Starbucks are supposed to be the “third place” — after home and work — where you go to relax and enjoy your life.  Starbucks also sells their service as the place where you can make really specific drink orders and have them fulfilled with glee and not hostile resentment.

Today, I am going to share with you my ongoing and miserable experience with a particular Starbucks store in Midtown Manhattan that just plain out refuses to correctly make my drinks order — even though they’re the ones who taught me precisely how to order my drink!

I am wild about green tea and when I recently discovered Starbucks offers a “minty” green tea, I was thrilled.  I wasn’t thrilled with the mintiness, but sometimes we have to suffer for our green tea magic.

After several starts and stops to get precisely the right ordering process down with the help of the Midtown Starbucks staff over the course of a few visits, I was able to trippingly pronounce my drinks order in under three seconds:  “Two Trenta Iced Green Teas; No Water, Light Ice.”

Unfortunately, my drinks order was rarely exactly filled in just that way — and I was often interrupted right after “Two” — by the staff asking me what size I wanted — even though the size was the next word in my pre-ordered ordering sentence.  I would dramatically stop when asked that question, and re-start my order from the beginning.  It’s rude to interrupt someone, especially when they’re trying to pronounce a script as instructed!

They were often out of green tea and would tell me I had to wait 10 minutes for them to make more.  It only takes me 1-2 minutes to steep green tea in a bag at home, I have no idea why it takes Starbucks ten times longer when they’re using the same teabags.

Often, they were also out of Trenta cups.  Or they added 99% ice instead of “Lite Ice.”  Or they only had enough green tea left to make one drink, not two, and they would “substitute” some sort of awful raspberry tasting herb tea to “max it out.”  Or they added 50% water to the tea, effectively diluting any proper sense of green tea flavonoids.

They would do all these modifications to my order without telling me and they’d do it behind my back when I was paying with my credit card.  I would only find out after the drinks were complete that my order was not made right.

When I started to catch on that they were not reading the order instructions written on that huge Trenta cup, I would quickly pay and then run over the area where they were not making my green tea order to order.  I would try to save everyone time by correcting the barista as my order was in the process of being messed up…

I would ask — “Is that ‘No Water?'” — as my Trenta cups were filled with water.

I would yell — “Is that 99% ice or ‘Lite Ice?'” — as they scooped my empty Trenta cups full of ice.

I would shout — “Is that Black tea or Green Tea?” — as the barista poured two giant Trenta cups full of Black tea.

One time, as one of the managers was filling 25% of a Trenta cup of green tea with 75% ice, and I asked — “Is that Lite Ice?” — and the manager glared at me and started to throw the drink in the sink when I quickly added, “Just take half of that and put it in the other Trenta cup and fill them both with green tea and it will be fine.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, sir,” the manager sneered as he dumped the whole drink down the drain — even though he was usually the main culprit who regularly refused to make my green tea drinks as ordered — only to discover he just threw away the last of the green tea and had to make more.  No tea for you!

I have learned Starbucks does not like iced tea orders.  They rarely have the tea made and even if they have tea made, it is never enough for two light ice Trentas with no water.  Why offer drinks you do not want to make or support?  The hostility from the staff is overwhelming.  Don’t blame me for your tea misery!  I’m only the one paying for it!

19 Comments

  1. Sorry for your shockingly bad experience. You should know that the “right” order of these drinks would be : two iced trenta no water light ice green teas. I wonder why they interrupt you as they are supposed to wait until the customer has finished talking to clarify.

    Is this an experience you have had at many Starbucks stores? When I worked at 23 and Jackson in Seattle I was an expert iced tea maker and never took more than 5 minutes to make it.

    1. Don’t confuse me with revised order ordering! I wrote it down one day when I finally got what actually wanted and it was the order taker who told me exactly what to write. SMILE!

      The interrupting is really annoying. I know there are lots of people in line — but people ordering Half/Caf/Capp/Arugula/Raisin/Caramel/Lattes never seem to get stopped in mid-sentence!

      The people who take my order are usually cool. They’re the ones who helped me figure out “Light Ice” when I would get 99% ice and 1% actual tea. They were the ones who helped me add “No Water” to my order when I was concerned with getting green tea that was the color of water. When I’m lucky, the person who taught me the ordering technique is working the bar and they make it 100% right because they recognize me and remember. So I know what I’m trying to order isn’t that hard to make or out of the ordinary.

      If you run out of tea — why wouldn’t you immediately make more? Why wait until the next order only to discover you’re out of tea? It doesn’t make sense.

      I am so worn out from this whole experience, I haven’t tried this out at any other Starbucks. I much prefer Dunkin’ Donuts as my “third place” now because the people who work there are less snooty and 100% friendlier. I have learned, though, when I order my iced Black tea at Dunkin’ I have to say “little bit of ice” because “light ice” confuses them and sometimes I even have to say, “Ice up to the pink line on the cup” to be even more specific.

      1. I would have to guess that this particular store must not get a lot of iced green tea volume — why make more if they will just throw it out later?

        I have to stick to my order guns because I was taught the why of the order and if you look at the side of a drink cup you will see it too.

        http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/wysiwyg/image/IMG_2391.JPG

        Notice that “custom” comes before “drink” which means that the name of the drink always comes last. Iced always comes first so they know which kind of cup to grab. The person who took down the drink and told you this order was wrong and should be forced to read the Beverage Resource Manual until he or she gets it right. It’s a Starbucks standard!

