In another effort to boost quality, Starbucks (SBUX) confirmed earlier this month that its baristas would soon be preparing fewer drinks simultaneously. The news sent shock and fear throughout white-collar culture—longer lines are coming to a world in which queuing up at Starbucks is already a daily ritual.
Waiting for coffee isn't merely a hassle: It's a revealing pastime. "When we go in a Starbucks, we're in charge," says Patti Wood, author of Success Signals: A Guide to Reading Body Language. "Our $5.50 makes us kings and queens of our destiny." As a result, Starbucks lines often showcase postures of excitement, Wood says. A coffee break is also a "transition from one focal point of professionalism to another," says Tonya Reiman, author of The Power of Body Language.
Just how professional? About 2 percent of the more than 11,000 Starbucks stores are in Manhattan—and one proved a perfect laboratory for Bloomberg Businessweek to study hundreds of people on a weekday. What follows is a taxonomy of the 10 most common Starbucks waiting-line stances, as analyzed by a panel of behavioral experts: Wood; Reiman; Marilyn Puder-York, author of The Office Survival Guide; Don Norman, author of Living with Complexity; and Dario Maestripieri, author of the forthcoming The Biology of Everyday Life. Next time, don't forget the tip jar. We're watching you.