What follows is the letter I sent to Starbucks complaints Dept and the harrowing account of my first last and only visit to that place.
Dear Sir, Madam or Creature
I was recently walking through the streets of Cambridge in search of a cup of tea when I came to experience what I have now come to call “My Trial By Starbucks.” I have decided to write to you that I may recount this tale of woe.
An easy task you would think to acquire a good cup of tea in the heartland of Middle Class England.
Surely, if there were one thing I could easily obtain in the second greatest tea-consuming country on earth, it would be a cup of tea.
Firstly however I couldn't find anywhere that wasn't Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Cafe Nero, The Republic of Coffee (formally the Kingdom of Malay) or any of the various other F*R*I*E*N*D*S style coffee shops that I prefer not to frequent on account of not being a corporate whore. All I wanted was a quiet cafe.
I failed in this task.
Eventually, I remembered that Borders Book Shop had a coffee shop upstairs so I went in there...
Only to discover that this too was now a Starbucks.
By now I was far to grumpy and tired to bother looking any further afield, so I went in.
So I wait in the que for fifteen, yes FIFTEEN minutes. What could possibly take the three people it took to operate the till so long to serve just five customers? Were they growing the coffee fresh on the premises?
Thankfully I was in no hurry so I waited and finally it was my turn.
"Just a cup of tea please" said I to the hired-brain at the till.
He looked at me as though I had just asked him to kick me in the bollocks
Apparently the source of confusion was that I had not specified what "sort" of tea I wanted.
It was evidently not clear, when I asked for a cup of tea, that I was talking about tea, obtained from the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis), the single most popular drink in the whole of the Kingdom and her territories, no apparently I could have meant anything from Starbuck's fine Albanian Stick Tea to their tasty Mauve-Tea. So after I cleared up this little misunderstanding he went to make my beverage... Or so I thought.
Apparently he first needed to know what size tea I wanted, a "cup" not being nearly specific enough, so I just asked for a normal sized one.
Never have I seen such panic and intellectual strife pass over the face of a starbucks employee, "no" he said, you have to choose either "Tall" "Fairly Tall" "Quite Tall" "Grande" "Lengthy" or "Wide"
I quietly pointed out to him that in fact all of those words were just different variations on the theme of "large" and what I wanted was a normal cup.
Dilemma: was I asking him to partake in the most advanced math and philosophy, by what standard did one define "normal"? Was he going to have to measure every single cup in the world, work out the median size, buy a kiln, fashion a new cup from clay out of those specifications and serve my tea in this?
Apparently he thought so, since instead of giving me a normal cup of tea he decided instead to go and fetch all of the different sized cups to show them to me.
I chose the normal one
This, he explained politely, was apparently a "tall" tea. So I patiently explained to him that actually the cup was really no taller than any of the other cups, that it certainly was not taller than he or I and that in fact this cup was not, by any comparison other than with espresso, tall in any way shape or form.
He did not take well to my flouting of the Starbucks Size System and went to busy himself about making my drink.
Finally, it was over... or was it?
He reappears. Now he wants to know whether I want "space for milk"?
What a stupid question, was he planning to fill my cup to the very brim, to prevent the addition of milk unless I specifically asked him not to? Surely THIS would be too full even without milk, it would spill.
So, rather baffled, I nod, of course he should leave space for milk.
Only afterwards would I discover that "space for milk" is secret starbucks code for: "only half a cup".
WHO IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY WOULD DRINK A CUP OF HALF-MILK HALF-TEA???
But by now it was all too much, I just wanted to take my half-cup of tea and sit down. But not before he charged me £1.45 for it.
For just 30 more pence I could have gone to the supermarket, bought some PG Tipp’s, and had EIGHTY WHOLE CUPS OF TEA. But no, apparently a starbucks tea is worth £1.45 on account of all the extra hassle they give you in trying to get one.
For just 50p I told him, I could get a cup of tea from the market, since starbucks only give you factory grade tea-bag tea and not loose-leaf I couldn't really see how they were justified in charging this.
He politely informed me that in starbucks there are such wondrous luxuries as chairs, tables and women with screaming babies and I wouldn't have been able to get this "experience" in the market. Actually, I explained to him, there were lots of screaming babies in the market, and the floor outside was easily as clean as the tables here in Starbucks; but by now I had already parted with my money and he was more interested in ascertaining what “type” of water the poor girl behind me wanted, and whether she would like this water to be “Tall” or “Lofty”.
So I get my milk, take my half-cup of tea and turn to sit do- ... no. No I don't
Because the place is so crowded that there is nowhere to sit.
So I have to wait 10 minutes while my tea goes cold before a chair is available on a table that clearly hadn't been cleaned this week. I finally get one, and have to drink at breakneck speed because so many people are waiting for seats...
