This is it. Da Chief is having a Eureka Moment and sending out operatives on the Evidence Scavenger Hunt, where everyone has to pull their weight to reach The Summation. At the end of the line the starry-eyed kid waits for their instruction. This is their big chance!
"You, go get me some coffee. Cream, two sugars, and make sure the lid is tight."
And the dreams of the coffee-fetcher are quickly smashed. Understandably often done at the expense of the Butt Monkey. Is not necessarily limited to caffeinated beverages, as it has been known to happen with lunch, office equipment, and various other demeaning and unimportant tasks. May overlap with Snipe Hunt if the task is A.) imaginary B.) impossible or C.) intended purely to get the person out of the way.
See also Stay in the Kitchen, where an entire gender is asked to get coffee, and Comically Small Demand.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Ouran High School Host Club does this to Honey in the first episode after Tamaki dispatches the other members to gather supplies for Haruhi's "makeover", instructing him to "go have some cake". We then see a shot of him from behind looking dejected as he eats the cake.
Played straight in Death Note when L asks Touta Matsuda to get him coffee. This is done to indicate that because they were waiting, there is nothing else to do.
L: "You really wanna be useful?" Touta Matsuda: "Yes!" L: "Then could you go and get me another cup of coffee?"
Made even more sad/funny since the reason Matsuda asked how he could be useful was that everyone else in the team had just made something useful for the investigation. Also, it served as a foreshadowing for the next episode.
In episode 6 of Keroro Gunsou, when the other characters are making dinner, Keroro and Tamama are told to go play video games, then to make sandcastles.
In the Read or Die OVAs, Joker issues a series of commands to various departments, ending with sending Wendy to get some tea. In the next episode, all the various departments report that they are ready for their respective duties in the operation, but Joker does not declare them to be ready to begin operations until after Wendy has served the tea.
One of the regular tasks that Mai has to perform after she starts working for Naru in Ghost Hunt is to make tea.
First thing Iron Man told Hill to do after he took over SHIELD.
Spider-Man - In Ultimate Spiderman Team-up, Peter Parker career-shadows Reed Richards for a day... only to be mistaken for an intern and sent out to buy coffee. By the end of the Story, Spidey has helped stop a Skrull invasion, and the FF chew him out for not getting them their coffee (despite Spidey's efforts to convince them he's not the kid from before).
Transmetropolitan - Spider Jerusalem treats both his assistants this way. Admittedly he hates to have an assistant and is probably trying to scare them off.
In All You Need Is Love this is usually Matsuda's job but when L gets annoyed with having to deal with Near's minion he goes out to get his own coffee. That's when the taskforce mutinies in the hopes of making L's coffeeboy-status permanent.
McCrosky: Hold all takeoffs, I don't want another plane in the air. When the 508 reports, bring it straight in. Put out a general bulletin to suspend meal service on flights out of Los Angeles. Tell all dispatchers to remain at their posts, it's gonna be a long night. How 'bout some coffee, Johnny?
Johnny: No thanks!
In Airplane 2: The Sequel, McCrosky arrives on the scene and barks out an order for a quart of Geritol and a ham on rye (no cheese!).
Mocked in Miss Congeniality when Sandra Bullock's character is called up on her radio, told that it's "the usual", and uses her police siren and FBI badge to move through a line under the pretext of "Important business". However, all she's doing is going to Starbucks to get coffee for the office.
Agent Smecker of The Boondock Saints does this to Detective Greenly whenever he says or does something stupid. Greenly, of course, can't catch a break, as Smecker does this to him even when he correctly guesses that the Saints were not fighting several armed men, but one man carrying six guns, an idea that Smecker immediately dismisses as ridiculous.
Done in The Movie version of The Fugitive. In one early scene, Gerard sends each of the members of his team off on an errand or evidence gathering, and ends by sending the new kid (appropriately named Newman) off to get him a cup of coffee and a donut with sprinkles. The instructions to Newman take about three times longer than the instructions to the rest of the team combined. Gerard really likes his coffee.
