Archive for November, 2012


Tuesday, November 13th, 2012


Dear Starbucks,

One would think, with almost 20,000 locations throughout the United States, and the world, coupled with the fact that, as a coffee shop chain store, you have been part of our culture for almost 20 years,  that everything that could be said about you has been said.  Think again.  You’re wildly successful and clearly you don’t need me to re-vamp your business plan.  But then again, maybe you do…


First,  stop calling “small” coffees “tall.”  It’s confusing, inaccurate and stupid.   It’s like calling Lorne Michaels “tall.”   Not only is it deceptive, but your anal-retentive clerks are always compelled to correct me, either directly, by saying, “You mean a ‘tall,’” or, indirectly, by yelling to their co-workers,  “One tall coffee!”  I know the small is the tall.  I just purposely say “small” to fuck with your heads.  I think it’s funny when you look at me like I just said 2+2 = Hungarian Pot Roast.





Next, I hate your logo.  A twin-tailed mermaid?  A single-tailed mermaid would be disturbing enough.  And a mermaid has what to do with coffee?  Does Mrs. Paul’s fishsticks have a Keurig K-Cup on the box?  But now you’ve taken the word “Starbucks” off the cup so I can focus only on that fugly iconic sea creature. But maybe that’s a good thing.  From the start, I’d have preferred seeing the words “THERE’S COFFEE IN THIS CUP,” rather than “Starbucks.”  Starbucks is an illogical name for a place that sells coffee.


I know – it’s a whole Moby Dick thing – right?  Do you think your patrons know this?  How many of your lap-topped, IPod ear-budded customers know that “Moby Dick” was a novel?  Out of those, how many know Moby Dick was the whale?

Moby Dick Book Cover


And out of those, that Starbuck was the first mate of the Pequod who acts as a conservative force against Ahab’s mania?   I’m betting it’s less than the number of customers, country-wide, who actually buy those stupid mugs and Pumpkin Spice coffee beans. It is precisely because they aren’t literate that the mermaid isn’t a mind-fuck to many of your other customers.  You could put Gertrude Stein on the cup, or Ren and Stimpy or a braided honey-pretzel and it wouldn’t seem odd.  But I read and am easily annoyed so, it’s a stupid name for anything other than a blubber-fusion restaurant.


Why do your “baristas” ask my name and write it on a cup?  It makes me feel like I’m about to make a new friend that I don’t want.   Oh wait – I think I know.  It’s because even though there are 18 employees behind the counter, it still takes longer than a mani-pedi (with drying) to make my “small” (wink-wink) coffee and by the time it’s ready, there’s a day-after Thanksgiving Black Friday-sized crowd waiting for their coffees too!  And we all stand around waiting for our names to be called, like it’s some sort of raffle or Bingo Night at church and we hope you’re about to call “G49!”and the crowd thickens and there are two customers named “Erik” with a “k” waiting for Tazo Green Tea Frappuccino , the excitement builds.  And oh you psychological geniuses, your Starbuckians, by the time we actually get our drinks, we’re so grateful it’s almost okay that we paid nearly seven bucks for a small/tall latte.


Students gathered for the grand opening of Starbucks


And now, let’s get to your tip box.  Right in front of the cash register, next to the CDs, which seem as out of place in a coffee shop as they would in the shoe department at Nordstrom’s.  Not sure that I’d ever be interested in purchasing “The Unstoppable Rhythm of Reggae and Ska but am positive I’m not buying it a Starbucks.


But, back to the tip box which, if memory serves me correctly, is the first “tip-us-or-feel-like-the-cheap-bastard-we-know-you-are” tip box which all of them, by mere definition, are.  And a special thanks for making it out of Lucite so that even if we are guilted into dropping a few coins into it, everyone can see exactly what we’re dropping in.  As far as I’m concerned, you’re lucky it’s not Canadian nickels and those slugs you use to play Ski-Ball.  Here’s a tip: stop telling me a “small” is really a “tall,”and I might be more inclined to throw in a buck every now and then.


Next, please stop bragging about your “fair trade” Sumatran beans and your green coffee bean extracts and your commitment to sustainability and the environment.  I have two criteria – 1)  is your coffee hot and 2)  does it taste like coffee?  I don’t care if trained poodles crushed the beans.  It’s 8 am, I’ve had five hours of sleep, and I want my coffee.




Looking at huge posters of Guatemalan orphans smiling, as they concentrate on picking coffee beans,  makes me feel sad.  For about a second.  I think, “those poor children should be in school right now, learning about the solar system and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and multiplying mixed fractions.”  But in the end I’m glad that I’m not the one sweating for a dollar a week, and that my office is air-conditioned, and start thinking about whether I should poach my salmon fillet for dinner or grill it.


You’re selling coffees and foods that are wrapped in cellophane or covered with plastic lids, i.e.,  foods that, with a drink, should be able to be consumed in a reasonable amount of time.

Taste Test: New Starbucks Items



Therefore, I would appreciate it if you stopped letting people move in.

  Starbucks Office Coffee photo



Be they hobos or crackheads, future screenwriters of America or IT start-up dorkazoids, many of your customers seem to be deluded into thinking they’re in a bed-and-breakfast.   Get them in, get them out or have them sign a lease.   How long can one linger over a Ham-and-cheese panninis, multi-grain bagels and yogurt parfaits if, in fact, one buys into the myth that a handful of granola and three blueberries transforms yogurt into a “parfait.”

And yet I see hipsters hunched over laptops for what seems to me to be an entire season.  Really.  It’s like I come in and they’re wearing Elmer Fudd hats and cashmere scarves and by the time I get my coffee they’re in sundresses and sandals.   No one should feel so comfortable in your place of business that I feel like I’m walking into their den.


