Tag Archives: starbucks

Lame Adventure 222: The Rejection of Strangers

Strangers entering and exiting the 72nd Street Subway station on Stranger's Day.

If you happened to read Lame Adventure 221, you’re aware that this past Wednesday was the inaugural Stranger’s Day celebration, and I embraced this brand new commemoration with a degree of gusto more commonly reserved for participating in a holy war.  It never occurred to me that while holding a Stranger’s Day greeting card in my paw and politely asking fellow subway riders if they are familiar with The New Yorker, the cartoonist Roz Chast, or if they’d now like a Stranger’s Day card, some would look at me like I was harassing them.  The thought bubble above my head said one word:

My thought bubble:  Yikes!

One woman in her early thirties seemed petrified, so much so that she scared me.  I discussed her with my sidekick, Greg.

Me:  What do you think that was about?

Greg pondered the question.

Greg:  Could she have suffered a flashback to a time when she was brutally raped by a woman that looks just like you, dresses just like you, and was holding a weapon that looked just like a greeting card?

Of the five people I found the nerve to approach on the subway train, three rejected me – the aforementioned woman that literally ran, another woman who looked at me as if I had grown a second head, but the Wall Street businessman in the pink power tie was gracious.  He simply said, “No thanks.”

Of the two people that listened to my pitch and accepted cards, one was a woman around my age (over 40 under death), and a guy in Greg’s 18-34 demographic.  She seemed charmed by the idea and he said, “Thank you.”

Personalized Stranger's Day greeting card note or rantings of a mad woman?

I arrived at work dragging my feet for I was still carrying one card that now seemed as heavy as a boulder.  I conferred with Milton about strategy in an email exchange.

Me: Wow, giving three Stranger’s Day cards out on the commute in is much easier said than done.  Plus I didn’t see anyone reading The New Yorker this morning.  Joy.  Maybe everyone is boycotting it because they’re so horrified by Stranger’s Day?

Milton (donning his Mr. Succinct chapeau): On the subway, people are on their guard for criminals.

We decided I should hand out the last card at Starbuck’s.  I selected the one in the Barnes and Noble at Warren and Greenwich Streets in TriBeCa, primarily because everyone in there is reading so I was confident that whoever I focused on also knows how to write.  I zeroed in on a guy around Greg’s age scrolling through Craigslist postings on a MacBook.  He did not seem scary at all, nor was he and he did not seem to mind accepting that third card.  I left thinking:

Me:  Okay, he’s sitting at a computer in a place with WiFi.  He was willing to accept the card.  I can’t expect any more from him than if he asked me to write his comment on my site for him myself.  Hm, should I have suggested that?

What I have concluded from this experience is that Stranger’s Day is rather strange indeed since it appears that 99.9% of the populace has no idea what it is and they’d prefer not to know more about it.  A more appropriate name to some might be if it were called, “Don’t Approach Me Day.”   Yet, if I had to do it all over again, would I?

Hell no!

Hey, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.  I might be a bit off my rocker, but I’m definitely not a candidate for a strait jacket … yet.  Still, it was worth trying once, but now I’ll gladly hand the Stranger’s Day baton back to its creator, Roz Chast … hopefully she’ll accept that from me.

Lame Adventure 185: Starbucks is Watching Me

Last week I had my 364th birthday in dog years.  When I was a teenager, I never thought I’d last much beyond 280 dog years, but now that I’m showing signs of being yet another member of the boomer generation that has failed to die before getting old, I’m not complaining … much.  Everyone nearest and dearest, has showered me with attention, texts, cards, email, phone calls, food, cake, theater, and enough alcohol for outpatient reconstructive liver surgery.

My chief complaint is with Starbucks.


In general, this coffee conglomerate annoys me primarily because they treat my beverage of choice, tea, like the poor relation that drools and signs her name with a thumb print, but specifically it started back on April 20th, fourteen days before my birthday proper when I received an email that said:

The day before my birthday, it occurred to me that I had yet to receive my “Many Happy Sips” postcard, so I emailed Starbucks:

“On April 20th you sent me an email claiming the following: “You know we’d never miss your birthday. And to make it extra happy, we’d like to buy you a drink. Look out for your Free Birthday Drink Postcard winging its way to you in the mail – and dream up all kinds of delicious and exotic drinks you’d like to try. It should arrive in the next 10 days!”  Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’ve yet to receive my free birthday drink postcard. Am I out of luck?”

The next day, Matt M in Customer Relations responded:

“I checked your account and found that a postcard was not mailed because your date of birth was not included with the personal information provided. To add this information for future reference, please sign in to your account on our website. After you select the “Manage My Account” option, you will see the “Personal Info” page displayed. From there, select the option to add your birth date. Please note this information cannot be changed after it is entered. Once entered, click on the “Save My Changes” key.

In the meantime, I am sending you a birthday postcard which should arrive at the address specified on your account within the next 7-10 business days.

If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know.

Warm Regards,

Matt M”

The process of revising my account page sounded exhausting, so I did nothing, but I did email Matt back:

“Thanks Matt.  How did Starbucks know my birthday was coming if that info was not included on my “Personal Info” page?  Kinda Orwellian from my perspective.”

Matt did not respond.  Instead, exactly nine hours later, I heard from Tracy W, also a member of customer relations, who ignored my question and contradicted Matt.  She also assumed that my first name is the same as the first word in my email address:

“Hello Lame,

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

I am sorry to hear that you did not receive your birthday beverage postcard.  I show that your card was sent on April 20, 2011.  I will be more than happy to send you a free beverage coupon.  Please allow 7-10 business days for you to receive this in the mail.