A version appears at the end of Gremlins 2 The New Batch. The hero has come up with a last-ditch plan to keep the Gremlins from escaping the building, and starts issuing orders along the lines of "Protect Gizmo! Aim the firehose into the lobby! Transfer the electro-Gremlin down here!" He gets to the last, useless, character and says "Marla... smoke." Marla says "right" and takes a jerky puff on her cigarette.
In the movie version of Annie starring Aileen Quinn, Mr. Warbucks gives out a long list of orders to a bunch of his staff when he begins the search for Annie's parents. His last order is, "And Sanders — get me a drink!"
Ace Ventura Pet Detective: After Dan Marino is kidnapped, Einhorn walks into the office and orders things like an autopsy report, for no one to talk to the press... "And somebody get me some coffee!"
Ace: "Tonight on Miami Vice, Crockett gets the boss some coffee."
Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire is an assistant at a call center, and is called a "chai wallah" (it means tea maker, although Jamal is not a tea maker in the traditional sense, people who were chai wallahs were often of a low social status and it is used as a jab at Jamal.)
In A Time To Kill, Jake, Harry Rex, Lucien, and Ellen are all preparing for the big trial when Lucien decides to give out some instructions to Ellen (Roark):
Lucien: Ms. Roark, I have all the respect in the world for you. I believe in your right to equal pay for equal work and I believe in your right to bear a child or to abort one. But, since you are a law clerk, genderless in my eyes, I think you should be the one to go buy the beer.
Harry Rex: "She" woman, I think that would be an excellent activity for you.
Vikki Hiller is the only female editor on the staff of Bannerhouse Books in Down With Love. To demonstrate their contempt, her fellow editors ask her to make their coffee, as the percolator is out. She does so, irritated, while explaining the gist of the eponymous book "Down With Love", concluding with, (paraphrased), "Until women are equal to men in the workplace."
In the Discworld novels, the third witch with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg (eg, Magrat or Agnes) seems to get this quite a bit. Usually it's "make the tea," but sometimes it's "run a simple errand even you couldn't possibly mess up." Of course, half the time this is because Granny is plotting something ...
In Interesting Times, when Cohen the Barbarian has become emperor, he makes Twoflower grand vizier. And the first order he gives him? "Bring me tea."
In the first The Dresden Files book, Storm Front, Harry Dresden wants to talk to Lt. Murphy in her office, without a cynical coworker listening. Murphy sends the other cop downstairs to get her some coffee. The other cop, who is smarter than he looks, knows exactly what Murphy is pulling and protests that talking to Harry is a total waste of time. But at her insistence, he goes anyway.
The novel The Paris Enigma is about The Twelve Detectives, an elite professional organization of twelve brilliant detectives in various countries, each of whom has an "acolyte" (the official term). The acolytes serve the brilliant detectives, do legwork, and speak when they are spoken to. (Think of them as grad students.) None of them are expected ever to become detectives themselves.
The Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead has Sydney constantly doing this for one of her teachers.
Live Action TV
Sebastian Stark of Shark is especially fond of doing this to his underlings in the Prosecutor's office, usually keeping the same tone of voice for both the important and non-important instructions.
Greg of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation used to be subjected to this type of thing a lot before he was promoted to the field. Since then, the other Lab Rats who mainly work in the office get this duty instead.
Scrubs had an episode plot centering around Elliot screwing up with Doctor Cox's patient and being punished by becoming his official coffee-getter. Her attempts to redeem herself were often misinterpreted as many a Freudian Slip. "Doctor Cox, I want you to know that I'll do anything with you."
Cox again, from "My Own Personal Hell":
Dr Cox: Keith, you're a fairly strong diagnostician, right? Keith: Yes, sir. Dr Cox: I need you to go up to the third floor and figure out what's wrong with that darned coffee machine.
Cox must love this trope. On another occasion Eliot is trying to look competent in front of a patient, and Cox tells her to get him a donut. She asks if he means a piece of equipment that is often called a donut for its shape, and he clarifies that he means "a glazed donut. And I like sprinkles on half of it, so if you can't find a half-sprinkled donut, just get a sprinkled one and take half the sprinkles off". After she leaves, JD calls him out for being such a jerk, and Cox agrees and asks him to apologize to her for him - while he fetches coffee.
