Italians Compare the Arrival of Starbucks to the Apocalypse
March 1, 2016 7:14 AM   Subscribe

#StarbucksItalia WIRED Here’s how Americans do coffee: We stroll into shops and order our lattes, often sprinkled with a dose of cinnamon or mint syrup, and hang around, sipping luxuriously on our drinks. We enjoy the Wi-Fi and the cushy couches. Sometimes, we’ll bring our laptops and try to get a couple hours of work done. This isn’t how it works in Italy....

NYTimes With Humility, Starbucks Will Enter Italian Market, , Standing in the art-soaked splendor of a Milanese parlor as an array of A-list Italian business leaders listened intently, Howard D. Schultz, chairman and chief executive of Starbucks, recited a remarkable statistic on Friday: Each week, roughly 90 million people pass through a Starbucks somewhere on earth. Equally remarkable, given that Starbucks operates in 70 countries, is this: Not one of those people is in Italy, a country where coffee culture is central to daily life, and that represents something of a coffee holy grail to Mr. Schultz. Italy, land of the perfect espresso and the exquisitely frothy cappuccino, is a Starbucks-free nation.

THE GUARDIAN Taking the plunger: Starbucks to open first store in Italy, Italy is expected to prove a challenge for the company. Coffee is a central part of the culture, with local shops competing to sell espresso and cappuccinos. Most shops operate as places where Italians can get a quick espresso and go on their way, in contrast to Starbucks’ stores which are designed for customers to sit and work or talk with friends. Starbucks alluded to the challenge the company is expected to face, saying it was entering Italy “with humility and respect.”
posted by pjsky (178 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
We stroll into shops and order our lattes, often sprinkled with a dose of cinnamon or mint syrup

What. No.
posted by schmod at 7:17 AM on March 1, 2016 [50 favorites]


I'm more disturbed by the one tweet that said Dominos was in Italy. Seriously?
posted by Wretch729 at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


We stroll into shops and order our lattes, often sprinkled with a dose of cinnamon or mint syrup

I am afraid not. As an Englishman, when abroad in the Western Colonies (America) I have little choice but to stroll past such establishments, carrying my flask of correctly prepared tea.
posted by Wordshore at 7:21 AM on March 1, 2016 [25 favorites]


All I can figure is Dominos and Starbucks are relying on American tourists to make money, because no self-respecting Italian would step foot in either establishment.
posted by pjsky at 7:22 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


With Humility, Starbucks Will Enter Italian Market...

There's something fundamentally wrong with this phrase.
posted by uraniumwilly at 7:26 AM on March 1, 2016 [14 favorites]


oh boy starbucks looking forward to 300+ "unh i dont like it it tastes burnt" comments (gunshot)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:27 AM on March 1, 2016 [32 favorites]


Tried in America . ..giusto because there was nothing else

Wonder where they were visiting? There's always something better than Starbucks!
posted by moons in june at 7:28 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


The only reason Starbucks doesn't own the UK market is because it has serious rivals in two other enormous British coffee chains: Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee. Not because the Brits don't appreciate bad chain-store coffee.
posted by vacapinta at 7:29 AM on March 1, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't think it will be that difficult. Starbucks is so much more than the coffee itself so as long as they don't commit any major faux pas they have a decent chance of getting their market shares. Honestly their value proposition sounds very promising too (free wifi, hang around forever...).
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


We honeymooned in Italy and drank so, so much espresso. Every time there was a lull, we thought ... gelato or espresso? Sometimes it was both.

But yes, the Starbucks model is an entirely different beast than the regular Italian bar model. I don't see why they can't coexist (especially in tourist zones, of course).
posted by uncleozzy at 7:32 AM on March 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah. My approach to Starbucks is that it's someplace I can easily find that will let me pay to sit and use their wifi and will then include a free drink of my choice (that admittedly is probably way too sugary and not that good).
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:35 AM on March 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wonder where they were visiting? There's always something better than Starbucks!

There's not, actually. My family used to live in a place where there wasn't, unless by "better" you meant "bad coffee but fewer pretensions", in which case there was Denny's. Even now, my family lives somewhere with not much other than Starbuck's. To illustrate: after the one good local restaurant changed hands and its menu deteriorated, the best place to eat in town is a very well-run Red Lobster. (In fairness to the Red Lobster, it really is about as good as a Red Lobster gets - airy, well-laid out, well-trained staff, vegetable sides are crisp rather than steamed to mush, etc; I have eaten there with family and it's far, far better in every respect than, say, an Applebee's or something. But this is the type of town where a well-run chain with a smart manager is the best you're going to get.)
posted by Frowner at 7:36 AM on March 1, 2016 [44 favorites]


Yeah, we don't actually have a better option than Starbucks locally. We did just get a walkable Starbucks, though, so that's a big bonus.

A friend of mine runs a pub in town, and his business partner also owns a coffee shop a few towns over. Great coffee, nice place. I mentioned to him that the biggest thing missing from downtown is a decent coffee shop. He said that they had run the numbers and it didn't make sense to open a section location there. But evidently Starbucks can make it work.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:39 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Starbucks will do great in Italy. Have you been on Instagram lately? People all over the world love posting shots of themselves with Startbucks. The kids love it, they don't care about history, they want a go-cup with their name written on it.

Starbucks initially tried to move in the Viennese market and failed. They tried it too early, the kids weren't ready. The second time though it stuck and now "latte" actually means something there and everyone offers coffee to go which wasn't the case a decade ago.

