January 18th, 2020
I really do hate Starbucks. By most standards, I shouldn’t feel that way. The employees at the coffee shop are generally efficient and courteous. They take their jobs seriously and they perform their duties well. The product they sell is of a uniformly excellent quality. The establishment is clean and well-organized. There is nothing that is unexpected.
It still sucks.
Why do I say this? I say this because the environment at Starbucks is fake and totally corporate. Case in point:
I went into a Starbucks this afternoon, against my better judgment, and I ordered a black coffee in a mug. The young woman, who like everyone else in the store wore a headset, asked if she needed a special code to give me a coffee in a ceramic mug, as opposed to a disposable paper cup.
I said to her, “I have no idea.”
She looked at me in confusion, and then she said, “Oh, I was asking one of the other employees.”
That turned me off immediately.
The woman took my money and told me that my coffee would come up shortly. How hard is it to pour a cup of coffee? Why couldn’t she just do it?
Eventually, she gave me my coffee (black, like my mood). She seemed oddly distracted. I asked her,
“Does everybody here wear a headset?”
She replied, “Oh yes. Otherwise, we would have to yell to each other, and we aren’t supposed to do that.”
I told her, “That sounds pretty Black Mirror.”
She walked away, listening to somebody on her headset.
Sure. Cool. Why act like humans?
I like coffee shops. Truly, I do.
There are some local coffee shops that act independently. Mocha Lisa in Racine is one of them. Brewed Cafe on Brady Street rocks. There is the Bluemels Cafe in Greenfield. The Fuel Cafe in Riverwest also qualifies. I love those places. They each have a peculiar ambiance, and they are fertile ground for meeting interesting people. All of them have an artistic vibe, and they all seem open to whoever and whatever walks through the door. However, (and this is a plus) each coffee shop has a particular feel, something unique. This is the problem with Starbucks. Every Starbucks is like every other Starbucks. A Starbucks as unique as a Walmart, which means it isn’t unique at all.
I like the Fuel Cafe a lot. It is a rough and tumble kind of place. Many of the patrons go there because they are in recovery of some kind, and caffeine and/or nicotine are the last acceptable addictions available to them. It is also a biker bar of sorts, alcohol-free for the most part. The clientele is eclectic. Lots of trans folks. Lots of all sorts of people.
The people working at Fuel are a bit odd. What am I really saying? They are no more odd than I am. In any case, they have a bit more freedom than the slaves at Starbucks. For instance, they get to pick the music that is played in the shop. This may not seem to be a big deal, but it is to me. They play whatever they want, and, by God, it is sometimes breath-taking. I love going to Fuel just to listen to the music. It’s worth it.
It is also like that at the Brewed Cafe. The atmosphere is open and eclectic and decidedly weird. It is all strange in a good way. The cafe is a place where anything can happen. God bless it for that. Starbucks is not like the Brewed. It can never be.
I have to go to coffee shops to meet with Muslim friends. That is just how it works. They don’t usually want to go to bars. Often we end up at Starbucks. I wish it were not so. I would prefer to meet with my friends in a place that did not reek of greed and oppression. Maybe Fuel some time.
Maybe next time.