Cox does enjoy it or at least uses to get rid of interns. In the episode "His Story", resident Butt Monkey Doug Murphy is assigned to him and he sends on him wild goose chases to collect a patient charts and his soda, all of which he is revealed to have in his hand.
In Quark, the titular hero is always hoping for some important mission, but the leader, The Head, typically has one mission for him since he's an outer space sanitation worker, "Pick up the garbage."
Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer often gets this job, most notably in "The Zeppo", where the other Scoobies are out finding protection against the impending apocalypse and he is sent for donuts. Of course, by the end of the night he's gotten laid, defused a bomb, and killed some zombies.
When Angel tries to atone for his abandoning his friends by offering to work for them at Angel Investigations, he finds himself exiled to a tiny desk and ordered to make everyone coffee.
Angel: "Atonement's a bitch."
When Wolfram & Hart CEO Lilah Morgan hides out at Angel Investigations, Angel tells her to make the coffee — she responds by breaking all the mugs.
"Baldrick, go forth into the street and let it be known that Edmund Blackadder wishes to sell his house. Percy... just go forth into the street."
Inspector Monkfish in The Fast Show would (in whatever job he was currently performing) order several people to do important things and end with "Put your knickers on and get me a cup of tea!"
House- House informs his potential hirees of a patient and hands out tasks to about 2/3 of them. Amber asks "What about the rest of us?" Cut to them washing House's car. In regards to people actually getting him coffee, Chase and Cameron each did that a bit. Also he sent Foreman's girlfriend to get him coffee in 'Sports Medicine.'
The Third Doctor pulls this stunt on feminist reporter Sarah Jane Smith the first time they meet, much to her annoyance.
He also pulls it on The Brigadier in The Three Doctors. Lethbridge-Stewart asks if there's anything he can do to help with an investigation, and the Doctor requests a silicon rod. The Brig hands him one, and the Doctor merely uses it to stir his tea.
The Seventh Doctor destroys a robot with an impossibly complex coffee order.
The Fourth Doctor wasn't keen on having the inexperienced Romana on board the TARDIS to start with. In her first story he asks her to stay out of his way and make the tea, before declaring that she probably doesn't even know how to make tea anyway.
The Tenth Doctor jokes about this when meeting Torchwood for the first time; he has accidentally brought Rose's mother Jackie along in the Tardis, and tries to pass her off as Rose, aged from having looked into the Time Vortex. Then he tries to get Torchwood to take her off his hands, pointing out that she's good at making tea. Sort of.
Inverted with Clara in "The Bells of St John", who tells the Eleventh Doctor to get her a cappuccino while she hacks down the bad guys. The Doctor rather grumpily does so.
In the 1988 TV miniseries Jack the Ripper, the Detective Sergeant played by Lewis Collins turns up at the East End police station. The uniformed officers sneer when he introduces himself and say, "Around here sergeants make the tea!" Then Chief Inspector Abberline (Michael Caine) enters and says to the station sergeant: "Good, make us some tea then." Becomes a Brick Joke later on when Abberline congratulates another sergeant on making a good cuppa.
Gus Hedges unwisely pulls this stunt on psychotic officegirl Joy Merryweather. A Funny Background Event has Joy emptying all kinds of unpleasant gunk into the coffee urn.
Sally also tries it once and gets coffee with extra Tipp-Ex.
Gus should stay away from coffee altogether, seeing as how the cleaning lady regularly urinates in his executive coffee machine.
The X-Files - Krycek is sent for coffee during a hostage situation.
A good use of this trope is in the 1990's Australian legal mini-series Janus. One of the regular characters is dumbfounded when he's working with an eccentric barrister who sends him to buy a packet of Rollos in the middle of a trial. Stunts like this make us think he doesn't take his job seriously, but the barrister turns out to be quite skilled and wins the trial by picking up a detail that everyone else missed.
