SadButMadLad's Blog

Just another blog complaining about anything and everything

Corporate language

Lynne Rosenthal was “allegedly” kicked out of a Starbucks for “allegedly” being an awkward customer. She asked for a plain bagel and refused to answer a question about butter or cheese in the affirmative. After a bit of an argument, police were allegedly called (the police don’t have a record of this) and she was kicked out. Now while it’s OK for businesses to decide who they want as customers and those who it feels are spoiling other customer’s experience of the business there is more to it than this.

This is a story in a newspaper. And newspaper stories are notoriously unreliable. For instance the case of the child kicked off a bus for wearing an England football tshirt was totally fabricated. As was the story about the women who was kicked off a bus for breastfeeding. The same with many other stories. Newspapers are all about churnalism now a days. All they care about is increasing sales to increase their money (which is normal) and churning out stories without fact checking (which is nor normal). So take the story with a pinch of salt and read between the lines.

“The academic … ordered a plain bagel … but refused to add “without butter and cheese” The key word is plain. In normal English that implies no fancy stuff, on it’s own, normal, unadorned. So just repeating that you want a plain bagel implies no butter or cheese or anything else that might be added to a bagel. Take into account that his was in America where if you ask for a something they will go through umpteen different options, rather than the British way were they expect you to ask for the extras rather than be pestered for them. Also take into account that this is Starbucks where they label a small coffee Tall, a medium Grande, and a large Venti so they do have a corportate langauge that customers need to understand to order there.

If you go back in the history of Starbucks you will find that they originally started off with short and tall which followed the usual English definitions and implied a small and a large. But with American appetites and the need to create a brand image the terms Tall, Grande and Venti (20oz) were brought in. All this to increase the cachet of Starbucks and make it sound exclusive and special and to cover the fact that their coffee is crap*. Now most people will roll over and accept that they have to use these special terms if they frequent a place like Starbucks. But many others aren’t regulars and they will order using what they believe to be universially understood terms. Most servers, if they have much experience, will accept that and inform the customer what the “special codes” mean. But there are exceptions, probably one who had a bad day or new and recently indoctrinated into the Starbucks language, who wouldn’t accept any reply except a corporate language answer.

This is not new news either. People have been pissed off about Starbucks, and other corporates’, langauge since 2001.

“Welcome to Starbucks, how can I help you?”

“I’d like a large dark-roast, please.”

“You mean a Venti?”

*grumble*. Now, I’ve worked retail. It sucks to be messed with. You’re just trying to do your job. Your trainer and/or manager tells you to call it a “Venti (TM)”. I would normally understand, really I would. I’d play your despotic marketing games, normally, and call it a flying plaid pig if it made a deep, nutty-black steaming cup of the mud of life and awakening appear in front of me sooner. But it will not. And I shall not. And it’s Monday morning, and all I want is a large-as-you-have-got cup of raw, hot black coffee. And besides, this is the United States of America, not Italy, and Starbucks started in freakin’ Seattle. Why aren’t they using an Inuit word for a large cup of coffee? OK, sure, Starbucks may use Italian espresso machines, but a Ferrari owner does not a rally racer make, right? (Call a spade a fucking shovel)

“No, I’d like a large, please.”, emphatic emphasis on the “please“.

“I’m sorry,”, (No, you’re not, really, now are you?), “But we have Tall, Grande, and Venti!”, extra perkiness. Extra perkiness solves all problems in retail and customer relations. Also, she’s apparently had her coffee. I feel like I’m approaching a fickle, angry oracle, and I must be supplicant and be bearing offerings to recieve the wisdom of the ether.

“That’s nice. One large dark-roast please, no room for cream or sugar.”, (insert potentially lethal Jedi Stare (TM)). Honey, you do still understand the difference between small, medium, and large, don’t you? Starbucks can’t seriously have a brainwashing program that frighteningly effective, can it? Can it?!)

“We have Tall, Grande…”, she stops midsentence, and likely sees the trapped, caged, wild animal stare in my eyes of an IT cubeslave at 7:45 in the godforsaken morning without his precious coffee, yet, “… a-a large you say?”

“Yes, please, a large dark-roast, no room for cream or sugar, please.”. Victory! My coffee is presented to me, and I immediately feel much better with it’s bitter warmth in my hands, and that I didn’t have to call it by some silly Italian word that likely really means something insulting.

Eventually, the more reliable of the staff got used to it, and never questioned it. I’d ask for a large, and they’d give it to me, no questions asked or marketing flim-flammery foisted upon my weary self. It was a good battle, well fought.

I noticed other regulars began calling it a large as well, and this made it all worth it.

* Personal opinion.

Written by sbml

August 21, 2010 at 13:06

%d bloggers like this: