
I can’t talk about how much I make. But you’re sitting in my car [a Cadillac Escalade EXT], so obviously it’s good. And I have a boat and a house. There’s a lot of internal competition between the haves and the have-nots. If you’ve made it, you’re not worried about what other people are doing. It’s the ones who haven’t started making the big money who are pretty cutthroat.
My dad was never around, so it was just me and my mom growing up. We’re very close, but there’s a night-and-day difference between how we each perceive life. I’m a free spirit, and she’s very religious.
I have an eight-year-old son, and he knows what I do. I just say I work at a coffee company and I get to wear fun outfits. There’s no shame whatsoever in that. I have a different relationship with my son because I know how I was raised, and it was so difficult. I snuck around so much because I couldn’t talk to my mom about what I was doing. So I openly talk to my son about everything—to his age level and his level of understanding.
Most of the time I forget that I’m even dressed like this. I’m so used to it.
This feature appeared in the November 2014 issue of Seattle Met magazine.