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I'd like a dumb grande wuppy duppy latte, extra hot, please
February 9, 2014 10:43 AM   Subscribe

On Friday, a Starbucks opened in Los Feliz, Los Angeles. There is something a bit "weirdly off-kilter" about this location according to one customer. In particular, everything there, including the store name has the word "dumb" in front. The store is claiming parody-based fair use exemptions to intellectual property law, and so far, the (non-dumb) Starbucks appears not to have responded. In case you want to pick what you want before hand, their menu of dumb drinks is posted on Twitter.
posted by saeculorum (152 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was planning on stopping by there today, if only to say I was able to patronize them before Starbucks' lawyers stormed the place.
posted by mykescipark at 10:46 AM on February 9


Um yeah that's not exactly how fair use works.
posted by gyc at 10:47 AM on February 9 [20 favorites]


Banksy?
posted by cazoo at 10:47 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this isn't what a parody is
posted by yeolcoatl at 10:47 AM on February 9


It is funny though....
posted by Pendragon at 10:49 AM on February 9


Yes, clearly they're Doing It Wrong, but I can't stop laughing about the wuppy duppy latte.
posted by duffell at 10:49 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


The FAQ sheet almost seems like they have an axe to grind with fair use.
posted by anazgnos at 10:50 AM on February 9 [9 favorites]


Sure, but eventually when they do change their name, they'll already have a giant media buzz about it, so they've already bankrolled themselves a ton of free advertising, both now and for when the name change inevitably comes.
posted by LionIndex at 10:50 AM on February 9


Dumb Dumb Starbucks.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:52 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Maybe it is Starbucks themselves creating a little buzz.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:53 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


I'm not so sure there's an "anonymous artist" (Banksy) behind this, it just seems a bit off as an idea. The constant quoting of Weird Al etc sounds like misinformed soundbytes of fair use fans too. Weird Al famously asks permission and doesn't release songs if an artist disagrees with the parody. So using him as an example just seems odd.
posted by dabitch at 10:54 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


A real dumb Starbucks manager creates a stronger buzz than just that though, JohnnyGunn.
posted by ambrosen at 10:54 AM on February 9


Yeah, this isn't what a parody is

What is a parody?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the "our lawyers" mentioned in the FAQ actually exist and have been consulted, or if that's just a turn of phrase.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:57 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Oh now I see why people think there's an artist behind it. The FAQ. Also I believe the lawyers consulted was the Wikipedia.

“Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbusks needs to be categorize as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our “coffee shop” is actually an art gallery and the “coffee” you’re buying is considered the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!”
posted by dabitch at 10:58 AM on February 9


So if someone wanted to parody Dumb Starbucks could they just open up a... Starbucks?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:58 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


This would be in Los Feliz. For a moment there I thought this was gonna be an article about Starbucks taking over Intelligentsia in Silver Lake, and that all the hipsters were freaking out or something over it, but this is okay too.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:58 AM on February 9


This is oddly mesmerising - like watching a car crash in slow motion: I'd pay good money to watch whichever ridiculously priced law firm Actual Starbucks hires to tear them a new one, and I don't even like their cofee-flavored cream products.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:59 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


"I'll have one of those vanilla bullshit things"
posted by avocet at 11:00 AM on February 9 [31 favorites]


I get how this is kind of funny to walk by in Los Feliz, but does everyone in the world need to be talking about this? Seriously, a link to a Wikipedia entry for Los Feliz? Sorry, I'm just pissed at how low the bar is and how readily dumb is rewarded. On other sites more than this one.
posted by phaedon at 11:00 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


That's pretty damn funny. I'd like to think Starbucks's lawyers will respond with appropriate lolz.
posted by cribcage at 11:01 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


even in the year of 2014, in the internet's grand old age, we haven't such proper trolling.
posted by ninjew at 11:04 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


This is a frustrating and, well, dumb attempt to diminish fair use (in doubt? look at the axe-grindy FAQs). I wonder what major media conglomerate is secretly funding this...
posted by c'mon sea legs at 11:09 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


It's totally legal! They cleared it with their dumb lawyer.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:14 AM on February 9 [30 favorites]


I wonder if the "our lawyers" mentioned in the FAQ actually exist and have been consulted, or if that's just a turn of phrase.

I was wondering the same thing, because somebody over there needs to be clued in about the differences between copyright and trademark.
posted by gimli at 11:16 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Whoever is behind this has spent a bit of money setting this up. You've got custom acrylic signs and lightboxes, printed cups, signboards and all equipment and construction costs. Starbucks will have to go after them. You have to defend a trademark to keep it out of the public domain. The parody claims seem to be a stretch. I'm scratching my head at this.
posted by humanfont at 11:17 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


It's an art project.
posted by Miko at 11:19 AM on February 9 [11 favorites]


dabitch: Weird Al famously asks permission and doesn't release songs if an artist disagrees with the parody.
Although:
However, upon first submitting [a parody] to Lady Gaga's manager for approval (which Yankovic does as a courtesy), he was not given permission to release it commercially. As he had previously done under similar circumstances (with his parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful"), Yankovic then released the song for free on the internet.
posted by yz at 11:19 AM on February 9


