The 90s had Cheers-style bars where everyone knew your name. The 2000s have Starbucks where everyone knows your Venti No Foam No Whip Double Mocha Skim Frappuccino.
How did Bucks convince America that happy hour should be wired, not wasted, and that they have a Macchiato deficiency that requires five dollars and 500 calories a day to treat? Are the sleeping pills Ambien and Lunesta lucky beneficiaries or was some kind of quid pro quo arranged?
Power Apron Jobs
In the 90s "power apron" jobs like Starbucks and Kinkos were hot because they offered health coverage and tuition reimbursement. Unlike bar jobs, you didn't have to sweep up cigarette butts and worse. But six months after a Bucks tour, most baristas say "espresso drunks" are worse than their tavern counterparts because they don't tip, get mellow, leave change on the counter or know any Irishman jokes. Worse, if baristas are short-tempered with them, they will remember the next day.
Who would have thought in the days of Mr. Coffee makers and taking the thermos to work, that one day people would drink an entire pint of coffee at one sitting? Without suffering an arrhythmia? From "tall" which means small, to "grande" which is an actual pint (see brandy, motor oil, I.V.s), no one can accuse Starbucks of under-serving patrons. Meanwhile, patrons ask for "room" in the cup but not in their stomach.
Driving While Cranked
Is it a coincidence that road rage debuted at the same time as 300 mg caffeine drinks? Maybe instead of Hang Up and Drive, bumper stickers should say Detox and Drive. Not only do today's Cherokees, Navigators and Pathfinders have a place for you to set your Venti No Foam No Whip Double Mocha Skim Frappuccino (while you're talking on your cell) -- Starbucks have a place for the Cherokees, Navigators and Pathfinders! Just follow the fumes you see as they idle at drive-through Starbucks, under a toxic plume.
No Kids; No Gray Hair
Starbucks has been accused of gentrifying because the very young or very old are conspicuously absent. Kids are absent because they don't drink coffee (hopefully), their parents would be in deep doo-doo if they broke the $229 ceramic coffee bean grinder and, with three tables, where are you going put the stroller? Seniors are absent because which budget does the $7.50 for a pastry and drink come out of -- food or gas?
Loitering With No Intent To Buy
At first Starbucks welcomed laptoppers glued to YouTube or editing their friends list. They made the coffee shops look full and cool. But after a while, cyber squatters -- who used as much electricity as they spent on their Ethiopian blend and never seemed to have anywhere (non-virtual) to go -- began to affect the bottom line. Worse, their lack of a life was accentuated when they would schedule job interviews in their Starbucks' "office" and declare that they want to "utilize" their communication skills while other patrons try not to laugh.
The Pause that Fattens
Because of the caffeine, sugar and java jolt, many think of Starbucks as a fitness aid and have a coffee drink before, during or after their workout. But at 200 to 600 calories -- not counting the scone -- the "energy" a Bucks beverage imparts doesn't work off its own calories, even after a hour on the treadmill. Plus you will end up addicted to the gym -- and Starbucks.
Martha Rosenberg's first book, tentatively titled Born with a Fritos Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, will be published by Prometheus Books next year.