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Silently leading the way

27 Jun 2020 / 01:48 H.

LIFE seems to be getting back to normal as the country heads into the first month of the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). We can now bring our children to the park for walks, resume our Cuti-Cuti Malaysia adventures or kick back with a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee while watching the world go by. The only changes are the extra measures to keep everyone safe.

Speaking of coffee, BUZZ spoke with the dedicated staff of the Starbucks Signing Store in Bangsar Village II to find out how they are coping with ‘the new normal’.

“First things first, the safety of the baristas (also known as partners) and customers is our utmost priority. All staff must record their temperature when they come in for work, as well as wash their hands regularly and wear a face mask at all times.” said deaf shift manager Muhammad Aizad Ariffin.

Before entering the premises, customers have to record their temperature and contact details at the Temperature Control Station situated at the front of the shop. Customers are encouraged to wear face masks and practice social distancing measures by standing two metres apart, as indicated by the convenient tape markings on the floor.

Silently leading the way

At the moment, Starbucks does not allow customers to bring their own tumblers, for hygiene purposes. However, they will still honour the discount if customers present their tumblers when ordering. Dine-ins are discouraged and drinks are served in takeaway cups. To further ensure cleanliness, surfaces are cleaned and sanitised every hour.

Surprisingly, not much has changed in terms of communication with customers. Most Starbucks partners are able to lip read but it can be challenging, especially since customers are wearing masks now. Fortunately, the previous system of writing down orders on a piece of paper, tablet or menu sheet is still used, as indicated by store manager Hasanah Othman. Some regular hearing customers also know basic sign language.

Customers can check their card balance at the Starbucks card kiosk before writing or signing their orders at the counter. A writing tablet is available for customers to further customise their drinks. The menu is displayed above and on the counters, so customers can just point out their drink of choice.

Silently leading the way

The orders will appear on the dual-screen point-of-sale (POS) system so customers get to see and check their orders from their side of the counter. The queue management system makes collecting drinks easy. With a press of a button by the partner, the queue number will appear on the TV screen to alert customers to collect their drinks.

Out of curiosity, I wondered whether the baristas create their own sign language to translate the names of the seasonal drinks. It turns out that they do, but it’s mainly for communicating with their colleagues making the drinks for customers.

During the chat, I got to learn a bit about the deaf and mute community from Aizad. They face challenges just like everyone else, having to adjust to the extra hygiene and safety measures.

Silently leading the way

For Aizad and his family, they also order food online using apps which make things easier. When he gets home after work, he observes the same safety precautions, including immediately showering, and washing his hands before and after eating.

However, he has noted that his deaf friends who have to go for medical treatment face challenges as not many frontliners know sign language. His friends try to communicate using basic sign language, writing down their requests, or utilise video call.

The BUZZ team had a wonderful time interacting with the signing store staff during the research for this story and we were also given a lesson in basic sign language greetings by full-time barista Hasri Sabri. How cool is that?

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