Being a con artist, and on pretty much everyone’s most-wanted list, Julep Dupree doesn’t think about food very often. But there is a certain beverage that she cannot live without…
“I like my froofy drinks froofy and my blue-collar brew as bitter as burned oven scrapings.” ~Julep Dupree
Her favorite haunt is Café Ballou, a coffee shop within walking distance of St. Agatha’s, the fancy Catholic private school she attends. She’s at the Ballou more often than not, especially once her father goes missing and her apartment turns not as safe as it used to be.
As a con artist, though, it would be against her moral code to pay for coffee. So, in the interest of seeing a master at work, let’s watch her con her way into a cup of her favorite fuel.
It takes me longer than most people to order coffee, because I’m chatting up the cashier to finagle a free drink. It’s not hard. Especially at a chain, which is more likely selling the coffee-shop experience than the coffee. But even indie-shop baristas are given a lot of leeway. All I have to do is determine what pushes the buttons of the person who pushes the buttons, and bingo—all the macchiatos I can drink. But it does take a little more time than fishing for cash.
“You new?” I ask as I step up to the counter.
I’m a regular at the Ballou, so I know all the baristas. I’ve never seen this guy before, so I already know he’s new. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re a regular or not, though—just have a spiel handy for either possibility.
“First day,” he says.
Stocky and bald and built like a linebacker, the forty-something man looks more like he should be on the set of an action flick than wearing a barista apron.
“Like it so far?”
“Manager’s nice enough.”
“I’ll have a triple soy caramel macchiato, please.” The please is essential when angling for a free drink. “My name is Julep,” I continue, offering a hand while flashing him a dimpled smile.
“Mike,” he says as he shakes my hand.
“I know all the baristas’ names,” I tell him. “Have to put something next to their numbers on my speed dial. You never know when you’re going to have a caffeine emergency.”
He laughs and starts making my drink without charging me first, as he can see that I’m winding up for a full-on conversation.
“Have you been in the barista game long?”
“My first time, actually,” he admits with a smile. On him, it looks like a piece of granite cracking in the middle. “Tell me if I mess it up and I’ll try again.”
“Oh, I’m easy,” I say. “As long as it’s got loads of caramel, I’m a happy camper. Besides, you look pretty confident back there. I’m sure you’ve got it down.”
Compliment, compliment, compliment. But keep it focused on the job at hand. Telling him he looks great in that shirt sounds like you’re flirting rather than impressed with his handiwork. Flirting has its place, for sure, but not in this situation. You need generosity, not a date.
“That’ll be four-fifty,” he says, putting the cup of caffeinated sugar rush on the counter in front of me.
I rummage around in my bag. “Oh, jeez. Looks like I forgot my wallet. I guess I should cancel the drink order.”
“Might as well take it since I already made it,” Mike says, pushing the drink toward me. “Call it practice.”
“You’re a gem, Mike. You have no idea how much I need this coffee.”
“I’ve been there,” he says, smiling and wiping his hands on a caramel-smudged cloth.
So, there you have it, folks! Julep Dupree’s foolproof method for conning yourself into free coffee. (Don’t tell anyone, but I tried it myself and it actually worked. O.o)
For more nefarious tips and tricks, check out Trust Me, I’m Lying and the sequel Trust Me, I’m Trouble.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Mary Elizabeth!
Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is "you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce." She lives in Portland Oregon with her partner, their daughter, their two dogs and two cats. Check out the inner workings of her devious mind at www.mesummer.com.
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