It doesn't really scan as a real hipsterish art statement and it clearly isn't intended to actually function as a long-term business and probably isn't supposed to be there for more than a few days. And it clearly cost a lot to set up. I figure it must be some super-rich, thin-skinned celebrity who's been the target of parody in the past and feels fair use laws don't go far enough to protect him and wants to point out how 'ridiculous' it all is. If I had to put money on who it was...oh, Don Henley.
posted by anazgnos at 11:21 AM on February 9 [14 favorites]


The menu should be:

* Furker Frosty
* Pumpy Sport Malt
* Ca-Ca Water
* Kill Sauce
* Saturn Blood
* Ghost Semen
* Skunk Marrow
* Stallone Cuts
* Vomer's Comet
* Grape Cracker
* Eggyweg
* Hand Grease

Also:

* Zelig Blood
* Blood Pudding
* Blood Gravy
* Blood Vodka
* Blood Dip
* Angry Puncher Dip
* Blood Lotion
* Grind Inducer
* Asian Seed

etc, etc.
posted by edheil at 11:21 AM on February 9 [9 favorites]


I wonder if the "our lawyers" mentioned in the FAQ actually exist and have been consulted, or if that's just a turn of phrase.

Don't worry, Lionel Hutz watched two episodes of Matlock last night. He's got this.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:22 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


I laughed, and I would patronize them if I lived in Los Feliz and if only they accepted my dumb partner discount.
posted by threeants at 11:22 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I'm going to open a coffee shop called "This Ain't Starbucks XXX".
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:24 AM on February 9 [14 favorites]




This is weirdly a combination of lots of effort (setting up the actual store ) and laziness (limiting the "parody" to the word "dumb" added to everything - what, there are no out of work / starving comedy writers in LA?)
posted by Bwithh at 11:24 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Wow. That’s a lot of work for such a lame idea.
posted by bongo_x at 11:27 AM on February 9 [25 favorites]


This is... dumb.
posted by Foosnark at 11:28 AM on February 9


Does this actually exist? Photos are not enough proof.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:30 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


bongo_X--whether you are "factually" correct you post succinctly captures my thoughts and feelings.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:30 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


There are hundreds of things one could say about this project, Starbucks, chain restaurants, and branding that would make this idea fantastic.

That FAQ includes none of those things.

Note to self, never read the artist's statement. And this time, don't forget.
posted by eotvos at 11:31 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


This is kind of fascinating and I'm pretty much leaning to the rich, thin-skinned individual theory.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:32 AM on February 9


I just said to my husband "This is an idea so stupid I'm amazed someone who's not you came up with it" and he told me "It can't be me because I would have called it Starbutts and you know it."
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:32 AM on February 9 [106 favorites]


Is there ever a point at which trademark law might no longer apply? Like, what if they set it up in a gallery rather than a strip mall? What if they had all the regalia but didn't sell actual drinks? What if they made customers bring their own beans? What if they sold tickets to get in, like it was a performance?

I guess I'm wondering what the standard is for infringing on a trademark. It seems like it might not be all that clear (see Samsung/Apple IP case) but it would be cool if an actual lawyer (as opposed to Dumb Starbucks' "lawyers") could chime in.

Whatever the case, this is the most beautifully stupid thing I've seen in a while.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:34 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Where's my post about the "weirdly off-kilter" Drawing Room? Huh? HUH?
posted by phaedon at 11:34 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


If I buy a dumb Ghetto Latte, will the dumb baristas still get pissed off?
posted by valkane at 11:39 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I gave up on the dumbForbes link. They did figure out how to make text flash, though, so maybe they'll arrive at how to deliver content someday.
posted by Killick at 11:39 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Is there ever a point at which trademark law might no longer apply?

No, but there is a point at which trademark law would no longer protect, which is probably more your question. For instance yes, if this were set up inside an actual art gallery, it would just be knocked as a silly and dumb installation. Starbucks would probably issue a lighthearted acknowledgment, "We are flattered to be the subject of yadda yadda," the end.

What if they had all the regalia but didn't sell actual drinks?

Unless I'm misunderstanding, they aren't selling anything. They are giving away free drinks and poking fun at Starbucks. If they begin selling, the story takes a different turn and there's little chance Starbucks's lawyers will respond with much humor. Which, for the record, they totally can.
posted by cribcage at 11:44 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


yz, the way it's phrased in their FAQ it sounds like Weird AL made his entire career of parodying songs without ever licensing/asking permission, which is simply not true despite the exceptions to this rule.
posted by dabitch at 11:54 AM on February 9


This isn't much of a parody and I don't expect it to last long.
posted by arcticseal at 11:57 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


It's certainly not as funny as that link Miko posted. :)
posted by dabitch at 11:58 AM on February 9


Oh! This is where i get to pull out my list of weird twitter / communist twitter / anarchist twitter starbucks accounts i found previously?
Starbucks CEO Parody ‏@NotStarbucksCEO 1h
I'd like to thank our dumb customers for being so hopelessly desperate to be hip and cool.

Boycott Starbucks ‏@BoycotStarbucks 2h
By boycotting Starbucks, millions of citizens are helping in the liberation of baristas from corporate exploitation.

HonestStarbucksNames ‏@HonestStarbucks 2h
The Executive Imperialists Latte

DearStarbucksPatrons ‏@Dear__Starbucks 2h
Why do you derive happiness from a product made by sad, exploited, baristas?

Anti-Starbucks ‏@Anti_Starbucks 2h
Starbucks customers are so brainwashed that they mistake burnt chemicals for good taste.

