The Whatever Starbucks Experience

For a long time I had a problem getting a certain drink made just right every week when I went to Starbucks on Fridays to get a drink for Elizabeth in lieu of getting her flowers in honor of the holy Sabbath. That problem seems to be mostly over now, as I have repeated myself enough times that the baristas at the store know the drink well. It has been especially easier since we have started ordering the drink “affogato style.”

What is affogato style? A classic Italian affogato dessert is a scoop of ice cream that has coffee poured over it. Therefore, an affogato style espresso beverage is made in such a way that the espresso is the last thing that is poured. This is part of standard Starbucks language and, last I checked, was still in the Beverage Resource Manual — the bible for making all Starbucks beverages.

We had just spent a long day at the New York City Comic Convention and were trying to sooth a very cranky toddler who just wanted to be home. Elizabeth asked me to order her drink as I usually explained it better — besides, I order it every single week! When the person taking orders asked what I wanted to get, I asked for an Iced Grande Decaf Vanilla Soy Latte, Affogato Style. Indeed this does check most of the boxes on the cup but it is NOT a complicated order.

The person taking our order looked at me as though I had sprouted a second head and said, “What was the last thing you said?” I said that it was to be Affogato style. She did not know what this meant. At this point we should have left and gone to the OTHER Starbucks in Penn Station and it may be that we would have done so if we had no schedule and no train to take home. Elizabeth said that the shot should be last — that was what it meant.

I knew that we had trouble brewing (pun intended) when I saw the barista finishing the drink by putting ice into the cup. I asked if the espresso was the last thing that had been poured into the cup and she said that she had not made the drink but that the cup said that it was meant to be a long shot. She showed me the cup and it had a capital L under the section for “special” drink requests. They had understood that to mean that it was supposed to be a long shot — and in their minds, this meant pulling the shot into the cup and then letting it sit there for a minute or so.

If you have an espresso machine I want you to try this fun little experiment. Pull a shot of espresso and then let it sit for a minute. Now take a sip of that espresso. I will wait while you spit it out into the sink — it is absolutely disgusting. Now imagine that same shot sitting in a plastic cup, the extreme heat of the shot reacting with the chemicals of the plastic. Did they not understand what a disgusting creation they were concocting? How did shots last get mangled into disgusting long shot?

The person finishing and serving drinks at the bar had initially said that the drink was what we had ordered but then backpedaled and said that it was a misunderstanding. I said, “Excuse me, but I would really like for this drink to be remade as we ordered it.” She looked at me, disgusted, and said, “Okay, whatever.”

Really? Really? REALLY? Your crew royally botches our drink and you not only don’t immediately offer to remake it but scoff and speak with a brazen voice when it is requested that you do?

The drink was half-heartedly remade and the serving barista put the drink on the bar and said, “Here’s the drink.” I asked if it was soy, as she had not said what the drink was, and she said that it was. She should have again said that it was an Iced Grande Decaf Vanilla Soy Latte — baristas are meant to call out the drink name they are serving.

I do not feel that this is some kind of new Starbucks trend but something far more menacing — people that get jobs and then, when they get comfortable, stop caring about what they do and just do barely enough to glide by. I know that it is not just a Starbucks thing because I have gotten plenty of good Starbucks service and plenty of bad service in other retail locations despite trying my best to be a good customer — polite and soft spoken, never once returning a “How are you doing today?” greeting with “GIMMEE A…” answer but rather answering and even inquiring back.

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