Joel Klebanoff: Stuff & Nonsense

To worry is to be. To be is to worry.

Starbucks Rules

I am a frequent Starbucks customer. That’s because I like strong coffee, particularly espresso. I find that, to my taste, the flavor of the coffee at other chains here in Canada approximates dishwater. Not that I’ve ever sampled dishwater, you understand, but I imagine that’s what it tastes like.

The coffee at Peet’s Coffee & Tea in the U.S. is, in my opinion, as good as Starbucks, but we don’t have Peet’s here in Canada. There are some independent coffeehouses that have good coffee, but I haven’t found any in my neighborhood.

Another reason I frequent Starbucks is I’m a low-budget snob who prefers to pretend that flavor is the reason for favoring Starbucks rather than snobbery.

Despite being a loyal customer, there are a few issues I’d like Starbucks to address. In this article I propose rules that Starbucks should implement to make the Starbucks experience more enjoyable.

If anyone has been loyally reading this blog since at least late in 2008 (it started in February, 2006) then what the hell is wrong with you? Couldn’t you guess from the title, “Stuff and Nonsense,” that it wouldn’t worth your time to read it? And even if the title didn’t alert you, I would have thought that you would have caught on sometime during the at least four years that you have been reading it.

Never mind. They point I was going to make is that if you read my blog in December, 2008 then some of what I am going to say might sound a bit familiar. Back then, in blog posts titled Starbucks Addiction – Part 1 and Starbucks Addiction – Part 2, I mentioned some frustrations I had with my experiences at Starbucks.

The issues I discussed in the dying days of 2008 still have not been addressed. Hence, because Starbucks was unwilling or unable to come up with them itself, it’s time to propose the following rules:

  1. If the drink you want is so complex (e.g., skinny soy latte, extra hot, low-foam, grande size in a vente cup, with a vanilla shot, caramel topping, etc., etc., etc.) that it takes more than 15 seconds to say your single-drink order then you desperately need to simplify your life. There are people waiting in line behind you. Probably me.

    Fifteen seconds is a lot longer than most people think. If you don’t believe me, try timing it on a watch that shows seconds. It’s much more than enough of time to say any single-drink order that any reasonable person could ever want, even if you stutter.

    Starbucks cashiers should start a timer when people begin to say their drink orders. At the 15-second mark, the cashiers should cut a long-winded customer off, give the barista the customer’s order as it stood when the time was up, charge the customer, and move on to the next person in line.

  2. Decide what you want before you get to the cash register. Like I said, people are waiting behind you in line. And you don’t need to get into a long discussion with the cashier to help you make that decision. Be independent. Make your own choices.

    If customers don’t know what they want when they get to the cash register, the cashier should tell them to step aside until they do. The cashier can then serve the next people in line while the indecisive people make the horribly perplexing and horrendously consequential decision of what to drink and, possibly, eat at Starbucks. (If you didn’t read “horribly perplexing and horrendously consequential” as being sarcastic, please reread it, adjusting the tone of the voice inside your head so that you do.)

  3. As a corollary to rule 2, if, in addition to your own drink, you’re picking up a take-out drink for someone and you don’t know what that person wants, call the person and determine what he or she wants before you reach the cashier, not after. The same “step-aside” punishment should be doled out to miscreants who break this rule as is doled out to perpetrators who break rule 2.
  4. I (and likely everyone else at Starbucks) don’t want to listen to your end of your cellphone conversation. I make exceptions if the conversation is entertaining, such as a comical discussion of your promiscuous sex life, but those sorts of conversations are, regrettably, rare.

    If you must talk on your cellphone in Starbucks don’t talk any louder than you would when conversing with someone sitting beside you. And, remember, whether you’re talking on the phone or in-person, inside voices, please.

    Starbucks employees should confiscate the phones of anyone talking too loudly and smash them with a large, metal mallet. That is to say, they should smash the phones, not the people talking on them. For the loud-talkers they should use, to paraphrase somewhat a line from Annie Hall, a Woody Allen movie, a large sock filled with horse manure.

  5. Starbucks tables are scarce commodities in downtown locations. If you need an Internet connection for the whole day, get it someplace else. I hate people who hog Starbucks’ free wi-fi bandwidth for several hours and, worse, occupy a table for the whole time, while nursing only a single coffee—just a plain coffee, mind you, not even the more expensive espresso-based drinks.

    If you’re going to hog a table and bandwidth for a whole day, buy expensive drinks and foods at frequent intervals throughout your stay. That way, Starbucks can justify leasing more space and adding more tables.

    If a customer doesn’t spend at least, say, $10 every 20 minutes, Starbucks should politely ask him or her to leave so I can have the table. As it is now, I’m rarely able to find a vacant one.

    If the customer refuses to leave, Starbucks should confiscate his or her Web-enabled device and send it to someone in one of the countries where Starbucks’ beans are grown. Some of those are poor countries. It would be a charitable act that would benefit both the recipients in those countries and the customers in Starbucks stores who are frustrated with the shortage of tables.

I recognize that the confiscation and smashing or donating punishments of rules four and five might cause some legal problems for Starbucks. Starbucks should implement the rules nonetheless. And it should stick to its guns.

Starbucks is a large, profitable company. How many people would be willing to sue a company with such deep pockets if the company promises to fight the suit for as long as it takes to grind the plaintiff down into abject poverty? Probably not a lot.

These few simple rules will greatly enhance the enjoyment of most Starbucks customers. Are you with me?

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6 Comments

  1. I agree with these suggestions.

  2. Janene says:

    Ha! I’m glad I’m not a coffee drinker. Standing in a Starbucks line sounds painful! Hope people follow your advice.

  3. Our local starbucks is near the college campus… those breaking rule #5 makes it impossible to get a seat sometimes.

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