Starbucks Parody ‏@Fake_Starbucks 1h
We'd like to thank our loyal customers for being so fucking stupid as to think drinking overpriced coffee makes them cool.

Why Starbucks Sucks ‏@YStarbucksSucks 2h
If Starbucks' customers made their own coffee they would consume 7300 less grams of fat per year.
posted by rebent at 11:58 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]


This is like two blocks away from me, and on seeing the pictures I had the same reaction as Dan Harmon — that location is doomed anyway.

But the real Starbucks is like two more blocks away, so I guess I'll go to the Dumb one.

(Really, though, Tierra Mia's horchata latte has killed the possibility of any other novelty coffee drinks for me, especially any pumpkin spice bullshit.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:59 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I'll take a venti dumb Blonde roast
posted by daninnj at 11:59 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


"I guess I'm wondering what the standard is for infringing on a trademark."

Trademarks are dependent upon being in the same business category. That is, there's risk for consumer confusion. A trademark on Starbucks as a coffee shop doesn't protect it against some mechanic named "Starbuck" naming his auto repair shop after himself. Or whatever.

But companies will be fairly aggressive whenever they think that someone has just picked a famous name in an attempt to capitalize on its recognition, so being actually named "Starbuck" would make a difference for that mechanic. IANAL, but that's my impression of how this actually plays out. I've seen litigation where, really, it was an obviously different business category but that didn't stop the famous company from filing an infringement suit. But, usually, if you're in a completely different business, you're okay.

In this case, this clearly doesn't apply because it's the same business (even if it later proves to be an art project, because it's still going to convince many people that it's actually affiliated with Starbucks, what with serving coffee and all).

With regard to artworks and trademark law, the issue of parody is mostly unimportant, as there is a limited ability to utilize trademarks in works of art. The test, as described by a court ruling, is that the U.S. Trademark Act is narrowly "construed to apply to artistic works only where the public interest in avoiding consumer confusion outweighs the public interest in free expression." And clearly in this case, that wouldn't apply, given that this is a coffee shop that looks just like a Starbucks and serves coffee (even if for free and as an artistic statement). There's prima facie confusion already.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:02 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


This is absolutely hilarious. It reminds me of the fake Burlington Coat Factory Twitter account.
posted by yaymukund at 12:03 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


I didn't really answer the question about the standard for infringing a trademark. Sorry about that. The simple answer is that a trademark or service mark is intended to identify the source of a good or service, and so the standard for infringement is whether a consumer would be confused about the source. That's a bit overly simplistic—there are other claims like trademark dilution that don't necessarily hinge on likelihood of confusion—but it's the fundamental principle.

You could not open a "business" in the fashion that Dumb Starbucks has done, claim parody, and be okay. But as far as I can tell, whoever's behind this already knows that. They're having fun. So unless something shady happens—like yeah, changing the name and signage tomorrow to "Charlie's Cup" and reopening as an actual business with the benefit of this publicity—I doubt anybody is worried.
posted by cribcage at 12:03 PM on February 9


So, they won't mind if I go along with the parody and pay for my coffee with Monopoly money, right?

Right?
posted by Thorzdad at 12:06 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


And just to give a little more background — that's where the Gastrobus restaurant was, which never seemed to actually be open. The food truck it was based on looked decent, but I don't think they ever figured out having a real location.
posted by klangklangston at 12:11 PM on February 9


My friend is saying it's an art installation and they're giving out free coffee. Line is around the block.
posted by phaedon at 12:19 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Sign should've said "ANOTHER DUMB STARBUCKS" maybe with a question mark...
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:20 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]




does everyone in the world need to be talking about this?

No, but that's true of approximately 100% of not only posts on Metafilter but also things and events in the actual world, so doesn't strike me as the most useful measure to judge a post's goodness, maybe.

p.s. this art project is really dumb. I love it.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:25 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of the Prada store outside of Marfa, Texas (although they don't actually sell anything). Of course TXDOT has been trying to shut it down... Maybe this dumb Starbucks really is an art installation.
posted by Benway at 12:34 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Also I'm still not convinced Wuppy Duppy Latte isn't actually just part of Starbucks' spring seasonal menu. Oh god I'm getting shivers already imagining a line of yoga moms thirsting for SKWDLs.
posted by threeants at 12:35 PM on February 9


Assuming it's some kind of a statement on capitalism, I commend the Prada art creators for resisting the urge to stick a V in the middle. Stronger men than I, by far.
posted by brentajones at 12:43 PM on February 9


The funny thing to me is that they shoot themselves in the foot right at the beginning of the FAQ: "Dumb Starbucks is not affiliated in any way with Starbucks Corporation. We are simply using their name and logo for marketing purposes."

FOR MARKETING PURPOSES. NOT PARODIC PURPOSES. Laughing my proverbial ass off. Did they realize this will be Smoking Gun #1 used against them in a fair use trial?
posted by naju at 12:44 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Someone is going through a lot of trouble to get sued, since they certainly haven't gone through any trouble to be amusing.
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:44 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]


I guess I'm wondering what the standard is for infringing on a trademark.

Anything which is reasonably likely/calculated to cause confusion in consumers as to the origin or provinence of a good or service, or which is reasonably perceived as "diluting" or disparaging a famous mark.

