Cafe Witness

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Just When You Thought Starbucks WASN'T the Devil...

When we're not stumping for the indie cofffee shops in town, Ann and I occcasionally frequent the Starbucks in Squirrel Hill (Forbes & Shady). She likes the drinks, I like the atmosphere. One thing Starbucks tends to do well is create an inviting atmosphere that encourages a wandering mind, and the related inspirations that come with dark wood, cushy chairs and smooth jazz.

After today, I believe I'll be choosing a new Starbucks outpost.

Why? One word: baristas.

There were two girls working at this location (actually three, but one seemed to be out of the loop most of the time), and they had nary a positive word to say about anything. Normally I can handle a healthy dose of cynicism -- hello, mirror -- but only when it's directed at people's own woebegone lives, or politics, or theology, or anything else worth bitching about.

Not at the customers.

Ladies, here's an open letter: I know your job sucks. You know your job sucks. It's a job; by definition, it almost always sucks.

What I, one of many customers, does not need to hear while sitting in your establishment is what you snidely have to say about nearly every other customer who walks out the door. I'm well aware that people can be ignorant; I worked in retail for too many years myself. But insulting people based upon mental illness, race, nationality, speech impediments, or forgetting to turn your goddamn chairs around when they leave does nothing to endear you to me as benevolent arbiters of multicultural celebration.

It makes you look small-minded and ignorant, and reminds me that I can probably find more tolerance, better conversation and a mocha that doesn't taste like chalk at the independent cafe down the street.

Dark wood and smooth jazz be damned.

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  • Stick with Victoria and the Big Red A.
    That's what I say :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:23 AM  

  • great post, Justin. What you are showing is that if you are going to create a sense of community or something inviting, it cannot be just the facade. SB is trying to create a sense of welcome and they create the sense well. But if you can't drill down and find inviting all the way through, then just build an image of snarky--and there will be a clientele for that, too.

    By Blogger Jon, at 8:50 AM  

  • I've never been a fan of that particular Starbucks. If you're in Squirrel Hill, head for the Coffee Tree - it's not quite as comfy, but you can have an intelligent conversation with the baristas - in my mind, the mark of a truly inviting coffeeshop. It doesn't try to look like a welcoming place - it just is, and people keep coming back because of it...

    By Anonymous Sarah Deutsch, at 10:39 AM  

  • Now, PortWood or DoubleWood, vs. dark wood...that'd make the jazz and jabber doable...but they don't even sell Starbucks coffee liqueur at a coffee shop, let along a wee dram o' Balvenie. :-)


    By Blogger Alex Landefeld, at 2:04 PM  

  • Corporate coffee houses leave a bitter taste in my mouth. They are just like McDonalds and Wal-Mart. It's about the money and 'Shady tree coffee beans'. Try local shops and bring your own jazz.

    By Blogger longjonblu, at 12:18 PM  

  • I found your blog when I was browsing for something else. Hey, I know, Starbucks is the devil. Believe me, I work there. But if you are just dying for some of that atmosphere and your white chocolate mocha or whatever, don't give up on the OTHER starbucks in Squirrel Hill. Down by the BP gas station. We're renowned for being one of the friendlier in Pittsburgh, and most of us MEAN IT.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:43 PM  

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