Thursday, August 21, 2008


Some people absolutely loath Starbucks; they consider it an abomination, everything that’s wrong in America, condensed into a tall green cup, and served at several thousand-convenient locations across these United States . Other people take Starbucks at face value; an okay product that’s easy to find, even in places in the country where 15 years ago you’d be lucky to find a fresh-brewed pot at a 7-11.

But nobody, not no one, “loves” (“luvs”… “looooooves”) Starbucks these days. It just doesn’t inspire that sort of passion anymore; in a few years, I doubt it’ll still even be trendy to hate it.

I still go there sometimes - if I’m in a hurry, or if I get a craving for a Frapuccino (yes, yes… commence with the taunts, all you coffee coinsures, with your $400 grinders, and oh-so-delicate palates. Yeesh.) On a particularly busy morning last week, I was sitting in line at the drive thru, waiting to order my “Grande Coffee with an Extra Shot” (I let them repeat the whole“Shot in the Dark” thing, if they’re so inclined. As cutesy café-lingo goes that one is pretty painless, but still). The talking head manning the register, cinched into their two-way headset, launched into this big, ungainly-and-unbecoming sales pitch: “Would you like to try one of our YUMMY breakfast sandwiches today?!”

Hoo boy. Now, set aside for a moment all the arguments about whether a company that built their reputation on serving great coffee should be selling Egg 'Buckmuffins at all. Consider instead that this was an up-at-the-crack-my-ass early morning. Yes, that's the time-frame that maybe you would consider eating such a product. But c'mon - nobody wants a carnival barker pitch crammed down their gullet before their first cup of the day.

And it’s not just some well meaning, goody-goody college girl, working there to save up money for her semester abroad. Every single employee says the exact same thing. “Yummy!”, like they’re talking to a schnauzer about “Snausages”.

What that means, obviously, is that this ridiculous push has been mandated from on-high. The words cackled over the speaker are printed on a checklist (written by the some member of Starbucks brass, no doubt) to be recited by the hapless employees verbatem, or suffer the dire consequences.

Now, if you follow at all, you know that these sandwiches were actually removed from the menu not so long ago (“Bad! Bad sandwich!”), around the same time that every location in the country closed so they could teach their employees how to make, y’know, coffee. Now, they’re back – GLORY, GLORY! (“MMMMM!~ Yummy Sandwich !”) When I pulled up to the window on that fateful day, I was handed an invitation for some sort of welcome back / coming out party for the damn things.

From noon to 2 pm (!)

Probably not the time you’d be a-hankering for one, but you could stomach the pitch better, anyway

Now, as you can imagine, I don’t have much money. I have no idea what it would be like to create a big, successful business, loved by millions – then have it all start to fade; fall out of favor in the public's eyes. I’m sure it probably sucks.

But man, this crap is just re-freaking-diculous. Starbucks is in full-on freefall. “Sandwiches? We got sandwiches! Hows about a burger? Can we rotate your tires for you, ma’am?” Been up for so long, they have no idea how to act when they're down; like the Hillary Clinton of the retail world. Did it REALLY never occur to the shareholders, the folks who had their trailer hitched to Starbucks’ wagon that it couldn’t go on forever? And, hey, it’s not like they’re stuck w/ a share of “Crocs” or anything (anybody who made a plumb nickle from those things - who wasn't smart enough to pay off their mortgage, buy their golden retreiver a new bandana, then stuff whatever was left safely away, anticipating the day that people would stop buying shoes made from Play Doh - gets zip from me, in the sympathy department.)

But that's the way it always goes, isn't it? I've worked for coffeeshops that said "If we can't be bigger than Starbucks, we don't want to be in business at all." And they couldn't be... so they're not. Nobody's as big as Starbucks anymore. Not even Starbucks.
It's like it's not enough to have a successful business; everybody wants to rule the world. So Starbucks dilutes their brand, appealing to the lowest-common denominator in order to achieve global domination, so they start selling 14 different flavors of milkshake. Then, when the economy tanks, the customers who still their product is some "high-end luxury" (i.e., the people who, 5 years ago, were sucking down "Taster's Choice" at home) start buying their iced coffee at McDonalds or Duncan Donuts.

And now I've got new options for when I'm slumming for "comfort coffee". Anybody wanna go get a Java Chiller from Sonic?


merf said...

PUHleeze tell me those are not your feet in CROCS in that pic. (no, not the green ones, I assume you haven't become a woman. have you?)

amber said...

“Yummy!”, like they’re talking to a schnauzer about “Snausages”.

Awesome! I haven't laughed that hard in a while. Thanks.