Monday, July 27, 2009

The Starbucks syndrome

I once read in a magazine article that there were 20,000 ways of ordering beverages in a starbucks. And this was in 2006. I didn’t roll my eyes on that one, neither did I think that the article was being dishonest. Well, the world does have a lot of weird stuff happening, I just added this to that list. But you know that corner of your mind where the most useless of information resides, this factoid found its way there. So, ever since then, each time I visit a Starbucks I somehow keep track of an imaginary number of how many different types of drinks I’ve had there, with the hope that some day Ill be able to verify the validity of that factoid. (If there was a show on the Travel channel called “The ultimate useless pursuits”, I’m sure this would be one.)

Which brings me to the real question of the day, how bad a starbucks fan do you have to be to get close to that number? But to answer that would be to accept that there does exist this group of people (and some dogs) who like being called the ultimate Starbucks “fan”.

Now you see them all over the place (an easier group to spot as compared to Smokers, Boy Band fans, Scientologists and probably all three combined) From my empirical calculations they usually fall in 3 categories (for lack of a better grouping system),

1. Tall (includes short people)

2. Grande (no, doesn’t come with a blowhorn)

3. Venti (the people I’d bank on for the magic 20K number)

So lets start with the “Tall” ones. Most of them confess to liking the place but not being overly obsessed with brand loyalty, give them a “Peet’s” and they’ll do just fine. Many in this group would just wander into a Starbucks, know the three types of coffee--usually a Tall Cappucino, Tall Café Latte ( not just latte) and a Venti Regular coffee with room for cream and sugar (never quite knew the point of this, its like making your own pizza) and maybe every once in a while a Chai Latte. (They at times order a tea and are left wide-eyed when handed a cup of hot water and a bag) Take them to Pete’s and they will need sometime to recalibrate to the sizes but usually manage to get the drink of their choice without a lot of fuss. I don’t think I’d bet on them to get anywhere near 20 different types of drinks, forget 20,000.

The “Grande” ones, well, a little more well versed with the beverages they know would turn some heads. More open to experimenting with the sizes of their lattes, might order a coffee cake once in a while and will reluctantly enter a “Pete’s” if they cant find a Starbucks in the mall (really?) A few of them would graduate to the ultimate “Venti” club provided they already spend more on coffee and the likes than say bread and milk at home. (Usually people with no kids, or if they do have kids, love their coffee more than their kids)

And then we finally have the Ultimate group, the “Venti”s . These brave warriors swear by the brand like the three 50 yr olds I saw dancing at a Floyd cover concert ( that’s a separate discussion) They own paraphernalia of all sorts from mugs to the grinder, have visited the first Starbucks store in Seattle like it was a holy shrine, have a Starbucks Duetto credit card and think they belong to an entitled club when they buy free coffee using starbucks points ( only to later realize the APR rates on those cards are twice as high as the rest of the cards and that they could have bought four additional drinks if they just paid with cash; American dream?) They would also have a flavor combination list, their drinks would have more than 3 requirements (skim milk, extra hot, vanilla flavored….) and they would prefer to study, hold business meetings, lunches, dates (and even some weddings) at their local Starbucks rather than any other place that would be more appropriate. They know that Tuesdays offer a wonderful free download of “1” song ( that noone has heard of) on Itunes, heck they even buy water there. Now that’s the group I bank on to get to that magic number.

The problem with this final group (like any other fan club) is that they graduate in search of more authentic coffee places either because they have to wait in line while the Talls and the Grandes figure out what they want ( they should have a separate line for frequent drinkers) or they go all crazy in the head ( maybe from all the caffeine they’ve been drinking) and join the Anti-Corporate America club and start hating anything that’s “Too Big” (Microsoft anyone?)

Supernovas do tend to burn out, but the big question here is, do they burn out after 20,000.

That’s what I’d like to know.

P.S. Isnt that a lot of drinks to consume over a lifetime? Is anyone keeping count of how many café drinks a normal coffee drinker (No Venti/Grande) has over a lifetime? I’d like to read that in an article someday.

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