They're probably okay with the consumer confusion prong, as they make no bones about the fact that they're not Starbucks. But the fact that they're obviously banking on Starbucks' mark to generate foot traffic might cause them some problems.

Dilution is a lot closer, as they're using Starbucks' mark, which almost certainly counts as "famous" for something that isn't Starbucks. That's really problematic.

But they're just hosed on disparagement. They're deliberately trying to bring Starbucks' mark into disrepute.
posted by valkyryn at 12:58 PM on February 9


Wait, so they literally just made a facsimile of a Starbucks and then put "dumb" in front of everything? That's it, that's the whole joke? Given all the trouble these people went to (and given the fact that they are gonna get suuuuuuuued) I was expecting something more, I dunno, creative.

Also I think people are missing the point a bit regarding whether this is legitimate fair use or not. Can't Starbucks just use a tiny piece of its massive fortune to sue the creators into oblivion, making legal fees a severe punishment regardless of whether they actually win? That's how things work here in the US, no? I mean, it's not like Starbucks' profits or brand recognition or reputation are meaningfully threatened by this stunt. It's a matter of corporate pride; they have been insulted, and will respond by sueing the bejeezus out of the offending party.
posted by Scientist at 1:03 PM on February 9


They are not using the current Starbucks logo, which has no text, and therefore could not support the joke, such as it is.
posted by lumensimus at 1:04 PM on February 9


The baristas were hired off Craigslist. Did they just show up and start working? There has to be a manager somewhere who coordinates things. Somebody in charge that can give a statement.

Even if it's this one.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:07 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Do we have to talk about this here, too?

Can't we leave the discussion on Dumb MetaFilter?
posted by ODiV at 1:09 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


If I opened a faux SBX it would be called STARDUCKS.
posted by davidmsc at 1:10 PM on February 9


But they're just hosed on disparagement. They're deliberately trying to bring Starbucks' mark into disrepute.

I'm not a lawyer, but your wikipedia link for disparagement doesn't say that trademarks are protected from disparagement, but rather that the trademarks themselves can be cancelled for being disparaging.
posted by Pyry at 1:11 PM on February 9


STARDUCKS

Mine would be called PELEG & BILDAD'S and every drink would be the same as the real Starbucks only it would be followed with "GET IT?"
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:13 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Is Starbucks "dumb"? I'm not getting the joke. Did this person never once watch The Simpsons and witness a proper brand parody?
posted by Brocktoon at 1:18 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


It's generally a bad sign when you predicate your entire business plan on legal advice that begins, "IANYL, but..."
posted by duffell at 1:23 PM on February 9


"Dumb Starbucks is not affiliated in any way with Starbucks Corporation. We are simply using their name and logo for marketing purposes."

FOR MARKETING PURPOSES. NOT PARODIC PURPOSES. Laughing my proverbial ass off. Did they realize this will be Smoking Gun #1 used against them in a fair use trial?


It's not a store, they're probably never going to attempt to charge money, and I'm sure it's planned to be gone long before Starbucks could respond even if they wanted to, but that language you highlight really underlines the sort of "whiny rich person throwing a tantrum" flavor.
posted by anazgnos at 1:23 PM on February 9


This smells like astroturfing to me, especially the line in the FAQ: By adding the word 'dumb,' we are technically "making fun" of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as 'fair use.'

To me this reads like, "Isn't this crazy? By adding the word 'dumb' in front of something, I can use your hard work to make a quick buck AND make fun of your work at the same time! You should think about that a bit, Mr./Ms. Small-Business-Owner." TBH, I wouldn't be surprised if Starbucks had set up this shop.
posted by nushustu at 1:28 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


But they're just hosed on disparagement. They're deliberately trying to bring Starbucks' mark into disrepute.

You would say that but I fear you are underestimating the efficacy of the "so's YOUR FACE" defense they have been preparing for months.
posted by furiousthought at 1:31 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Is a dumb parody still a parody?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:33 PM on February 9


I haven't actually been to this place yet, and I kind of doubt it'll be a going concern the next time I'm over in Los Feliz, but it seems to me that the "you're wrong, this isn't parody, let me be an internet lawyer for 6 paragraphs about why" response they're generating was intentional. Dumb Starbucks has dumb lawyers and a dumb FAQ with dumb explanations. It really seems like part of the joke. Coincidentally, it happens to be a dumb joke, at that.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:35 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Do they give handjobs?

I'll represent them. I like money.
posted by benzenedream at 1:41 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the "our lawyers" mentioned in the FAQ actually exist and have been consulted, or if that's just a turn of phrase.

The internet neologism I heard for these hypothetical attorneys is "cartooney." As in, "You'll be hearing from my cartooney."
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:59 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the "our lawyers" mentioned in the FAQ actually exist and have been consulted, or if that's just a turn of phrase.

I will say this much: they do not have competent attorneys. Beyond that, kinda hard to say.
posted by kafziel at 2:06 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I can't wait until there's a Dumb Starbucks on every corner.
posted by redsparkler at 2:16 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I think they have a pretty good case so far, since they haven't charged money for any drinks. Seems like a silly (if overpriced) prank.
posted by idiopath at 2:22 PM on February 9


If they were gonna rip off anybody, they should have stolen from Mike judge and named it ST [A]R8UCK5 and given out handjobs.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:28 PM on February 9


I can't wait to open up Dumbkin Donuts!
posted by xingcat at 2:29 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I can't wait to open up Dumbkin Donuts!

