I walk into Starbucks this morning, exhausted from a late night, with a splitting headache and the prospect of an eight-hour workday ahead of me. Everyone walking through that door in the morning is there for one thing and one thing only: a quick, strong, and legal dose of “medicine.” Unlike the guy behind the counter, we haven't had a venti triple shot caramel macchiato, and his enthusiastic, "WHAT CAN I GET FOR YOU!" is not friendly; it's tolerable at best, hostile at worst. On this particular morning, I’m going with hostile. I place my order: a medium half-caf latte. Here comes Starbucks’ second mistake: "A half-caf grande latte to go?" Why must they translate my order into Starbucks-ese, when my order was perfectly clear in the first place? Nobody is in the mood for Starbucks’ marketing terminology first think in the morning. Further, if the Starbucks corporation stopped training their employees to belittle any order placed without the correct sequence of size, milk, and drink, they'd save a few seconds on each order, and probably a lot of customers.
Once my "half-caf grande latte to go" was ordered, I pull out my wallet to pay for my (is it passé to call it overpriced?) $4 latte. I assumed the hostility was over at that point, but I was sadly mistaken.
"ARE YOU HUNGRY AT ALL!" the purveyor of hostility asks me, enthusiastically buzzing from his coffee and sugar overdose. I look up from digging through my wallet.
"If I was hungry, I would have ordered something to eat.”
"I'M JUST TRYING TO HELP! SOME PEOPLE FORGET THEY’RE HUNGRY!"
There's no way I can get over the ridiculous suggestion that some people actually forget they’re hungry. I assume he's expecting me to say, "Oh, thank you so much! I totally forgot! I'll take a muffin and a fruit cup, please," since he asks why I'm laughing.And here's where my under-caffeinated self has seen too much of Starbucks for one day, or more like a month. I project my frustration at this pathetic Starbucks employee, probably to the chagrin of the elongating line of similarly under-caffeinated people behind me. Greedy corporations like Starbucks just aren't satisfied that you're already in their store, ordering a $4 latte, instead of making the same drink at home for a fraction of the price. Starbucks diabolically trains their employees to reach ever deeper into your pockets. A latte isn't sufficient when it could be a latte and a double iced cinnamon roll, and maybe a cheese plate for later. After all, some people might forget they’re likely to get hungry later on in the day. And of course, this phenomenon isn’t limited to Starbucks, but applicable to any garden-variety American corporation. Office Depot pushes printer ink and copy paper at you, Safeway asks if you need any stamps, and McDonalds religiously questions, “do you want to supersize that?” Corporate America just can't get enough, and their employees are methodically trained to humiliate themselves and irritate customers, if it accomplishes the objective of squeezing a few extra bucks out of you.
This morning, my half-caf grande latte cured my end-of-the-week exhaustion, and beat my headache. But next time I need a fix, I'll be going to any of the local coffee shops in town, where I can get my latte, my whole latte, and nothing but my latte, sans the big business, passive aggressive, borderline scamming sales techniques. My favorite latte in town is the Best of Boulder award-winning Amante Coffee. And I also love local favorites Brewing Market, Pekoe, Atlas Purveyors, and Laughing Goat.
So even though I've been assaulted by Starbucks advertising and hype, and their Baseline location is right on the way to my office, I'll spend an extra few minutes to make sure I'm supporting a local company that cares just a little bit more about me, and a little bit less about the bottom line.