give me starbucks, or give me death

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I want to talk about Starbucks. You may or may not know that I have a thing for Starbucks.

Okay, maybe not a “thing” so much as an “addiction”.

Okay, maybe not an “addiction” so much as an “obsession”.

You get the point.

To put it this way: my frist coffee ever was when I was seventeen, and it was at a Starbucks. I still remember how fucking awesome that first coffee was. Chocolate, and Irish Creme, and whipped cream on top, to where I didn’t even notice any of that nasty coffee taste at all.

And the lingo! Here was something I could learn and be good at, something to impress all my friends and relatives! How exciting!

I worked at a Safeway in Bellevue, with an attached Starbucks. How convenient was that? I worked the 7-2:30 shift Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, and the 4-12:30 shift on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Wednesdays and Saturdays soon became Nytol Nights and Vivarin Mornings, until the blessed Starbucks opened at six. When I worked the video counter, my favorite baristas would actually hand-deliver my coffees to me. Bliss!

It wasn’t long before I got the bright idea to work at Starbucks too. Free drinks while working, plus a discount when not, PLUS a pound of coffee a week. I was in coffee heaven. I was in Starbucks heaven.

I had always worked two jobs, right up until I got an office job and started making enough money that two wasn’t required, and when I discovered a social life (read: turned 21). For a while it was Safeway and a chinese restaurant, then Safeway and Taco Time, then Safeway and Starbucks, then Starbucks and Cinnabon (the aforementioned “office job”), and then just Cinnabon.

From the beginning, my beverage of choice was: in the wintertime, a quad venti irish creme one hundred and twenty degree no whip mocha, and in the summertime, an iced quad venti irish creme no ice no whip mocha. Without fail. Further, it was never just “Oh, I need a coffee, and any place will do.” It was, “I need a Starbucks, or nothing. NOTHING!”

Throughout my adult life I have had friends and boyfriends who think that this is just a “thing” I have, to get my coffee every morning. Some have tried to wean me from my Starbucks habit, dragging my poor unsuspecting self out for “coffee” and then ending up at some podunk ma and pop place that claims to make “expresso” and being told that it’s “just as good as Starbucks!”

No, it’s not.

No, it’s not, and quit trying to make me like something I don’t like. Tully’s isn’t as good, Seattle’s Best isn’t as good, the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf isn’t as good, and the fucking tattoo and espresso place (with drive through!) isn’t as good. So stop.

A couple years ago, they discontinued irish creme. What the hell? Who doesn’t carry irish creme syrup? It’s a fucking staple, for crying out loud. Can you say “heart attack”? can you say, “freaking aneurism”? Jeebers.

I had a veritable black market business going on in Irish Creme syrup. One of my favorite stores (I had three) got wind of the discontinuation, and stocked up on bottles and bottles of Irish Creme. He would tell other customers he was out, and reserve all the Irish Creme just for me. When we were down to the last bottle, I think I might have teared up a little. Bet yo’ ass I sent comment cards. Several. I even got a couple free coupons back. But did they bring back the irish creme? Fuck, no. Good-bye, irish creme.

Hello, caramel.

Now, here’s the problem with Starbucks and caramel. They have two kinds: the caramel butter sauce, which is basically like a caramel topping you’d put on your ice cream (YUM, by the way) and a caramel syrup, which is like all the other syrups they use, and mixes nicely in the drink. In case you were wondering, caramel butter sauce most certainly does not. Especially the iced ones. Plus it’s too sweet. And there is absolutely nothing more likely to ruin my coffee buzz than taking a nice long swig of my coffee only to get a mouthful of half-melted caramel sauce that has the texture of spoilt milk.

So the current battle between 2N and Starbucks is to see how many times in a row 2N can get her drink made correctly (without the sauce) and how many fuckups she can stand.

I think it goes without saying by this time that I know how to make my drink. I mean, I KNOW how to make my drink. I know how many shots, how many pumps of syrup, how much chocolate, to what temperature the milk should be steamed, how to pour the shots, how to save the shots, et cetera.

Which brings me to my point: I hate it when my drink is made incorrectly. Moreover, I hate it when the barista behind the counter can’t get it right and ARGUES with me about it.

There’s two very simple principles at play here:

  1. Being a barista does not require an above average IQ. It’s a coffee drink, for the love of pete. It’s not hard. Pay attention to the details, listen for content, and you should be good to go.
  2. I pay five dollars for my coffee. Every. Single. Day. Without fail. Sometimes twice a day. I will NOT have it made incorrectly. When I’m spending over a hundred-fitty on COFFEE at ONE PLACE every month, damn straight I expect to get my drink made correctly.

So the other day, I go to get my afternoon beverage. It appears that there is a new barista at the Starbucks up the street from my work. This is always a difficult period of adjustment for me, since I now have to a) establish a relationship with this person and b) watch them like a fucking hawk to make sure they don’t try the ol’ bait and switch with the sauce and syrup. Very unsettling for me.

I’m ordering. I explain clearly what I want, using my carefully honed lingo skills, and knowing where they usually mess it up, I state clearly that I want the syrup, NOT the sauce. The new lady rings it up, and it’s like, sixty cents more than usual. Immediately, I know: she’s added too many shots. An iced venti comes with three shots, a hot one comes with two. So an iced quad is only plus one extra shot. I explain this to her.

She starts arguing with me. I shit you not. SHE, who should know better, should KNOW that an iced venti mocha has three shots in it, is arguing with me over the number of shots she should charge me for. Forgetting the “customer is always right” for a second, why not just double check with a coworker if you don’t beleive me, why carry on a five minute argument with me?

Needless to say, my patience is running thin.

Finally one of my familiar baristas comes over (SAVE me) and says, “She knows what she’s talking about, she gets this drink every day.” and the new girl starts arguing with HER. I leave them to it, and glance past them to the guy making my drink…or more accurately, drizzling caramel SAUCE all over the inside of my cup. GodDAMNit!

“Yeah, that should be syrup, not the sauce.” This is even more irritating because this guy has made my drink roughly five hundred and forty seven times before.

“But the cup says sauce.”

“Okay, but I wanted the syrup.”

“But the cup says sauce.”


“Right, but I wanted the syrup. The cup is wrong.”

Then the new lady, apparently finally satisfied that the drink does indeed come with three shots and it should only be ONE extra shot, chimes in, “You said sauce.”

“No, I said syrup. You may have HEARD sauce, but that would have been the point where I said, ‘please make sure you write down that I want SYRUP and not SAUCE’. Perhaps about the same time you were arguing with me over the extra shot, hmmm?”

So she turns to the guy and says, “She changed her mind, she wanted sauce but now she wants syrup.”

I tell you.

And I didn’t even get a free drink coupon. Ass.

You know what was the worst about that whole thing? The dude making my coffee. He saw me standing there, he knew the drink was for me, he KNEW I don’t like sauce. But he made it that way anyway. Why? Because it was written on the cup. And what is that? Mindless obedience, my friends. The refusal to think for oneself when something doesn’t sound right. When something doesn’t make sense. The failure to question. As irritating as it was, at least the new girl had the cojones to question.

It keeps coming back to that, doesn’t it?

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