I prefer Dunkin' Dumbnuts.
posted by Benway at 2:49 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


McDumbald's! Dumbino's Pizza! STUPID STUPID CHIPOTLE!
posted by davidjmcgee at 2:49 PM on February 9 [14 favorites]


I'm doing a Harry Potter movie rip off, I'm naming a character Dumbledore! Ha!!!

what? oh...

Never mind...
posted by HuronBob at 3:10 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Dang, I thought it was pretty funny :/
posted by gucci mane at 3:47 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


This is so Dumb it's brilliant. I laughed, and if an art stunt makes me laugh then I consider it successful in my own personal metrics for that sort of thing. The conspiracy theories about rich thin skinned celebrities also make me laugh. In fact, the media firestorm is the best part of this whole Dumb project and probably the artiest bit of art attached to it. It looks like they are setting up a fair use test case in the most obvious and Dumb ham-fisted way possible. Which I also think is pretty interesting.

Also to clarify: they are not making money off Starbucks hard work/good brand as has been stated in this thread a few times. They are charging nothing and giving everything away for free. So this is my Dumb reaction: LOL!
posted by stagewhisper at 3:50 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


Markoff Chaney lives.
posted by acb at 3:53 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


There's a line around the block, which reminds me of nothing so much as when there was a 7-11 Kwiki-Mart in our neighborhood for a couple of weeks when we lived on the west side.
posted by klangklangston at 3:58 PM on February 9


Two thoughts:

1. Where are law enforcement agents and the real Starbucks going to find a steamroller large enough to crush that building?

2. Microsoft should've put more thought into their Scroogled! campaign.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:02 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Starbucks will probably start with a letter to the owners of the shop.
posted by humanfont at 4:22 PM on February 9


Satire is usually funny, but it doesn't have to be. It does although, make fun of human nature, and, secondarily its institutions. Parody, though, is almost always funny. Correct me if I'm wrong. Parody makes fun of artists, art forms, entertainment genres (think Airplane or Spinal Tap), and, now, I suppose, businesses. (A pretty rare parodic target, though, mostly for economic reasons and perhaps also because of the paucity of elements to make fun of.)

However, this parody is a pretty piss-poor example of the genre. There are plenty of things to make fun of about Starbucks, but I don't see them targeting the obvious silly and now ubiquitous elements of the chain. If I had the money, I could make a dumb Starbucks which does more than just insert the word "dumb" into the title.

1) That stupid jive Italian size jargon. I still ask for a small coffee. Tall? Vente? Pretentious. Call the three sizes "trés normale," "ultra trés flaunéuresque," and "grosse Americaine," for example.

2) Add stupid flavors. Instead of pumpkin, maybe "organic spaghetti cop-o-chino khaki."

3. Charge $12 for big drinks. Have a separate category in some odd pricing corner for a "small black coffee" for 99 cents.

4. Have a counter selection of nothing but Yanni and Mannheim Steamroller CD's. Slap a "Dumb Starbucks logo on each one. Overcharge, of course.

5. Use exclusively Chipotle-style brushed stainless steel Kachina dancers for decor.

6. Have stools that ALWAYS have one leg a full inch shorter than the other three.

7. Play speed/death/noise metal at a strangely subdued volume.

8. Sell odd pastries with pretentious names. "Louis XVI Madeline Proust Jelly Roll Morton Vegan Pork Croissant Rolls," for example.

9. Put up a huge-ass sign on top of the menu indicating that "non-burned roast" is available on special request for an extra fee payable only in Euros.

10. Every name tag would include a folksy nickname accompanied by the obscure degree which the barista has attained ("Jo-Jo, PhD: Post-Cisgender Identity in Dystopian Romance Genre Literature."

This took ten minutes. Thinking of "Dumb Starbucks" took countless meetings to figure out. I'd shut the place down tomorrow for sheer parodic vapidity, if I were the judge.
posted by kozad at 4:25 PM on February 9 [22 favorites]


It's like a law problem question made flesh. What have we wrought?
posted by jaduncan at 4:39 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


My friend posted a picture on Facebook of it with a huge line out front and he says "3 hour line + they ran out of cups"
posted by gucci mane at 4:51 PM on February 9


I'm no Starbucks fan but I can't wait for them to crush these morons.
posted by ReeMonster at 5:17 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I really hope this is someone who actually believes you can make it a parody by putting "Dumb" in front of it and telling everyone you're a real business but you're just doing it for legal reasons to put yourself under fair use, because that will be funny to watch. I don't think that can possibly be what it is, but I hope that's what it is.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:24 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


If I had the money, I could make a dumb Starbucks which does more than just insert the word "dumb" into the title.

But you wouldn't though. Everyone who could have done this better should just go out and do better.

Execution is everything.
posted by ODiV at 5:36 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


This is a prank for the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
posted by humanfont at 5:45 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


This is probably less of an art project/parody and more of a marketing stunt and I'm guessing the owners will be rebranding with the real name/logo very shortly. I've seen worse ideas for generating buzz around a new business, and assuming they don't get immediately sued out of existence, it might actually work.

So yeah, either that or Jimmy Kimmel.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 5:46 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I sort of wish someone would start a legit stab at a knockoff Starbucks, in the vein of Kennedy Fried Chicken.
posted by Sara C. at 6:00 PM on February 9


Play speed/death/noise metal at a strangely subdued volume.

