Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What's your best coffee?

I’ve decided that Starbuck’s actually doesn’t charge for the coffee. They don’t charge for their well trained friendly staff. They don’t charge for their atmosphere, which is like Disney World for adults; “the happiest place on earth.” They really could charge extra for those comfy chairs.


Actually to tell you the truth, Starbucks charges by the syllable. Think about it.

It makes sense. “I’d like a grande ½ café ½ decafe (what’s the point?) cappuccino, extra foam,” I heard one woman bark commandingly as I glided into the local Starbucks anticipating my turn. I saw the cashier punch the cash register as if she was doing a merger and acquisition transaction. It was 80 buttons. I swear I saw her counting the 12 syllables on her fingers and toes. The cashier looked up and said “what name can I put on your cup?” The multi-syllabic woman responded “Janet.” I thought maybe Reno, but surly not in Oklahoma. The cashier then asked for the $13 it would require to finalize the transaction. Janet handed the barely post-pubescent girl a swipey card, and immediately slid to the side, so someone else could order.

This, I thought, was going to be a good morning. Quick, efficient, and soon I’d be sipping my own poison.

Then the gentleman, who came in just before me, didn’t take Janet’s hint. Instead he kept “the gap” between himself and the counter, like someone else was standing there. I stepped closer, thinking he would feel the line forming behind him and respond appropriately. He would move forward and bark his order. Alas. Not today. Charlie, as I later learned his name, had no business being in a Starbucks. He hadn’t trained for weeks to prepare himself for the coffee Nazi treatment awaiting him. He asked his first question, “What is your best coffee?”

Geez. My morning has been shot. Unless the fresh-faced coffee chick offered a quick solution, while surgically removing his Larynx, I’m sure he’d be asking more questions. You could tell, just from the tone of his insecurity. I rolled my eyes; standing behind him, knowing only the cashier would see me and give me a smirk. Then I tossed her my sympathetic look.

That lasted about 3.4 seconds. Unfortunately Charlie’s order did not.

Finally after much deliberation, Charlie ordered a breakfast blend coffee. Almost there. Then she asked the size question, which stumped him. She politely pointed to the cups 3 inches from his face and he pointed to the “tall.” Tall? Why bother? Then the most frightening question of all. “Room for cream?” I thought Charlie was going to collapse from the pressure. The line had started forming out the door. The cashier called for reinforcements. She said it so fast, Charlie had no idea what she said or more importantly how to answer. He quietly replied “excuse me?” “Room for cream,” she energetically said, obviously completely amped up on the stuff she was pushing. You could see Charlie searching his mind for what she possibly could have said. She might of well have been speaking in Greek. He tried to act like he was getting it, but it was no use.

Finally, Charlie’s head exploded. But at least he was only charged $1.79.

At least I wouldn’t be too late for my meeting.

“Hi Amy,” the barista said to me. I grinned ear to ear, stepping over Charlie. “I’d like a vente sugar-free hazelnut latte.” “$40.00 please.” They were happy to be on a roll again.

I’m not sure the formula for the syllable charge model quite yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out, just a few more trips to Starbucks.

Now if you're wondering why I think this is funny, it's only because it happened to me. The only reason that I can haze other Starbuck’s freshman with no conscious to their feelings (only sympathy for those standing behind the counter), is that I too was a freshman once. I come from Tulsa, where once upon a time we had no Starbucks (the year was 2002, can you imagine). And I thought I’d try out one of these famous coffees that everyone talked about. And why not in the coffee capital of the world, Seattle, Washington? Lucky for me, the emergency room was only a block away, and they had a very good plastic surgeon.

1 comment:

Andrew Purvis said...

As a faithful Seattle native, I feel I can say that Starbucks does NOT charge for its well-trained staff. Here in Southern California, not a one has ever made a Grande Iced Mocha properly, and I started trying in 1998.

They charge for the right to look at Cranium expansion packs, I think.