Wednesday 9 May 2012

litter on the breeze....

This morning, my erstwhile office neighbour – he moved desks today – forwarded me a link to a blog post on Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website. In the blog, Lewis talks about the new Starbucks policy of writing each customer’s name on their cup of coffee. Needless to say, he’s not a fan:

The whole thing has the sense of a well meaning corporatist sentiment gone wrong. There are many wonderful friendly small coffee shops where they actually do know your name – Starbucks isn’t one – and this is a mechanistic attempt to be friendly. Sure if you go in regularly and get to know the staff, great, but when popping in do we need this. Some may like it, and if so fab, but it’s the carte blanche nature that’s not for me”.

He dislikes it so much that – taking inspiration from Blackadder- he’s encouraging his readers, male or female, to tell Starbucks that their name is “Bob”. 

Well, that'll teach'em.

GJ sent me the link because he read it and thought it was the kind of thing that I might write, which was very nice of him (particularly as he also said that he thought I would have written it better).  I don’t actually really have a view on Starbucks writing their customers' names on their cups, mostly because I don’t really buy coffee in Starbucks (except occasionally from the outlet at work, which doesn’t count and doesn’t do it anyway… one of the girls there doesn’t call me by my name, but she does call me by the name of my football team. Being hailed as “Wolves” across a busy coffee queue in the office tends to confuse people, I’ve found…but I digress).

To be honest, now I’ve thought about it a bit, I suppose I’m inclined not to be so cynical. You could choose to think of it as a mechanistic attempt to be friendly, I suppose, and perhaps it is…. But at least it is an attempt to be friendly. So many other things are faceless and impersonal, perhaps they’re just trying to offer a warmer face to their customers. Yeah, it would be great if they knew your name already, but if they don’t, then isn’t there a chance that this will help. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use your own name, do you?  I suppose that's where "Bob" comes into the equation.

Coincidentally, this policy had also came to mind in Sainsburys on Sunday: I was pushing my trolley around doing the weekly shop when I came across a Starbucks cup discarded on the floor, the remains of what looked like a latte spilling out sadly- and conveniently - into the cleaning products aisle. There’s a Starbucks implant in the store, so it’s pretty common to see people slurping on a bucket of coffee as they make their way around the store, but surely it’s not too much to ask that they drop their carton into a bin, even if that perhaps means carrying the empty around in their trolley for a bit? Most people seem to manage it alright.

There was a name on the cup, and I was sorely tempted to pick it up, run round to customer services and ask them to put a tannoy out for the person named on the cup to ask them to reclaim their lost property.

I didn’t though. Nor did I look too closely at the name on the cup. Perhaps it was “Bob”.

....Martin Lewis is, after all, a renowned litter bug.


A quick word for GJ here: we only sat together for a couple of years in all, but I’m going to miss him like the deserts miss the rain. He’s only 50m up the office, but it’s going to be that crucial bit harder to chew the cud about random shiz like the Plantagenets, Rizzle Kicks, the exact amount of gluten in a fat free cake or our shared relegation from the Premier League (he’s a Blackburn fan). Oh, sure... he can be as annoying as hell (and you should hear him eating), but I'm sure he'd say much the same things about me.  Well, except for the eating part.  I eat more silently than a ninja.

Now I’ll have to wander up the office for career advice and prescription strength analgesics…. Tsk. 

My working life just got a little bit more boring.


  1. In NYC it depends on the outlet and how busy it is - the more busy, the more likely they are to write your name on the cup. I've never seen it as "being friendly" and more as "we have five double shot mochaccinos with triple whipped cream and caramel orders and who gets which"...

  2. I know I'm a bit late commenting here, but then, I decided to take a stroll through your "my brilliant career" posts to amuse myself before I headed off to mine...

    I love the name thing at starbucks, or any other place for that matter. I like to mess with people, and honestly, I started doing this as a result of a customer of mine. I had a group of Red Hat Ladies (in case you're not familiar- a group of old women who wear purple and red and big feathered and spangled hats and get together to do I don't know what. I know they pay dues...) Any street...I had a group of 20 of them one day and there were 5 women called Mary in the group. When I got to number five and asked her name, which I do to keep checks strait- she told me Matilda.

    I told her I liked that name and she laughed and told me she was actually called Mary. But she gives out Matilda because "no one is called Matilda" and she gets sick of going to starbucks and them calling Mary and five women going to the counter. It was a fair point. Since I have a fairly common name I started using Matilda as my name in restaurants. It works. We always know its me.

    The upshot of all of this is that my friends started doing it too. Sakura always uses the names of literary characters. I almost died laughing when he told me one day he went to starbucks and gave his name as Lord Voldemort. The barista went to call his name thusly "Lord- He Who Must Not Be Named?" He said the entire place went up with giggles. Whether this proves you can make a corporate no-face place like starbucks fun, or whether its only proof that baristas can have personality, I thought I'd share it with you, because it made me smile.