I feel compelled to mention that I very briefly worked in a cafe where one of the managers had a very sincere love of Supertramp.
posted by Sara C. at 6:01 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


telling everyone you're a real business but you're just doing it for legal reasons to put yourself under fair use

stay very still. If we don't move, the law can't see us
posted by Hoopo at 6:11 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I sort of wish someone would start a legit stab at a knockoff Starbucks, in the vein of Kennedy Fried Chicken.

Maybe work up a licensing deal with Universal, slather it with Battlestar Galactica iconography, call it Starbuck's.
posted by kafziel at 6:13 PM on February 9


I sort of wish someone would start a legit stab at a knockoff Starbucks, in the vein of Kennedy Fried Chicken.

Easier said than done. The conventional wisdom is that Starbucks is untouchable and obliterates all competition so why even try. This is wrong of course, but good luck convincing any money to take that chance. In the course of getting my other businesses up and going, I've had a coffeeshop plan that I've floated out there (Be the In N' Out to Starbucks' McDonalds) and nobody can even wrap their heads around it. And these are people who have been willing to give me money for much stupider business ideas.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:18 PM on February 9


There is this place in NYC called The Bean that has a few locations and seems to be operating as "not Starbucks."
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:21 PM on February 9


People don't love Supertramp?
posted by narain at 6:31 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


The conventional wisdom is that Starbucks is untouchable and obliterates all competition so why even try.

How incredibly silly. Most cities of any size have dozens and dozens of non-Starbucks coffee bars. Most even have one or two local chains that operate on Starbucks' exact business model.

It actually should be quite easy to make the Starbucks equivalent of "Kennedy Fried Chicken", since there's absolutely nothing proprietary about anything that Starbucks offers. You just have to use green in the branding/identity design and give it a duosyllabic name that starts with an S.

In Los Angeles I would absolutely love to see Starfuckers.
posted by Sara C. at 6:33 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


You know what? Starbucks forbids people from taking pictures of their copyrighted interiors, and back in the day I remember bruhaha about them scoping out local coffee shops, designing their new store interiors for the area to be similar (for the sake of comforting customers who transitioned), and then copyrighting that. So actually going out and copying Starbucks store interiors as close as you can, intentionally, and calling it a parody? I'm behind it just on the principle of the thing.

The conventional wisdom is that Starbucks is untouchable and obliterates all competition so why even try.

That's not even about Starbucks per se; it's about chain places that move in where existing local shops exist, as a community gentrifies.

I've mentioned it before, but I'll mention it again: the day Einstein Bagels opened on Southport street in Chicago, one of the first chain responses (beyond Starbucks itself) to the neighborhood's gentrification in the 90s. The local bagel place (which had a great location just below the train station) had seen their coffee business plummet as soon as Starbucks opened -- and the residents had seen the corner turn into a nightmare with people double and triple-parked to get their fix in the morning, since there wasn't good parking there -- so once the chain bagel place started moving in, they made plans to shut down the day after Einstein Bagels opened.

I thought it was ridiculous, and an over-reaction, but I had stayed up all night for other reasons, so called in sick and spend the morning on my front stair, watching (well-groomed gentrified type) people walk past the local bagel place -- which had a full table set up with paper bags full of free bagels and staffed with an employee to give 'em away -- to stand in line at the Einstein's, then come out with their chain bagel, walk past the local place again -- still not taking any free bagels! -- and then go up to the train.

So I went over, got a few free bagels, bought a bottle of orange juice, and went back to my stoop, depressed. But at least I had delicious bagels to stuff my depressed face with. Months later I went to Einstein's out of curiosity, and the bagels were just completely and utterly no big deal, and overpriced...but like Starbucks and the double- and triple-parking when it opened, the Einsteins was always crowded in a way that the local place never was.

Thus the conventional wisdom, I suspect.
posted by davejay at 6:56 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


Weird Al famously asks permission and doesn't release songs if an artist disagrees with the parody.

It's my understanding that if he didn't ask permission, and someone sued, most of his parody songs wouldn't stand up under fair use -- because they aren't parodying the original song or band itself, just using it to parody something else. So "Smells Like Nirvana" would pass muster, but "Eat It" probably wouldn't. See also the Penny Arcade vs. American Greetings scuffle, where PA were forced to take down a strip that used Strawberry Shortcake to parody American McGee's Alice.

Not that this is entirely germane to the topic at hand, since these guys are clearly claiming direct parody of Starbucks, but I guess my point is, Weird Al isn't the guy they should be pointing at and saying "Look, he gets away with it all the time!" He gets away with it because he asks permission, and is a famously nice guy.

(Correct me if I'm wrong, please.)
posted by rifflesby at 7:02 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I'm sort of amused that people are criticizing the level of parody as weak. That's the whole point! It's incredibly stupid. It's such a bad parody that it's absurdly funny (to some, obviously) yet also still somehow sort of cutting.

I can't wait to open up Dumbkin Donuts!

that sounds cute and I would go.
posted by threeants at 7:47 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]


This is in my neighborhood and it was all over every news outlet and social media so I said eff it and went to it today to see what the deal was.

It's super bare bones inside - there's not much apart from the drinks sign, a big DUMB STARBUCKS sign, coffee machines, and a pastry bar. The pastries were all Vons supermarket pastries they didn't bother to take out of the Vons box. I appreciate that they had a second joke.

