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Drawing a Line in the Sand at Starbucks

December 6, 2009

My hair is uncombed, my tie is untied, and the blank expression encompassing my face resembles that of a third grader who thought he was popping in the Lion King and ended up seeing his parents’ honeymoon on VHS. It’s 8:30, and I haven’t had my coffee. I don’t order lattes, frappucinos, or other things on their menu that you’d have to be Italian or gay to pronounce properly. I get the bold selection of that particular day, grande-sized, and I go back to my desk to thaw my brain. No cream, no sugar, just caffeine. Last Tuesday was different. For whatever reason, the bold tasted like they mixed the coffee grinds with kitty litter, so I ran to the cream and sugar table and did something I never do: took the lid off my coffee. Imagine my surprise when I noticed there was 1/4 of my cup with no coffee in it.

Now I’m already paying $2.16 for a cup of coffee, and it tastes like feces, but it’s my shit coffee and I want all $2.16 of it. Thinking this is an honest mistake, I return to the “barista” and inquire if my cup is only at 75% capacity or if I need a new prescription. She says the worst thing possible: “Oh no, sir. We leave that space for cream and sugar. It’s always been like that.” Much like when I discovered, despite what my parents told me, Bambi’s mother wasn’t really taken to the zoo, the knowledge that I was fleeced not only that morning, but many, many other mornings sent me over the edge.

“I’m sorry, miss. I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure the added volume of a tablespoon of cream and a packet of sweet n’ low doesn’t merit a 25% reduction in coffee to compensate.” My plea fell on deaf ears. “Well, sir–we do that for all our customers, and it also helps when you’re carrying it back to your desk so it doesn’t spill over.” I implied that perhaps she thought, on top of being born yesterday, I was also uncoordinated and at-risk for coffee burns. I’m a man who is unafraid of making a scene in public, but I’m even less afraid before noon and after 11 PM, which made this 8:37 AM time stamp deadly for both the employees of Starbucks and my workplace image.

At this point, the manager has been summoned, the other suits in line are irritated that they’ve not gotten their octane, and I’m not budging one bit. The manager tries to explain company policy, which I rebuff as being sanctioned fraud to which he offers me a complimentary polar bear cookie. A good bargain shopper would realize that his offer is generous and the cookie is more expensive than the coffee, but I am unreasonable. I acknowledged his generosity, but explained that if I wanted a GD polar bear cookie, I’d have bought one, and he probably would have broken the head off and kept it for himself, then claimed it saved room in the bag for napkins–company policy. Reminiscent of the time I told my aunt from Long Island she talked like The Nanny, this, too, went over badly.

Now, I’m not only being confronted by the store manager (also from Long Island), but by people in line, people waiting for their coffee, people sitting down, people from the lobby who aren’t even buying anything, guests of the Omni Hotel, and anyone else who wants a piece of this guy. After (sarcastic) offers to buy me another cup, empty threats, rolling eyes, one-finger waves, and an awkward pat on the back, the manager agrees to fill my cup to the brim. When he hands it to me, I promptly spill some on my hand and take it to the finishing table, where I then overflow the cup with cream and sugar. I may not get served there again, I’ll never get hired by another company who had an employee in line at Starbucks that day, but I did make my point.

It’s not for Starbucks to decide if I want first-degree burns on my hand, or coffee stains on my shirt. IT’S MY DECISION. When they change the menu to say “almost grande,” I’ll be satisfied with an almost full cup. Until then, I expect a full serving and fate will decide whether my cup overfloweth or I make it safely to my desk with no burns or stains.

My hand burning, shirt soiled, the manager of the Starbucks looked at me much like MacArthur surveyed the Philippines upon his return. I assured him that this was a victory stain and my melting skin was a purple heart in the war against tyrannical corporate coffee, and I offered my pain as a sacrifice at the table of self-determination.

Back at my desk, I wished for some Neosporin, a complimentary polar bear cookie and a time machine.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 7, 2009 1:47 am

    that is some delicious, delicious bass dan…delicious

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