Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Yuppiest Over-caffeinated Rant Ever

I have been resisting the urge to rant about Starbucks on this blog pretty much since I started writing here. It is mostly because my relationship with Starbucks makes me feel ashamed. It is like the bad girlfriend I cannot leave. (Apologies to my wife.)

First of all, the vision of my 30-something, light blue dress shirt-wearing, Blackberry-clutching, groggy ass standing in the same Starbucks at precisely the same time each day is such a cliche that sometimes I just close my eyes and pretend I'm not actually there. It makes me realize that I am now the target for adult contemporary music, which would at one point in my life, have prompted a self-inflicted tack hammer strike on my left temple. I was even fiddling with my friend's XM radio the other day and settled after awhile on what I thought seemed like the best station. It turned to be "Hear" Music - the station they play at Starbucks. Horrifying.

But it's not Starbucks' fault I'm a sell-out.

I will blame the coffee pushers, though, for my particular addiction to Venti Peppermint Mocha Frappuccinos. It is significantly embarrassing on its own to walk down the street sipping a giant cup from a straw like a 12 year old. I also pay nearly five dollars a day for this 40 cents worth of sugared liquid - and despite the fact I will apparently not be able to retire until 75 as a result, if I don't have it, my stomach churns. Starbucks is especially insidious in making me grow dependent upon not just a high daily dose of caffeine, but on a particular form of its delivery that I cannot replicate at home. (Note that I take no responsibility for falling into this addiction. This adds to the shame.)

As I said, everyday, I go to the same Starbucks and order the same drink at the same time. Despite this, and my personal knowledge of the names of everyone who works there, each day I have to repeat my order at least twice, and probably three times.

This is partly due to their idiotic system, intended to give it a "coffee-house" feel, where employees scream orders back and forth to each other as early in the morning as possible. The other reason I have to repeat myself is the length of my order, which contains four data points (Type, Size and 2 Flavors), well beyond the average cache available in the average Starbucks employee's short-term memory. Finally, I repeat it again to the person in charge of making the drink, who has been unable to retain the knowledge that I want a drink at all, despite having written it on a plastic cup with a marker moments earlier.

For awhile, I thought Starbucks' system was just another example of a badly planned service delivery mechanism that results in terrible customer experiences. I've actually been in a Starbucks in Chicago that uses the traditional fast food order screen system, requiring no shouting or repetition. So why don't all of them have them, I thought?

Then I realized something. I say the phrase "Venti Mocha Frappuccino" no less than 10 times a week. I've even blogged it twice here.

Maybe there's something to this - maybe this practice is, in fact, brilliant marketing.

Continually get your customers to reaffirm their loyalty to your product and your brand by making them say the product name as many times as possible. It's like a daily pledge of allegiance. In a scary way, it's almost a small expression of identity. When I'm there, I'm "Venti Mocha Frappuccino Guy." Someone else is "Extra Hot No Room Tall Vanilla Skim Latte Lady." (Yes, the shame is setting in again.)

I still hate every moment I'm in the Starbucks and think they're terrible at servicing my very simple need. I guess this is the part that makes me most embarrassed - that I keep going back. I know that everytime I say "Venti Mocha Frappuccino," it really means "thank you sir, may I have another" in a very Animal House kind of way.

So I guess if you're going to steal the repetition strategy, you better be sure you have a darn good (or chemically addicting) product that will overcome the backlash.

You think about that. I'm gonna go to Denny's to have a "Root and Tooty Fresh and Fruity."


  • Come on man, eveyone knows the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity is IHOP. Denny's is Moons Over My Hammy.

    By Anonymous Trevor Bratton, at 2:51 PM  

  • Ian - this is hilarious. But you need some serious help my friend...


    By Anonymous Morgan McLintic, at 8:16 AM  

  • You're right, Trevor, I messed that up; so much for repetition.

    And it's ironic because I particularly like going to IHOP - it's one of the only places where I look around and feel like the fittest person in the room. I find it does as much for my sense of well being as going to a health club.

    By Blogger I, at 1:09 PM  

  • I pledge allegiance to the logo
    of the largest coffee chain in America;
    and to the sprawl for which it stands,
    one Nation under concrete,
    indistinguishably homogenized,
    with mocha frappuccinos for all.

    By Blogger I, at 8:37 AM  

  • The apple doesn't fall far from the tree although time befits the experience. I have been having a similar relationship although not addiction for Dairy Queen and my order for Chocolate Sundaes made with chocolate ice cream and strawberries, whipped creme and nuts.

    I started much earlier than Ian on my predilection dating back to grade school. Thank goodness the DQ was open only in the summer in those days when most stores looked like large outside kiosks so retirement has not been a problem...yet. -Dad

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:53 PM  

  • I went to use the bathroom at my regular Starbucks yesterday. In the bathroom was another Starbucks.

    By Blogger Uncle Tanous, at 4:06 PM  

  • You know, my Starbucks addiction is a bit of a legend in our office. I gave a girl my hash brown in work before and she told me she'd pick up my starbucks the next day and was embarrassed when she had to ask for a "Venti Sugarfree Hazelnut Soy Latte." Damn that frothy goodness!

    By Anonymous Kevin A. Barry, at 10:52 PM  

  • your blog made me the happiest starbucks employee...actually, we are not "employees" we are "partners" in the starbucks world. its a shame most of you will never know the hidden, crazy truths of starbucks unless you actually work for the bosses... its a cult, for sure. we have special names for everything, and the motto is stated so many times to drive assurance into the hearts of the feeble starbucks partner. from the "siren's eye", to the "third place" right down to the "ledgendary" personality... i must say starbucks is just about the happiest, most comfortable cult ive ever been apart of. ashamed... but certainly not alone... :D

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:41 PM  

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