The coffee was terrible - like the Shitty Beatles, Dumb Starbucks isn't just a clever name. So yeah, crappy coffee, but it was also free, so can't complain too much.
posted by joechip at 7:57 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


The pastries were all Vons supermarket pastries they didn't bother to take out of the Vons box.

I don't know if this was an intentional reference on their part, but the pastries we now sell at Starbucks come individually wrapped in plastic, and while the reason for this is because they have no preservatives and are actually quite high-quality, if customers see this before we take them out of the bags it looks like some helllllllllla chintzy Little Debbie shit.
posted by threeants at 8:22 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Far, far too clever for "Banksy." If it was him it'd just be, "Starbucks smoking a cigarette."
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:27 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


it would only actually be funny if they're just in Phase One and Phase Two sees them opening another one, in Echo Park, called Dumber Starbucks.
posted by TMezz at 11:09 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Some people are suggesting it's a stunt for the TV show Nathan for You on Comedy Central, which I got a kick out of the first season of. It's on Amazon Prime for free if you've got that.
posted by JauntyFedora at 4:37 AM on February 10


I hope so! Nathan For You was fantastic, and I was afraid they'd cancelled it.
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 AM on February 10


If they open a Dumber Starbucks it has to be right next door to parody the amount of Starbucks on most blocks...Hey wait a minute!

Stupid viral marketing!
posted by The Violet Cypher at 8:55 AM on February 10


My friend posted a picture on Facebook of it with a huge line out front and he says "3 hour line + they ran out of cups"

This is one of the reasons I can’t live in L.A. any more.
posted by bongo_x at 9:42 AM on February 10


Starbucks responds to Dumb Starbucks in L.A.

Yes, the newspaper attributed the email to "Starbuck's" in a story about that trademark.
posted by cribcage at 9:47 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


That is an incredibly depressing story davejay. A semi-similar thing happened here, except Einstein Bagels bought out a local company, Kettleman Bagel Co., who people said had the best bagels (I am not a big bagel person so I can't verify that). Kettleman's had an authentic east coast bagel recipe and I think Einstein's was originally suppose to keep it, but they ended up ditching all but three of the recipes. After they took over they closed two of the old Kettleman locations. I don't know the exact dealings that went on between the owner of Kettleman's, who said that he felt glad that he could retire with his company "in good hands", but some publications and local blogs have called it a hostile takeover. Whether that is true or just editorializing (I guess Portlanders, transplants or native, are very protective about their bagels) I don't know, but there was a lot of backlash here when people found out they were bought out. Thankfully there are some alternatives, including older local shops that have been getting more business, which is always a good thing in my mind.
posted by gucci mane at 9:50 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


cribcage: Starbucks responds to Dumb Starbucks in L.A.

I find it sort of humorous the way that article is written. It's almost as if they didn't even want to write it.

"A Feb. 7 tweet from @DumbStarbucks announced the store was open at 1802 Hillhurst Ave. in Los Angeles." followed by a screenshot of the exact tweet.

"Inside the Dumb Starbucks, the menu also looks very similar to the Starbucks menu, with the word "dumb" in front of the items, such as "Dumb Espresso" and "Dumb Frappuccino."" followed by a screenshot of a tweet which is a picture of the menu.

On and on and on. It's obviously remarkable enough that they're writing about it, but they couldn't send an intern down there to take their own photos?
posted by gucci mane at 9:56 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Wait, so they literally just made a facsimile of a Starbucks and then put "dumb" in front of everything? That's it, that's the whole joke? Given all the trouble these people went to (and given the fact that they are gonna get suuuuuuuued) I was expecting something more, I dunno, creative.

Seconded. As far as I could tell they just wanted to rip off the Starbucks name while starting an illegal coffee joint. Bo-ring and lame and not even a funny joke. Plus they will be sued into oblivion. Really, guys, is it worth it? I think not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:40 PM on February 10


I'm here right now along with a dozen news crews and hundreds of fellow gawkers. I think it's probably promo for a movie. Doesn't seem Banksy or Brainwash or any of that ilk to me. Really reads like a marketing department's hamfisted aping of Banksy. Probably wrong about that, but we'll see.
posted by milquetoast at 1:52 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Surprised nobody has pointed out the hidden camera in the coffee grinder. We spotted it during our visit yesterday. Also it's a little ridiculous that someone bid $50 for one of the cups on ebay - they're just white coffee cups with an inkjet-printed sticker.

Given the camera and lack of actual commerce, I have to think this isn't a commercial venture OR an art project (Banksy wouldn't have a faq) but more likely a gag for a late night show.

"Hey, how do you get every hipster in Los Angeles to wait two hours for a cup of coffee? WATCH THIS!"
posted by ancillary at 2:04 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I bet this is all related to that Shia LaBeouf stuff. (oops - beaten to the punch)
posted by naju at 3:07 PM on February 10


It was just announced that comedian Nathan Fielder is behind it.
posted by ancillary at 4:16 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


So, yes, Nathan For You, then.
posted by Sara C. at 4:35 PM on February 10


He has a video doubling down on the concept.
posted by Evilspork at 7:00 PM on February 10


What do you suppose Viacom's lawyers are doing right now about this. They can't be pleased.
posted by humanfont at 8:01 PM on February 10


Wait, so they literally just made a facsimile of a Starbucks and then put "dumb" in front of everything? That's it, that's the whole joke? Given all the trouble these people went to (and given the fact that they are gonna get suuuuuuuued) I was expecting something more, I dunno, creative.

