Michael Reinhardt had just returned to his job as a shift supervisor at Caribou Coffee after graduating from the University of Minnesota when he made the TikTok that went viral this week.
As he removed coffee cup sleeves with the phrase, “Fight the urge to stay indoors,” amid the ongoing pandemic/social distancing reality, he thought he’d make a funny video for his three followers on the platform. Next thing he knew, he was talking with management about his post, which had over one million views Tuesday.
“I was just absolutely surprised,” he said of going viral. “I was like, this can’t be real.”
Rather than asking him to delete the video, he said, the company asked him to be conscientious about his videos going forward, especially now that his follower count is in the 800s.
“I think they handled it as best as they could,” he said. “Caribou is doing the right thing in regards to taking out those sleeves. I think they had that on top of their minds, which I was grateful for.”
Hearing from old friends — from his aunt who saw him on the news in San Francisco to study abroad pals in Spain — was one of the best parts of the experience, he said.
"I thought, quarantine really sucks, and if I can bring a little dark twisted humor into people’s lives, that’s what we need right now," he said.
The same day he made the video, workers rallied for improved safety policies outside the company’s Brooklyn Center headquarters. This was the second protest for the same demands, which many social media commenters noted.
Reinhardt, who has worked for Caribou for seven years, said he wants to see the company improve its overall response to the pandemic. This includes providing better personal protective equipment, instating a sick leave policy, improving its hazard pay, which isn't backdated, and more collaboration between corporate management and workers. The company recently provided masks, which don't properly cover his face, and gloves, which easily rip, he said.
In the meantime, with seven years worth of material, he might have more barista stories coming, he said.
“I would love to find a way to not get fired, but like, re-enact some of the crazy, wild things that have happened … and make it into ‘The Real Life of A Barista,” he said. "I think that would be really neat."