My summer after my senior year, before going to college, I worked at Starbucks. It was my first real job with a paycheck. I was offered the job at my interview and I accepted right away. I worked with really cool people and my manager was nice and respected.
We had a lot of regulars. There was the woman in the horse sweater who would always remember that I was going to be going to college in Vermont (she came first thing in the morning). There was the trainer from LA Fitness who ordered a double espresso. There was the woman who owned the spa upstairs. She was a little obnoxious. There was Alfred – an old man who came twice a day, always carrying a shopping bag and often an umbrella (it rains every afternoon without fail during the summer in Miami) and got a tall, one pump vanilla, one pump classic, dry cappuccino. It was just called ‘the Alfred’. There was Corey and his Lady Friend who were med students at UM. They ordered iced venti Americanos (sometimes not iced) and studied at our counter. There was Eric, our freelance writer who spent his days waiting to get a call from his agent that his book was going to be published. Otherwise, he traded geeky facts with me and I spent my breaks sitting outside with him, where he would be every afternoon reading, wearing very large, impenetrable headphones.
Maybe they brainwashed me, but I don’t think I’m easily brainwashed. I think I just got lucky. Having such a good experience, you can see why it upsets me when people are like “Starbucks is evil!” or “Their coffee is awful!” Let’s not generalize now. Maybe YOUR Starbucks is awful. And maybe YOU just don’t like their coffee. In reality, they’re a pretty good company when you compare them to others out there. They do a lot for the agricultural communities where their coffee comes from. They do their best to have Fair Trade and Organic available. They give part time employees full benefits. That’s huge. Like really huge. Big points for the Bux.
Shit, I miss being tan like I was that summer…But anyway, I digress.
I’ll admit it bothers me that there is a Starbucks on every corner. I think the drive-thrus were not the best choice. Sure, you’ll feed addictions of the masses faster and easier, but that’s not what it’s about. What Starbucks wanted to be was the “3rd Place”. Not home, or work, but somewhere in between. There was a Starbucks within walking distance from my high school. There was this group of kids who always went there to smoke after school. And the bratty girls who went and ordered their frappuccinos. Or some of us even met there in the evening to do math homework. It had its own community. My best friend was known by all of the baristas. I’m glad someone recognized Starbucks moving away from being part of the community, and I’m glad Schultz is at least attempting to get back to that.
Also, we can thank Starbucks for introducing the general public to the taste of coffee. Small, local shops flourish now when they wouldn’t have before. I really learned a lot from working at Starbucks. About coffee, about people, about how easy it was to chat someone into taking one of the samples, about how you can know SO much and SO little about someone at the same time. So, please, don’t bash on Starbucks, unless you’re being specific and you can back it up.
And also, please don’t order frappuccinos. For the love of your Barista, don’t order Frappuccinos. They suck to make. Very boring. And I’m telling you, they’re not worth the calories. (Note: I have not ordered a Frappuccino since I worked at Starbucks, unless one of my former co-workers offered to make it for me.)