Friday, February 9, 2007


Starbuck's has been a major point of hypocrisy with me for the last year or so.

You see, I endeavour to patronize locally-owned shops whenever possible. There are some niches that no one locally will ever fill: Costco is one example. There are some exceptions to this rule: it's really more of a guideline than a rule. For example, I prefer to shop at Books A Million than Borders or Barnes and Noble, because Books A Million is not exactly "local", but it's regional---headquarters in Atlanta. But restaurants and coffee shops are always highly localizable, so I try to eat and drink at "Mama Someone-Or-Others House of Spaghetti" rather than Olive Garden or Carraba's.

Having said that, occasionally a company will sway my decision through their own incompetence. Books A Million, for example, messed up my discount card. I renewed it, but their online store won't acknowledge that, and refuses to give me my discounts. The brick-and-mortar location a mile from my house will, but they don't have nearly the selection of their online store.

Oops! I got tired of it and bought an Amazon Prime membership. We spend several hundred dollars a year on computer books (for work) and textbooks (for homeschool): it looks like the online portion of those dollars'll go to Amazon now...

Starbuck's is a place I love to hate. Not because of their coffee, but because of their pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be bohemian, "Oh look at me! I'm all liberal and politically correct" culture. You know the ones I mean: the people who dress like they can't afford new clothing, but they can pour down latte upon latte at $5 a pop. And they carry $2700 MacBooks. Those annoying people.

But I like Starbucks, because they make decent coffee. Not those stupid froo-froo coffee drinks (venti skim milk mocha latte, anyone?), but their coffee. You remember coffee? That black stuff people used to drink before someone decided it wasn't trendy enough?

So I have a love-hate relationship with Starbuck's. Or I did until last Monday.

I flat-out refuse to order in pseudo-Italian Starbucksese. I just won't do it. If I ask for a "really big dark coffee", I expect someone intelligent enough to actually make it to work in the morning ought to know what I want. How is "venti bold" better than "large dark coffee"?

Occasionally I get flak for it from the Starbuck's crew, but they usually smile. One woman frequently says "That's not on our menu", but gets me what I want anyhow.

Until Monday.

I think it was Monday, it might have been Friday. But one way or the other, she crossed the line last visit, and I won't forget it soon.

I went into Starbuck's to get a coffee and a froo-froo drink for the guy I work for (not technically my boss: I'm contracting on this gig). I asked for "a large Sumatra and a large skim milk mocha latte with whipped cream". You can see I've already sacrificed my principles to order the froo-froo drink; a better woman would have smiled knowingly, acknowledging my concession to the man, while filling my order; happy in the knowledge she was winning.

But this woman, gave me a large coffee and a medium froo-froo drink!

I toyed with the idea that she just made a mistake, but her history of correcting my orders with a smug "that's not on the menu" is pretty damning. In the end, I had to conclude she's attempting to use classic conditioning to make me order in Starbucksese.

As an aside, I would expect Psych majors to get jobs at Starbuck's. I guess the Philosophy majors nabbed all the fast food jobs, so the Psych majors have resorted to Starbuck's...

At any rate, I have concluded they are attempting to use social engineering to make me order in their abominable pseudo-language.

Well, I will win. I paid for my order by draining my Starbuck's gift card, and unlike all previous occasions, I did not recharge it. I paid the balance (my gift card is running low) in cash.

So now that there's no gift card, I'm no longer tied to Starbuck's.

There are two nice locally-owned bakeries just a mile or so from my main customer's site (Nova Bakery and Marguerite's), and a locally-owned coffee shop (Smelly Cat) just two miles away. That's three locally-owned coffee sources, and they all let me order in English.

I think the local folks will appreciate my money a little more, and they certainly give me service every bit as good as Starbuck's.

This could be the start of some beautiful friendships.


Shan said...

"...abominable pseudo-language." So true. Nevertheless I use it, though usually in an altered state, such as my last order which went as follows. "Chai latte, please, and you'd better Venti that sucker up for me if you know what's good for you. And as hot as the fires of hell, if you don't mind."

Gwen said...

I'll have a double double.

Shan said...

By the way, "Smelly Cat" is a _Friends_ reference, right - just in case you didn't know. Phoebe sings in a coffee bar (called Central Perk) and one of the songs is called "Smelly Cat".

clumsy ox said...

Really! I had no idea.

I've seen a couple episodes of _Friends_, but I wasn't ever a fan.

It reminds me a lot of the Parker Posey's character on _Best_in_Show_, the chick married to the guy she met at Starbucks, when they saw each other with their PowerBooks. Remember that scene?

Parker Posey is my favourite actress.