I think it is the end point of the Scary Movie approach to satire: that a reference to something else, no matter how context-free, must somehow be funny.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:03 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


He has a video doubling down on the concept

At this point I have no idea if the joke is at the expense of Starbucks, all of us, the legal system, corporate America, Nathan's fans, Comedy Central, or the world in general.
posted by naju at 9:04 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


The conceit of his show is that he has a Canadian business degree and gives advice to business owners that is earnestly terrible. It's a dead-on satire of a lot of business guru reality programming, and I would wager that the intended end-game of this is that he's notionally taking over a local business and making it successful, this time by copying Starbucks with an intentionally bad "parody loophole" strategy. This will fail, that will be the joke.
posted by klangklangston at 9:38 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I like Nathan For You enough, but for me Nathan Fiedler will always be the man who uttered the words, "That's the show's knife. That's the knife we share whenever we need a knife. Only us three use it." on Jon Benjamin Has A Van.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:06 AM on February 11


He has a video doubling down on the concept

I expected a Dumb Tim Horton's double double down.
posted by Kabanos at 7:32 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I hadn't heard of him before yesterday, so I guess it worked? I wonder how much money was spent on this.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:21 AM on February 11


Probably not much, depending on how long it's meant to go on for.

You've got rent on a vacant space in a strip mall. From what I've seen of the space, we're not talking about prime real estate, here. It's next door to a laundromat, likely a vacant liquor store or donut shop. While obviously rent on a space isn't cheap, if they were able to make a short term deal it's not that expensive. (I'm assuming that they also plan to use it as a location for the show, so that enables them to double up on locations and marketing).

You've got the sign. Any scenic design shop could whip that up pretty cheaply. You're looking at some labor costs, but, again, assuming they are using this for the show and not just as a publicity stunt, those are sunk costs they're able to capitalize on.

Then you've got the interior design. Like the signage, you're looking at some very cheap materials and a little labor to put it together. A graphic designer, a scenic artist, maybe a set decorator. Though all the design and shopping work could have been done by one person, with the help of a construction/installation crew. Which, again, if this is for the show, these are people who are already on staff.

The nice thing about it not being a permanent coffee shop is that all of the above materials, construction, design, labor, etc. doesn't have to be built to last. You can do it on the cheap, and it can kind of look like shit up close, and break in a month, and that's fine.

There's also the coffee and pastries, which are clearly both rock bottom in terms of price and convenience of purchase. They just sent someone out to Von's to pick up ingredients, and when they're out, they're out.

The cups are just white paper cups (dirt cheap) with stickers (also dirt cheap). And, again, when they run out, they can turn people away.

My guess is that this could be done for under $20K, and most of the costs would be folded into the budget for Nathan For You.
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


There is also a very strong chance that they cleared the use of the Starbucks logo in advance of this, or even that the whole thing is done as Starbucks product placement.
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 AM on February 11


I'm curious what you're basing that speculation on. I find it unlikely Starbucks would have permitted this usage from a legal standpoint, and the company's response seems consistent with corporate eye-rolling.
posted by cribcage at 9:43 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


The first season of Nathan for You was hilarious. I'm happily surprised that Comedy Central renewed it, as they typically kill their quality shows after a single season.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:33 PM on February 11


I'm curious what you're basing that speculation on.

If it was done for an episode of Nathan For You, it's highly unlikely that the Comedy Central legal department would have signed off on it.

It is much more likely that Comedy Central was willing to set up a product placement deal with Starbucks, which is something that happens approximately every three seconds in the entertainment industry.
posted by Sara C. at 12:47 PM on February 11


I'll be interested to see if that's true, Sara. If it is, we'll know in short order. I'm halfway inclined to believe Fielder when he says Comedy Central was unaware of his stunt (only halfway, since clearly he had a budget and production staff onsite). More to the point I think it's unlikely Starbucks would have signed on, or if they had that they'd react as they did, and I assume if Comedy Central's own lawyers were consulted they'd have had more immediate objections than licensing the trademark.

I'm usually inclined to give other lawyers the benefit of the doubt. That doesn't always pan out, but still.
posted by cribcage at 12:54 PM on February 11


Comedy Central was unaware of his stunt

If it was done for the show, there is absolutely no way this is true.

At the very least, a line producer would have had to sign off on things like renting the space. I guess it could have been kept secret from the network at that level, though I don't know how, or more importantly why, since it would take one phone call from Comedy Central to Starbucks to get a green light on what is an obvious PR win for Starbucks.
posted by Sara C. at 12:59 PM on February 11


"It's next door to a laundromat, likely a vacant liquor store or donut shop."

It was most recently the brick-and-mortar location of the Gastrobus that never really got going. Before that it was, uh, I think a weird massage joint, and before that, I think it was a weird Armenian restaurant. It's the kind of place that could do well serving Rustic and Drawing Room drunks, but has been a retail death spot.
posted by klangklangston at 12:59 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Does anyone else remember the last time Nathan was on MeFi?

The segment on his show (which I can't find a link for) was amazing.

I'm really looking forward to this season.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 7:55 PM on February 11




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