ALL THIS, for what? All I wanted was some dried leaves lightly infused in water and fifteen minutes quiet. AM I ASKING FOR SO MUCH?
It is too late for recompense. I wish you to send me the severed head of the Starbucks employee on a silver plate; I will not be requiring “space for milk” with this.
Oh, I remember the first time I wandered into one of those places in a fit of naivete hoping for a quick drink and a chance to get something done. I don't know what boggles my mind more, Starbucks itself or the fact that people will shell out five dollars a day to subject themselves to it. It's nothing short of a crime against human progress.
You are fortunate that Great Britain does not allow citizens to purchase/carry guns!
I have been to Starbucks, purely by default, only a few times in my life.
However, in America, they are pretty good to their employees, and I can not fault them for anything about that side fo things. But, honestly, I do not like their coffee. (We call it "Fourbucks.")
They think coffee is a science. (Read their literature.)
Coffee is meant to be brewed, not burnt. One should not have to blow on their coffee for twenty-seven minutes before it is drinkable. Heating anything too much ruins the taste of everything. Heating is for Pasteurization, not brewing coffee. Heating is meant to bring the out the full flavor alive, not burn the tip of your tongue.
Coffee brewing is not a science. It is an art. Just as Medicine is the "Art and Science" of Medicine.
Everyday I brew it at home and do a little something different. It is like having an affair with a new cup of coffee!
It is kind of like making a martini or any other mixed cocktail. The rule is: NEVER MEASURE. It is a "feel."
The worst martini I ever had was at a Christmas party about seven years ago. (Notice the word "about"!) The father of the host said he would be happy to make one for me. I saw him take the jigger and hold it up like a scientist with a beaker, pouring perfectly three ounces of gin. Then he did the same with vermouth, a perfect one ounce. I said to him "You measure?" He then said (and I will never forget it) "If one does not measure, one precludes perfection."
I said to him, "What line of work are you in?" He replied, "I am an accountant."
It was the worst martini - the most memorably worst martini - I ever had.
Fortunately my long-time accountant in NYC only handles show business people. He loves martinis and NEVER measures. He appreciates balancing the books, but loves artistry as well! (By the way, the only martini is with gin.)
And, years ago, on the Maine coast at a wedding of a friend's daughter, his father-in-law said, "What would you like?" I said, "A martini." They only had "on the rocks." "How do you make it?" I said, "Gin and vermouth." "How much of each?" he asked. I said, "Whatever you think. Just more gin than vermouth."
He came back a very poorly made - yet wonderfully made martini! Much more vermouth than necessary. However, it was made from his heart!!!!! And there was the difference! And, it was so wonderful by the ocean, whenever I make a martini "on the rocks" I always go overboard with the vermouth in his honor (now deceased) and love and treat as precious every taste of it!!!! And I am taken back to that summer day by the ocean in Maine.
That is the appreciation of artistry!
Essentially, I think Starbucks is just an example of the next inevitable stage of the world economy, much like the transfer from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age to the post-Industrial Age and now into the Service Economy - at least in certain portions of the world. 70% of the American economy is now considered "service."
Of course Switzerland has always been in the service (the money) economy!
Well, once upon a time, here in New York, a group of us went to Starbucks after seeing a play. I agreed, since I was outnumbered. We got in line (or on line, depending on one's roots). When I got to the head of the line, I asked for tea, having given up coffee many years ago. The look of utter disdain on the clerk's face was priceless. When someone behaves like that, I get nicer--it seems to really irritate them. He didn't get the rise he expected, so he said, "This is Starbucks. We sell coffee here." I said, "Oh, I'm sure you do, but I'm not able to drink it, and I want to spend time time with my friends. I know you understand." I got my cup of tea, but I had to go through the same machinations as described above. By the time it was ready, my friends had been sitting without me long enough, while drinking their coffee, to thoroughly dissect the play we had just seen. That was not my last visit to Starbucks. It was, however, my last purchase at one.
There is a wonderful performance artist named Billy Thalen, whose character Reverend Billy has taken on the corporate hypocrites. Starbucks was one of his major targets. Last I heard, he has been banned from them. They put his picture at the checkouts nationwide so employees will be on the lookout. Google him.
Another Starbucks story: I heard that the original mermaid logo had 2 dots on her breasts. After a complaint from some right-wing religious nuts that they looked too realistic and they didn't want children exposed to nipples, Starbucks removed said offending dots. I don't know if this is true, but it sounds plausible.
