There are three reasons why Starbucks is successful:
- They are everywhere (there's probably one in your basement. Go look);
- They specialize in coffee-like drinks for people who don't like coffee;
- The employees are all on Prozac, or give a reasonable impression of it.
A winning combination, and patrons of Starbucks are willing to wait in tedious, slow-moving lines and pay an inflated price for coffee that's not really better than any other coffee. They are particularly endeared to reason #3. It takes a sunny personality to deal with people in their pre-coffee state, especially in the morning and especially if they're on their way to work. For the underemployed, it may be the only positive reinforcement they get all day, and they've come to rely on it as much as the caffeine.
Which is why the events of last Tuesday were so shocking.
I was waited on - and I am using that term loosely - in a Starbucks, of all places on earth, by a very rude person. This is the equivalent of having your child slapped by an employee at a Disney park.
Last Tuesday morning, I entered our local Starbucks. To my surprise and delight, there was no line at the counter. Unprecedented, I mused, and happily walked up to place my order, thinking (naively) that - for once - I would get a cup of coffee in less than 15 minutes.
There were three people behind the counter. All of them with their backs to me. Okay, for a moment. Then the moment became a minute, and the minute turned into minutes. Not a very long time, but when one is in an empty Starbucks listening to their latest promotional CD, two minutes can seem like an eternity
One of the three finally turned around, walked over, and stood across the counter, carefully avoiding eye contact. No "hello" or "can I help you" or even a "what the fuck do you want". Nothing.
She was a gaunt, thin-lipped, thirty-something blonde, with a pinched look that made me wonder what sort of thoughts might be running around loose in her brain. The following possibilities presented themselves:
- "I just finished barfing up my breakfast."
- "This is my first job, thanks to my rat bastard husband."
- "I'm off my meds."
- "My tampon just fell out."
- "I only work here to pay off my colorist."
- "I hit peri-menopause this morning."
- "That Activia isn't working."
- "My thong's on backwards."
- "The stubble from my last bikini wax is starting to itch."
- "You're a wop."
In the throes of post-traumatic stress, and in the best interest of normal people everywhere, I have come up with a brilliant business proposal for anybody out there who wants it. Free of charge, too, although I would appreciate it if you hired me, as I am now - upon reflection - out for revenge.
I propose that we open up a chain of coffee shops. And we'll call them, "Just Joe".
It's very simple. Here's the menu:
Coffee - Large or Small
Doughnut - Chocolate or Plain
That's it. "Just Joe" could be located in small storefronts, but it would be cheaper and more effective to run them out of food trucks, which could then park right in front of each and every Starbucks in the world. No decaf, lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, blended drinks, breakfast sandwiches, fancy pastries, healthy choices, Wi-Fi (just attracts losers), or loyalty programs.
And no head cases behind the counter.
Think of it: no waiting in line while the gourmands in front of you scan the way-too-extensive menu, carefully checking the calorie counts. No waiting while some ditz of an office assistant reads off the list (slowly) of complicated orders for his or her entire office. No waiting while the suburban mom polls (and argues with) each of her twelve towheaded children under the age of six to see what she can coax them into eating. No waiting for jogger heart rates to return near enough to normal to permit speaking. No waiting for cheap people to check the balance on each of their various five-year-old gift cards.
No need for a translator or a phrasebook. No baristas.
Prices would be scaled so that, with local tax included, they would come out to be an even dollar amount.
Good luck. And you're welcome.