...they're way too expensive, you gotta make it yourself -- it's very inconvenient. I love Dunkin Donuts, they always make it right -- you go to Starbucks, you gotta make it yourself. I feel like it's a yuppieville, urban, like -- it's just not for me. ANd I don't like the coffee, it's way too strong. It's just not for me, Hon.In sync with Ms. Shay is one of the most erudite of academics, the always argumentative Stanley Fish, who complained in the Times in 2007 that Starbucks confronted the customer with a "coordination problem" akin to the challenges faced by a general deploying an armed force. The struggle climaxes in the combat of the condiments table:
But then your real problems begin when you turn, holding your prize, and make your way to where the accessories — things you put in, on and around your coffee — are to be found. There is a staggering array of them, and the order of their placement seems random in relation to the order of your needs. There is no “right” place to start, so you lunge after one thing and then after another with awkward reaches.Fish also expresses a retro version of Ms. Shay's "they always make it right" (and her complaint that Starbucks is "urban, like"):
Unfortunately, two or three other people are doing the same thing, and each is doing it in a different sequence. So there is an endless round of “excuse me,” “no, excuse me,” as if you were in an old Steve Martin routine.
But no amount of politeness and care is enough. After all, there are so many items to reach for — lids, cup jackets, straws, napkins, stirrers, milk, half and half, water, sugar, Splenda, the wastepaper basket, spoons. You and your companions may strive for a ballet of courtesy, but what you end up performing is more like bumper cars. It’s just a question of what will happen first — getting what you want or spilling the coffee you are trying to balance in one hand on the guy reaching over you.
It used to be that when you wanted a cup of coffee you went into a nondescript place fitted out largely in linoleum, Formica and neon, sat down at a counter, and, in response to a brisk “What’ll you have, dear?” said, “Coffee and a cheese Danish.” Twenty seconds later, tops, they arrived, just as you were settling into the sports page.Oh, and re her "way too expensive"...
Now it’s all wood or concrete floors, lots of earth tones, soft, high-style lighting, open barrels of coffee beans, folk-rock and indie music, photographs of urban landscapes, and copies of The Onion.
And two things add to your pain and trouble. First, it costs a lot, $3 and up. And worst of all, what you’re paying for is the privilege of doing the work that should be done by those who take your money. The coffee shop experience is just one instance of the growing practice of shifting the burden of labor to the consumer — gas stations, grocery and drug stores, bagel shops (why should I put on my own cream cheese?), airline check-ins, parking lots.When I first read that Fish piece, I thought it kind of curmudgeonly. But it's often recurred in memory as I potschke at self-service counters with cream, stirrer, etc. And I'm on board with both of them about Starbucks, which I find claustrophobic, cold, dark and hard (though I do like the coffee). I walk by, peer at the lines and people perched on high stools, and walk on. In fact, I'm with Fish on just about every complaint he voiced.
Oh, and when I do on rare occasion end up in a Starbucks, I generally tap an option I read about long ago, probably in the pre-Murdoch Journal, and ask for a small. Even though it's not on the menu. And I get it!