Also I noticed an error on your loyalty rewards and to fix it I made you a gold level member.  Please [allow] 6-8 weeks for you to receive this in the mail.

If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know.

Warm Regards,

Tracy W”

Evasion tactic

Then, she did something to affix Starbucks all watching eye to my Gmail.  I have since blocked them.

Last Friday I received my free birthday beverage coupon presumably from Matt and today, a letter from Tracy, apologizing “for the experience you brought to my attention” with two more beverage coupons.

Birthday postcard from Matt M.

Letter From Tracy W wth two free beverage coupons.

I suppose if I continue to ask how they knew about my birthday (including the exact year I was hatched and where – 7,349 miles away from Tehran – what’s next the name of Doctor Aloysius Clapthumb, the obstetrician that delivered me?) since I never revealed any of this information myself, they will continue to ignore my question and the free coupons will continue to roll in by the truckload.  Tempting … On the other hand, three free drinks are two too many to this tea drinker, since all I wanted was my free birthday beverage and an explanation about how they know so much more about me than I volunteered.

Lame Adventure 152: Hurry up and wait

“Futurists have long predicted that one day, shoppers will swipe cellphones instead of credit cards to make purchases. At Starbucks stores nationwide, that is about to become a reality … “We’re providing them with the fastest way to pay,” Brady Brewer, vice president for the Starbucks card and brand loyalty, said in a statement.”

The New York Times, Buy a Latte by Waving Your Phone

For the past few years, my brother, Axel, has given me a $20 Starbucks gift card for Christmas.  This Christmas, my sister, Dovima, also gave me a $20 Starbucks gift card.  Add this $40 in Starbucks gift cards to the $3.59 unused portion of the Starbucks gift card I received from Axel in 2009, and it becomes apparent that I am either Mormon or a lifelong tea drinker.

$43.59 Starbucks gift card collection.

In actuality I am a tea-loving atheist, and tea is not Starbucks’ signature beverage.  In fact, Starbucks hot tea tastes rather anemic to me, but that could have been due to it being so hot, I scalded both my tongue and esophagus with such severity I lost my ability to distinguish flavor for three days.

Before my lactose intolerance started registering on the Richter scale, I guzzled many a Frappuccino as well as an occasional latte, but my all-time favorite Starbucks’ beverage was their peppermint hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate.  According to my gastroenterologist, this combination of milk, chocolate, and peppermint is the perfect Bermuda Triangle for someone with guts as fragile as mine, so I’ve quit the Frappuccinos and lattes.  Now, when I think of it, I order the less lethal soy hot chocolate, but since I still have $43.59 in Starbucks gift card credit, this idea has yet to catapult to the forefront of my thoughts.

As for Starbucks new lightning fast pay via smart phone technology that launches today, that’s a great rush hour gimick.  Every time I visit any Starbucks in Manhattan, it’s during the off-peak period so waiting an eternity to pay is not an issue.  What remains an issue is the indecisive customers ahead of me or the barista that transparently hates his or her job.  Both are institutions that remain intact.

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday night, Milton and I went to a Starbucks on Columbus Avenue.  There were only a few customers ahead of us, and they knew what they wanted.  The person working the register efficiently swiped my gift card.  The problem was the lackluster barista.  If this guy had been a car, he would have been a Yugo stuck in second gear – and that was before he mumbled he was out of ice and traveled to Antarctica to replenish the supply.  He disappeared for fifteen minutes.  Since he was the only one making drinks, there were easily a dozen customers waiting for him to return.

Considering that it was 17-degrees and there was a mountain of snow outside, possibly this was the barista’s way of delivering a statement to the icy beverage buyer, a bubbly young woman who weighed about as much as my thumb.

My thumb ready for its close up.

Her posse had already downed their hot lattes by the time she was served her iced variation, but she was vacant enough to find this hilarious.  I would have beaten the barista with a tube sock full of ice.  What annoyed me more was when he did not fill our orders back to back.  He first prepared my crummy soy hot chocolate, and then proceeded to make someone else’s coffee drink.  I blurted:

Me:  Where’s my hot chocolate with whipped cream?

Milton was denied his drizzle of chocolate over his whipped cream in response to that outburst, but my brother footed our tab so my friend did not complain.

Since my career overseeing tile labeling merely pays health insurance and a potato, I can only afford a dumb phone, I have a two year supply of Starbucks gift card credit, and I would sooner belly slide naked on hot coals than visit Starbucks at peak hour.  Paying via smart phone does not impact me, but if it did, I don’t see much advantage to paying quickly if the goods are not delivered quicker.  Even if Starbucks employed baristas on speed, there’s no way they’ll ever eliminate the indecisive customer who is standing at the register holding up the line.

If futurists (a modern name for the they say-ers?) are right and a time comes when paying via cash or credit card is rendered obsolete, the wallet will be replaced by the smart phone, laptops by tablet computers, and obesity eliminated by eat-as-much-of-anything-as-you-want-and-stay-thin pills (the biggest pharmaceutical cash cow this side of Viagra), I am sure that subway commuters will still carry bulky bags and backpacks as they sip their Starbucks during rush hour and the steady decline in the quality of life will continue no matter how fast we pay to get caffeinated.