Mad Men - Most of the women working for Sterling-Cooper have this role, and the show plays the trope straight for two seasons. In Season Three's finale "Shut the Door. Have a Seat", Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Bert Cooper, and Lane Pryce have left Sterling-Cooper and formed their own ad agency, Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce. Everyone is running around, doing important, time-sensitive tasks. After working for hours around a sea of paperwork, Roger asks Peggy (formerly a secretary, by now a seasoned copywriter) to get him coffee. Without looking up, she delivers a flat "No."
One game in Drew Carey's Green Screen Show, involving the afterlife, has Jeff Davis taking on the role of God; when his "angels" await his first request, he says:
"There's a hand here with no coffee in it..."
The above-quoted Funky Fisherman from Power Rangers Dino Thunder gives his interns five seconds to prepare his cup of coffee, and then gives them another five seconds to add the cream (but not too much cream).
Uppity Minion: Jamie, you just have to come to terms with the fact that, in the candidate's eyes, we're equals now.
Jamie: "Equals"? "Equals"? I'm the campaign manager, you're an intern. Why don't you get me some Equal™?
Uppity Minion: [protests]
Uppity Minion: Okay, fine.
City Homicide - Detective Senior Sergeant Sparkes does this to Jen in the first episode, revealing just how much he respects her abilities as a homicide detective. It's quite satisfying when he collapses from a heart attack by the end of the episode and she is reassigned to Stanley's team.
In Flashpoint's second episode, new guy Sam is asking questions with really obvious answers, annoying the team, leading to the following exchange:
Ed: Okay, here's what I want you to do. Do a reverse infiltration here, where we came in, then backtrack down these stairs, across the street and do a tactical infiltration of the Timmy's here, get me a large double-double. Jules? Jules: No, I'm good. Wordy: Two sugar, no milk for me.
In Death Valley Captain Dashell keeps giving rookie officer Kirsten Landry the scutwork of the office, including checking all the registered werewolves to make sure they are properly locked up during the full moon and following his niece to a party to make sure she is not getting into trouble. Kirsten is upset not only because this is the most boring work in the department, but because a lot of it (like following the Captain's niece) is not even part of the department at all. Kirsten joined the UTF (Undead Task Force) to deal with the supernatural problems plaguing the city, there are plenty of cops out there already dealing with kids throwing parties.
In The City Hunter, Na Na owes Yun Sung a favor, which she agrees to repay by doing various tasks such as driving his car and fetching him coffee. Especially the latter. Apparently, it's her fault for making really good coffee.
In Legally Blonde, The Musical, Professor Callahan orders Warner to get him coffee while the legal team is celebrating after their victory in "There! Right There!" He may not have expected him to return, seeing as he forces a kiss on Elle immediately after.
Played for a surprising amount of heartwarming in Hakuouki between Chizuru, who knows that she doesn't have any skills that would be really useful to the Shinsengumi but desperately wants to do something to stop being The Load, and Hijikata.
Hijikata: The fate of the Shinsengumi rests on this tea. Don't screw it up!
Used by Sarge in Red vs. Blue, but for every member of his squad, ordering Simmons to kiss his ass, Donut to run around and scream like a girl, and for Grif to step in front of any bullets coming towards any commanding officer (Sarge being the only officer). Though Grif is the only one displeased with his order.
It doesn't really make a difference, either. Grif wasn't trained for that anyway. You'd think more people would think of that one.
Parodied on in an episode of Cheat Commandos. When Gunhaver is giving out orders to infiltrate the grocery store, he says to the last guy, "Firebert, you stay here and think of a better commando name."
It's a running gag in the Cheat Commandos that Firebert (The Cheat in the show's main 'verse) is a terrible commando name. The page picture is an example too; Strong Bad, responding to an email from a guy who doesn't realize that Strong Bad isn't a superhero, agrees to change his name to "Strong Badman" if the other guy agrees to call himself "Little Stiny" and wear a little mask and cape and do demeaning tasks for Strong Bad...a job which is normally done by The Cheat, who doesn't appreciate being replaced.
Subverted in Sluggy Freelance. When Zoe applies for an intership at a radio station, she actually expects to just be a glorified coffee fetcher. This makes being rejected due to lack of experience extra humiliating.
Used in Jay Pinkerton's Spiderman parodies here◊ (NSFW).
