Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

June 7, 2007

At Last! A Fresh Reason to Diss Starbucks

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:08 pm

For a while I thought the fun was gone. I’d made an accommodation with Starbucks. As one of the only writers to be thrown out of (and then re instated in) his local Starbucks, I’d gotten over what had become a cliched loathing of their corporate sensibility because I really needed the jolt their coffee gave me.

I even feel I can claim some credit for improving their corporate culture after having written several scathing columns in The New York Observer about my run-ins with insufferably arrogant Starbucks manager-types (I’d always gotten along well with the individual baristas who have to suffer under them).

One of those run-ins had actually gotten me banned from my local Starbucks. I had sought to return a pound bag of really stale tasting beans and instead of complying with their slogan of the moment “Just say yes!”, the manager said he’d have to check the expiration date “codes” in his “back office”.

I said I didn’t care what the “codes” said, it wouldn’t change the stale taste. But when he insisted that if the “codes” showed the coffee had not passed its expiration date then i would have to be satisfied. I wasn’t satisfied as I m made clear somewhat emphatically, and the preening manager, drunk with his pathetic little corporate power literally told me I was “banned” from his store.

After I spent some time on the phone with Starbucks p.r. i succeeded in getting the “ban” reversed and the regional manager made a special trip to the branch to formally “re-instate” me. A triumphal moment I compared (jokingly) to the final scene of the first Star Wars. Subsequently Starbucks abandoned their use of expiration date “codes” and began printing clear month day and year expiration dates on their bags of beans.

Anyway one rarely gets such satisfaction from retail rage, so I chilled and just drank my coffee.

But just the other day yes the very day they chose to play the new Paul McCartney album non stop all day long, I noticed an off taste in my favorite drink, the variation on cafe au lait they call a “misto”. (It’s not on the menu but it’s regular coffee topped with steamed milk). Same thing next day, only this time when I asked as usual for “whole milk, no foam”‘ in my misto they told me whole milk would no longer be an option at all times because Starbucks was experimenting with changing over to 2% lowfat milk as their “default” milk choice.

In fact one of the baristas said they now only ordered a single gallon of whole milk a day and that when it ran out (as it would fairly early at a busy 18 hour venue) it was tough luck, 2% or nothing.

Now I have nothing against 2% milk; I often drink it at home. But when 2% milk is steamed and added to coffee it gives it a flat, burned-milk taste. If I want to be put on a low-fat diet I’ll go to a professional nutritionist. I don’t need Starbucks adjusting my diet for alleged “health” reasons. I mean if it’s health they’re trying to show concern for why do they serve all those hideous-tasting sugary pastries? Why not nothing but raw vegetables?

The Starbucks p.r. person I reached told me it was just something they were testing in certain areas, although clearly they hoped they could make it work nationwide. He also said that it was a mistake on the part of my local Starbucks manager to fail to order enough whole milk (i.e. more than one gallon) to make it an option all day long and that he would inquire about correcting this. (I’ll keep tabs on whether in fact they do). But I suspect that more and more often there will only be the “default” option available as pressure grows to adopt the 2% solution. It’s de-fault, so to speak, of the moronic nutrition-nazi spirit abroad in the land playing into a fear of pleasure, a fear of food, a fear of the richness of life.

I am calling on all Starbucks customers who are used to whole milk to resist this insidious creeping nannyism, rise up, rebel, and tell their store managers how much you resent them trying to impoverish your life and deprive your coffee of its richness with their 2% “default option”.

If they want to live a 2% life go ahead, just don’t impose it on me and my cup of coffee.

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