Finally, what’s up with the deceptive Disney World-like wrap-around lines?  Am I going to get on the Dumbo Ride when I get to the end?  Maybe – just maybe – I’d stand on line for a Sophia Coppola-less “Godfather” prequel.  But for a Café Misto?  Really?  Don’t think I don’t know this is a ploy to get me to buy Starbuck’s merchandise like mugs and tea tumblers and that horrible instant coffee that tastes like – well, instant coffee.


I have measured out my life on Starbuck’s lines.


In the room baristas come and go,

talking of Caramel Frappuccino

I think that it is time to go

No more Machiatto



Saturday, November 3rd, 2012


Awww – did big mean Hurricane Sandy blow into town and blow your chance to be King or Queen of the Marathon?  I feel so bad for you.  I can’t believe they took your big generators away and gave it to people who lost life and limb, homes and memories, people who haven’t showered for a week or had a toilet that flushed.  You mean there were over 600 blankets and thousands of gallons of water and hundreds and hundreds of granola bars and they were for you, you very special person who runs because you have time for a leisure sport, and they gave those blankets and granola bars and water to those pain-in-the-ass people who didn’t have the good sense to book a room at the Ritz-Carlton or Parker Regency or St. Regis when they heard Hurricane Sandy was coming?  All because of them, you don’t get to run through the boroughs of New York, being applauded and splashed with water cups by people who don’t have the time or the money or the sense to train all year for this fabulous marathon.  And now all that water that would have been thrown at you, in an almost celebratory manner, is going to quench the thirst of people who haven’t  brushed their teeth for a week.  I wish there was something I could do to make you feel better.  Wait.  No, I don’t.  If there’s anything that’s taking even an iota of the pain of Hurricane Sandy out of me and putting a smile on my face, it’s the fact that the best you can do is run in place.


Well, you almost had your marathon.  Mayor BossyPants wanted you to have your marathon.  I’m sure that Bicycle Queen Janette Sudik-Kahn wanted you to have your marathon.  They figured, along with the head of the Road Runners Club, ‘What the heck — most of the people won’t know because they’re in shelters or apartments without heat or hot water or electricity, or wandering the streets, hoping someone throws them a broken umbrella or can or something, even if the label is missing.  Most of them were probably too stupid to stock up on batteries or candles, so they can’t hear the news anyway.  So they won’t KNOW we’re having our little elitist marathon.  They’re someplace shivering, or watching their sofa being carried into the Atlantic by the waves of water that overtook their living room or hoping that some of the FEMA trailers and National Guard promised by President Obama will show up before they wind up like Jack in Titanic.”


But then someone who works with Mayor Bloomberg  said something that should have been obvious before the first subway was shut down the day before the hurricane — “You know, Mike — having pretty much been a ‘have,’ as opposed to one of those unwashed ‘have-nots’ most of your life,  this might be hard for you to comprehend, but people standing on the roof of their house, waving a white sheet that says ‘KATRINA TWO,’ might not understand a bunch of privileged Americans and very-fast-on-their-feet Africans running just for the hell of it.  They could get pissed.  This might be divisive, Mr. Mayor.”  So, by Friday, Nanny-Mayor cancelled the marathon.  I know there are thousands of you moping about right now, thinking, “Gee — I’ve got this big number I was going to wear across my chest, and I’ve been carbo-loading and boasting to the neighbors and co-workers.  And now it’s just going to be another Sunday.  Awwww….   This seems as good a time as ever to tell you though, truth be told, I’d tell you every year since this insanity called a “marathon” started,  most of us don’t really care about your running career.  Many of us think you’re dopey and self-involved and we love the fact that there can only be one winner and even before you lace up your Nikes you know it isn’t you.  And here’s what else many of us think.  Okay.  I can only speak for myself…


Tell me you ran from a mugger, or ran toward a burning house to save some people and some pets, or you ran for a bus which, if you didn’t catch, you’d have to wait 58 minutes for the next one.  These are logical reasons to run.  Toward something important or away from something threatening.   When you tell me you ran the NYC marathon, my first thought is: why did you stop in Central Park instead of continuing to run until you get to – oh, I don’t know – Wyoming? !?!?  Why so hostile, Mollie?  Well, I’ll tell you.  There is a certain smugness to runners that is hard to find in most other sports enthusiasts.   “I have to eat just to keep weight on.”  How nice. Every person who’s had to eat nothing but ice chips for a week to lose a pound would like to pummel you in the face with a gallon of Gatorade.

And your fast metabolism does not make up for how fugly you look in your stupid running shorts which, by the way, guys –  are a tad effeminate-looking.   When I see any of you stretching  on a park bench before you run, I want to run up from behind you, kick the leg that’s on the ground and watch you tumble like a tea kettle.  No one ever asks yet you love to tell us, “I have a BMI of 18.”  Guess what?  You are still going to die and if you keep offering us that unsolicited bit of information, it might not be from natural causes.  I know you love to be super-thin and bony and you lady runners – you love it when your collar bone sticks out like a coat-hook.   I’ll admit, most of you are in admirable shape;  some of you look like Jack Skellington from the “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.   Love the silver Mylar cape you get when you cross the finish line – bet it makes you feel like a super-hero.  Yes.  You are Super Baked Potato Man.   Do you check the NY Times’ list of runners and times the following Monday?  How does it feel when you see your name, the fact that you came in 4,933 in your Nike Zoom Equalon +4 running shoes  and a barefoot Kenyan man, whose villagers combined don’t make what your sneakers cost, came in first?   See you at the Verrazano Bridge start line next year and don’t just run.  Jump.