Culture And Criticism

Declining To Chug An Iced Triple Venti Decaf Cup Of Starbucks Outrage

cup of coffee in a paper cup
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Hey, did you hear the one about the lady who refused to answer when she was asked whether she wanted butter or cheese on her bagel, and apparently this has something to do with "corporate bullying," or maybe "corporate scripting," or maybe, according to the lady herself, "correct English."

Predictably, this story became a referendum on Starbucks, as everything that involves Starbucks must, and about how stupid it is that they call sizes "tall," "grande," and "venti," and how you shouldn't go to Starbucks anyway, because the coffee is bad and overpriced and you can get it cheaper at Dunkin' Donuts.

First of all, this particular anecdote has absolutely nothing to do with "corporate-speak" or "corporate scripting." (To my knowledge, Starbucks has no bagel-related lingo, as I believe "bagel," "butter" and "cheese" are all still generic terms. She was not asked if she wanted a bagelccino or a bagelitto.)

According to her own account, as it was reported in the New York Post, she ordered a "toasted multigrain bagel," they asked her if she wanted butter or cheese on her toasted multigrain bagel, and she refused to answer the question on the basis that being asked whether she wanted butter or cheese was not "correct English." (Yes, she claims that the barista yelled that she would get nothing unless she said "butter or cheese." I believe this to a degree consistent with the fact that she also considers the listing of menu items "linguistic fascism.")

This has absolutely nothing to do with corporate anything.

If you were at my house, and I offered you breakfast, and you said, "How about a bagel?" there is an excellent chance I'd say, "Would you like butter or cream cheese or anything?" If you responded by hollering at me and later calling me a fascist to the New York Post, there's a good chance it would impede our friendly relationship going forward and that the next time you came over, I would offer you a giant plate of uncooked buckwheat groats and your very own pot of water.

Yes, Starbucks calls its biggest coffee "venti" instead of "large." God forbid this lady ever wind up wanting breakfast at Denny's, home of the breakfast it calls Moons Over My Hammy.

Or possibly IHOP, home of the Rooty Tooty Fresh And Fruity. I can see it now: "I JUST WANT MY EGGS, BACON, SAUSAGE AND FRUIT-TOPPED PANCAKES, YOU FASCIST! WHAT DO YOU MEAN HOW DO I WANT MY EGGS COOKED? EGGS! I JUST SAID EGGS! I AM A STICKLER!"

If you want to go into Starbucks and ask for a small coffee, you know what? They'll serve you. I've seen it. Yes, most orders sound more like "grande vanilla latte," but who cares? Yes, you get your orders for "grande triple vanilla no-foam extra-hot latte," but ... why is it so terrible that if you choose to, you can ask for it the way you actually want it?

I'll confess: Yes, there have been times when I've ordered a "venti two-pump classic iced coffee." You know what that means? "Yes, I'd like my iced coffee sweetened, because when you sweeten it with syrup it's better than it is with sugar that doesn't dissolve very well in cold drinks, but I only want it a little bit sweet, and when you sweeten it without guidance, you make it extremely sweet, so please add two pumps of plain syrup instead of, like, fifteen." We have communicated clearly and economically, I hand over my money, and I receive precisely what I wanted.

And if the question "Did you want butter or cheese on your bagel?" had been answered, "Neither, thank you," everyone's commitment to proper English would have been restored and no one would have had to, you know, call the police.

The police, that is, WHO HAVE BIGGER FISH TO FRY THAN YOUR BAGEL.

Companies call stuff by stupid, silly names. What's a Fresca? What's an iPod? What in heaven's name is Tofurky? They are just names for stuff, and some of them are stupid, and if you don't want to buy any of it, you don't have to. Make your own coffee, call it Rain Louise Unfettered Q. Barefoot Folk Festival, and call it a day. But if you have outrage to spare for Starbucks asking you whether you want cheese on your bagel, do a crossword puzzle or something. It will be far more worth your time.

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