Ha ha ha ha ha he he he ho ho ho he he he ha! Ha ha he he he he he! Ho ho ho ho ha! Oh, ha ha! Hee hee hee. Hee. Hee. Ha. Oh Lord. Ha ha ha ha! He he he he ho ho! No stop, Sam, my sides - ha ha ha ha! He he he he! Ha ha ha ha ha he he he ho ho ho he he he ha! Ha ha he he he he he! Ho ho ho ho ha! Oh, ha ha! Hee hee hee. Hee. Hee. Ha. Ha ha ha ha! He he he he ho ho! No, pleas stop! Ha ha ha ha! He he he he! Ha ha ha ha ha he he he ho ho ho he he he ha! Ha ha he he he he he! Ho ho ho ho ha! Oh, ha ha! Hee hee hee. Hee. Hee. Ha. Ha ha ha ha! He he he he ho ho! No, Lost, stop, really!Ha ha ha ha! He he he he! Ha ha ha ha ha he he he ho ho ho he he he ha! Ha ha he he he he he! Ho ho ho ho ha! Oh, ha ha! Hee hee hee. Hee. Hee. Ha. Ha ha ha ha! He he he he ho ho! Ha ha ha ha! He he he he!
Starbucks is owned and operated by disciples of the Dark World. I've seen them.
When walking by any Starbucks, be afraid...especially ones that offer Cinnamon Dolce Lattes half-price.
And for God's sake, don't stare into the logo. Her name is Caffeina. If her left eye winks...RUN. A friend of mine winked back at her just once. He's never been the same...eats used grounds like candy, rubs them on his chest during a full moon. Offers them to children at school crossings. I swear his clothes smell like mocha no matter how many times washed. He renamed his dog Juan Valdez and then kicked him out.
Is everything popular evil, or only the things disliked by contrarians? Personally, I love my double tall skinny lattes on my way to the office. Love. Them.
I was very amused to read that Lostsocks felt troubled by the poor service. Umm, you do live in the United Kingdom, don't you? Where are you getting good service that provides a contrast to Starbucks? Tescos? Sainsburys? Nope. Atlanta? Bangkok? Maybe. Cause I don't think it's anywhere on this island.
one of the funniest ten minute plays i've ever read is "small, medium, large" by jon brooks. it's about a guy trying to order a small coffee, when the establishment refuses to recognize that there is a "small" coffee, or even that one size is the "smallest". hilarious.
Well, this is inspired. I think we should all pledge to immediately go to the nearest Starbucks (probably located within at least 12 feet) and order a cup of tea. Standard cup. Cup-sized. One cup. C-u-p. Regular. Y'know, like a cup-thingy. Cuplike?
Then when we've done that, we should get hold of one of Ronald's leaflets showing a photo of a Big Mac; then we can all walk into a McDonalds and order 20 Big Macs, and when they bring them to the counter we can compare the proportions of the actual product with those of the illustration and say
" Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor). " Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor). " Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor). " Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor). " Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor). " Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor). " Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor). " Hmm... no... I want one just like that." (packaging goes onto the floor).................
I appreciate your story and feel I should warn you not to come to the very center of this scourge of humanity, Seattle Washington. It is eveywhere here, in supermarkets, gas stations, hospitals - everywhere I tell you. Even when you find an older looking urn in a cafe you will find the small "proudly serving Starbucks coffee" placard hanging around the spigot.
I feel your pain.
I hope the head is sent in one of those lovely bages with the twine handles for easy carriage.
bkahn wrote: they looked too realistic and they didn't want children exposed to nipples...
Children as young as a few minutes old are exposed to nipples.
What a disaster!
On the Starbucks thing, yeah, well, it's the Americanisation (Americanization?) of the world and they complain that we're taking away their phone support back-end operations.
They took away my tea shops too and I want my chai, at a chai-shop where one raised finger would bring a glass of water and a cup of tea. To your table. No standing in line, no dithering about the size of the cup or the amount of milk in it.
And we could sit for hours discussing art over endless cups of tea.
Well, I guess we now sit for hours discussing art over endless bandwidth but it's just not the same.
You're welcome mate. I love this site... sometimes the metre, rhythm and content of an otherwise simple expression demands a few lines, and your line "I buy my tea from a man on the market who charges less than a pound a cup" just screamed for a few minutes' thought. It's a bugger finding a rhyme for Ceylon though!
As for printing it on a mug - you'd have to have one that was "Tall", "Fairly Tall", "Quite Tall", "Grande", "Lengthy" or "Wide.
I would just like to add my two-cents-worth to this conversation focusing on Starbucks and tea to report that I have consumed a small-bordering-on-medium-'ish paper cup of hot green tea at Starbucks. I would also like to state for the record that nothing spoils the flavor of tea (or coffee either) than having to sip from paper. I mean, it's so uncivilized and besides the paper absolutely ruins the full flavor of tea. The way that I view it tea is meant to be sipped slowly from china cups or mugs. No sustitutions.