Lisa's dreams of playing in a professional jazz band are dashed when Bart upstages her. "We were wondering if you... Lisa Simpson... would do us the honor ... of sitting in... that chair in the audience. We wanna jam with your brother!"
This also happened to Bart in "Bart Gets Famous", when he ended up working for Krusty the Clown.
Krusty: This is a dream factory, the birthplace of magic — an enchantment! Now I need you to go clean out my toilet.
When they were imprisoned in Florida and put in charge of a party, Marge devised a plan to escape and delegated chores to the other Simpsons. Lisa's chore was about the drinks.
Stewie from Family Guy reverses the trope at one point.
"You, bring me the Wall Street Journal. You two... fight to the death!"
When the Trouble Alert blared its klaxon on the Super Friends, the adult heroes charged out to save the world, while Zan and Jayna got told to stay in the Hall of Justice and call 'em if there were any new Trouble Alerts. Of course, the action would inevitably come to them soon after....
Hurricanes: When Stavros Garkos's niece helped him with a plan hoping she'd become the first woman to become Vice-President of Garkos Enterprises in exchange for her help, the plan failed and he blamed her, stating he'd not hire her even if it was to bring him coffee.
In "Kid Mayor" on PB&J Otter Flick Duck was elected kid mayor and made Peanut, Jelly and Baby Butter his assistants. His first job for them was to get him food.
In "Cub Bouts" on Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot, when Wonderheart Bear agrees to help Hugs & Tugs because their friend came down with bearcitis, they ask her to get them food, feeling that she can't do anything else for them because she doesn't have her belly badge powers yet. This becomes the catalyst for the rest of the episode, because Wonderheart is determined to do more than this.
The Batman - this was Killer Moth's main job on Team Penguin ("Mm, robust.") At least until he got some upgrades...
On Timothy Goes To School, when Timothy decides to work with Claude for a team project, Claude asks him to do the sweeping up and doesn't let him do any of the work on the project.
Happened in Real Life to David Prowse, aka the physical actor for Darth Vader in Star Wars. Prowse is noted for his amazingly muscular and imposing physique, hence his role as the muscle-bound personal assistant to the old widower in A Clockwork Orange, but considerably more modest acting talents. He had auditioned for the lead role in the film Superman, and reportedly got a phone call from the producer excitedly informing him that they'd made their choice for the starring role, and they wanted him... to be that guy's personal trainer, because Christopher Reeve wouldn't look right for the role at all unless he bulked up to look more like David Prowse. Prowse reports that he had to choke back an overjoyed "Thanks!" right in the middle of the producer's sentence.
A book by John Douglas, founder of the FBI's profiling unit, describes how the Japanese policemen who attended his profiling course always arrived in pairs: one a higher-status officer, the other a low-ranker who would shine his superior's shoes, fetch his coffee, etc. Douglas insisted that all his students were equal and put an end to this practice.
The slang term in medicine for non-medical tasks (coffee, etc.) interns and others are made to do by more senior medical staff is "scutwork." It doesn't take most interns long to figure out that their job is perhaps the most important one in the hospital; if that doctor/vet doesn't get his/her caffeine, everything goes to hell, because "If the Doc ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
Part of the rites of passage for newly-recruited grunts on dealing desks in large banks involves running chores of this nature. Justified, sort of, by the fact that the senior dealers are generally expected to remain at their desks for the entire eight or nine hours of the trading day and can't spend twenty minutes waiting to be served in Starbucks/ the deli.
Anyone who has ever done a job internship — regardless whether it's a bank, a newspaper, the local TV station — will find themselves doing more of these menial tasks than anything else (one can be lucky if they ever get REAL work to do). Quite frustrating.
The short-term work experience that high schoolers and university students do more often than not is a glorified coffee making (or some other menial work). Nothing wrong with that, except the way the work experience is often hyped up you'd think it'd be more than that.
After he won the Grammy for Best Rock Album, the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl was asked how he stayed so grounded. He replied that it was because his kids "don't fucking care that I'm a rockstar" and make him do things like get them smoothies *now*, which he of course obliges.