        1. If you make too much green tea, can’t you put it in a refrigerator to save it for the next day?

          I believe you about the order process, unfortunately, at that store, they don’t read the cup anyway.

          The nasty manager man I deal with had to re-make my order three times one day because the first time he made it with 99% ice, and threw it out. He then made it with 50% water and threw it out. Each time I corrected him he checked the cup — the unspoken threat being that if it wasn’t on the cup, that was the way I ordered it, so he wasn’t going to remake it — the people in line behind me screamed each time he dumped the order because it meant they had to wait longer for their coffe as he restarted mine over and over. It was sort of ridiculous.

          1. David,

            AFAIK the policy at Starbucks is that iced tea has to be thrown out at the end of the day as there’s an ick factor by the next day.

            If I were in your position I would contact the district manager and tell them exactly what happened — Starbucks has an obligation to make your drink right, and by the third time you should have gotten a coupon for a free drink for inconveniencing you so much.

          2. Gordon!

            They don’t seem to have a problem with pouring perfectly good tea down the drain — so why would they care if they made tea in the afternoon and then had to throw it out at the end of the day?

            One day, when my Starbucks nemesis was messing up my order once again, I actually said, “Why don’t you read the order on the cup? You’re a manager here and every single time you made my order wrong. People look up to you and imitate you, and you end up pouring so much good tea down the drain. Why don’t you pay attention?”

            He responded by saying, “Sir, you cannot speak to me. I will have to ask you to leave if you keep it up.”

            Meanwhile, the rest of the line behind me were staring daggers at me because I was delaying the order making process. I did notice the other workers were sort of smiling at me, knowingly, because that manager dude is a loud jerk.

            I sort of gave up on Starbucks. I just started bringing my own green tea from home. I really don’t want to be spun around by a district manager.

        2. In defense of the barista: there’s a ‘pattern’ to order taking, and the tea can’t even think about being made, until one knows what cup it’s going in. After that – it’s up in the air in my mind. I’ve never had a third place. Probably because I do have the Marlboro habit, and few third places welcome that behavior. I suppose my third place is my back yard, 1st and 2nd being work and home, as mentioned.
          I’m enlightened hearing about life in the ‘big city’. Tulsa is fairly good sized, yet doesn’t hold a candle to the Big Apple.

          1. The Starbucks in question has containers of tea pre-made in lots of flavors. I can see it all from where I wait to pick up my order.

            I like your third place, Lillian! There’s a big move away from Starbucks as the perennial third place — and that’s the way Starbucks wants it because they’re removing the couches and the comfort factor and they want their stores more streamlined to move you in and out and on your way ASAP! SMILE!

            I think Panera and Au Bon Pain and Dunkin Donuts are all champing to become the hot, new “third place” in America. My money is on Dunkin.

          2. ah yes. Dunkin’. “Good Morning, may I have a cup of coffee, please?” That’s the ticket. 🙂

          3. I love the 99 cent iced tea Dunkin offers during the Summer. Two years ago our local Dunkin kept that special price all the way to the end of December! It’s a great loss-leader that brings in lots of customers to buy more expensive things… McDonald’s took that PR hint and now offers 99 cent coffee at all times, any size, and that is really smart and explains why that chain is so successful.

  2. The iced tea is made extra concentrated so they will not run out as quickly. By ordering the concentrate straight in such large quantities, it is no wonder they run out.

    They should never be rude to you! But I hope you know they’re not “watering down” the tea by putting water in it. They’re turning concentrate into tea.

    They cannot just put it in the fridge if they don’t run out. Food service standards require that it be tossed after a certain number of hours.

    1. Hi Claire!

      I can tell you the green tea served at the Starbucks in question is in no way concentrated. I watch them make it with five regular teabags in a tall, clear plastic container/pitcher and I have regularly tasted that tea with no water and very little ice and it is still quite a weak brew.

      I’m only ordering what’s offered on the menu. If they run out — is that my problem or theirs to fix?

      I don’t mind the rudeness, really, I sort of find the brittle authoritarianism of it all sort of amusing — but what I really cannot abide is the refusal to read the drink order written on the cup because it is so contemptuous of the customer and it happens almost every time.

      I wish they would refrigerate the tea instead of storing it at room temperature and pre-made in containers sitting on wire shelving — then we wouldn’t need any ice at all with a little bit of refrigeration! SMILE!

      1. You might like the way it tastes in its concentrated state, but I can tell you that made to standard it is a concentrate.

        It is their problem to fix! But I was offering a reason that they may be running out more quickly than anticipated. And it should only take 3-5 minutes to make more, not ten!

        And you’re right, they should read the cup!

        There’s usually not enough room in the fridges, what with all of the frappuccino mix and milk and other stuff they have to keep in there.

        1. Thanks for the info, Claire!

          How does one make concentrated green tea if the tea leaves are being brewed in a bag in hot water? Where is the concentration coming from — by using less brewing water? Or is something dehydrated included in the brewing bag to add concentration?

          1. It is a concentrate because they (are supposed to) use a higher tea to water ratio than one would use if they were going to drink it straight. So yes–by using less brewing water.

          2. At the Starbucks in question, I’ve watched them make it many times. Five teabags in 1/2 a pitcher of hot water. It looks exactly like how I’d make a quart of tea here at home using the instructions on the box.

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