Italians will learn to pay six Euros for a massive "grande latte" filled with pumpkin spice.
posted by misterpatrick at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


> Honestly their value proposition sounds very promising too (free wifi, hang around forever...)

This is also the value proposition for public libraries these days.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


I have never been in a Starbucks.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Since I tend to drink brewed coffee and not espresso drinks, Starbucks beats out a lot of the local shops in Providence and pretty much all of the chains. When I'm traveling in the US, I like Starbucks over hotel coffee most of the time (you have to watch out for the "proudly serving Starbucks coffee dodge, though), although I'll keep my eyes peeled for local coffee shops in the hopes I'll get lucky. In Japan, you can get a tiny perfect cup of coffee a lot of places, but the occasional Starbucks lets you get more than 3oz for $300....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't see why this can't succeed. They seem to be doing their homework. And yes, Starbucks is a different experience than going for coffee -- that's the point. It's the same as point as McDonalds in Paris -- sometimes you don't have an hour to spend on that better experience, sometimes you just want wifi that works, sometimes you just want a dependable washroom. All these reasons exist in Italy too, I'm sure.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm more disturbed by the one tweet that said Dominos was in Italy. Seriously?

It's usually called cribbage.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


> Honestly their value proposition sounds very promising too (free wifi, hang around forever...)

This is also the value proposition for public libraries these days.


Less homeless people, though.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:50 AM on March 1, 2016


There was a similar hue & cry before Starbucks entered the Portuguese market a few years ago, another place where coffee culture is important and utterly different to what you get at Starbucks. A few years later and they are still around and get as much of the coffee-drinking market as McDonald's gets of the fast lunch market. (That is, a bit but hardly a lion's share.) Don't worry Italy.
posted by chavenet at 7:52 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm an Italian living in the US, in terms of credentials. Starbucks will sell like HOTCAKES in Italy and for good reason. If people want to go to a cafe for a quick espresso, that's what they'll do. They now have the (young, trendy) option of going into a coffee shop and hanging out with friends and drinking delicious coffee concoctions which no cafe will ever sell. They are two completely different markets.
posted by lydhre at 7:52 AM on March 1, 2016 [40 favorites]


sometimes you just want a dependable washroom.

This is the secret to all American chains that thrive in Europe. People have got to go. They will happily buy junk food if it will allow them to go somewhere without being hassled/having to argue about it that is also clean. Especially if they have kids in tow.
posted by emjaybee at 7:53 AM on March 1, 2016 [23 favorites]


My previous comment is not a dig, by the way. It's just that, despite some superficial similarities, they're really serving a different third-space function. Business folk who use Starbucks as an office alternative most likely prefer the filtering effect that private for-profit venues offer.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:53 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Starbucks shops are often filthy.
posted by colie at 7:55 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


We stroll into shops and order our lattes, often sprinkled with a dose of cinnamon or mint syrup, and hang around, sipping luxuriously on our drinks. We enjoy the Wi-Fi and the cushy couches. Sometimes, we’ll bring our laptops and try to get a couple hours of work done

What the hell kind of one percenter paradise is this author living in? I live in a town arguably obsessed with coffee and every coffee shop is a bleary eyed, late for work, shuffling zombie mob straight out of a casting call for the latest Terry Gilliam dystopia.
posted by lumpenprole at 7:55 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is the secret to all American chains that thrive in Europe. People have got to go. They will happily buy junk food if it will allow them to go somewhere without being hassled/having to argue about it that is also clean. Especially if they have kids in tow.


I don't know why someone doesn't just go direct and open a chain of bathrooms.
posted by curious_yellow at 7:56 AM on March 1, 2016 [80 favorites]


"no self-respecting Italian would step foot in either establishment."

Hey, Italians suffer from self-loathing at the same rate as any other nation, and have an equal need for hangover pizza.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:57 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Starbucks shops are often filthy.

Sure, and some public libraries are absolutely glorious. I'm just saying it's a factor.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:00 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


What the hell kind of one percenter paradise is this author living in? I live in a town arguably obsessed with coffee and every coffee shop is a bleary eyed, late for work, shuffling zombie mob straight out of a casting call for the latest Terry Gilliam dystopia.

He's a writer. I doubt he's up that early.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:01 AM on March 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


I remember Holland when the only Starbucks in the entire country was at AMS. Dutch people laughed when you asked them why there was no Starbucks there. Jokes about "American coffee" and how the local culture/pallet was too refined for such American junk.

They're not laughing any more. Muffins are good. Sandwiches are good. The discovery that brewed coffee has more caffeine in it than a tiny thimble of muddy espresso is enlightening. Employees who don't ignore you are good. A bathroom you don't have to pay €0.20 to use even if you're a paying customer is amazing.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:02 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


They're not opening a Starbuck's for Italians, it's for the tourists in Italy right? I imagine that a lot of tourists will be happy to go into a familiar Starbuck's rather than to try and navigate (what I would consider) an intimidating coffee bar.
posted by like_neon at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2016


curious_yellow: "

I don't know why someone doesn't just go direct and open a chain of bathrooms.
"

Poober.
posted by chavenet at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


There are Taco Bells in Mexico, and McDonald's the world over. Starbucks will do just fine in Italy.
posted by easily confused at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm more disturbed by the one tweet that said Dominos was in Italy. Seriously?

When I lived in Brussels from late '99 to mid '00, there was at least one Domino's near my flat.
posted by mmascolino at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2016


My experience in ItalIan coffee is a brief layover in the Rome airport. I had a coffee. It was the best cup of coffee I have ever had. I'm not sure Starbucks will do so well.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:08 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


When I went to Ireland in 2005, not only was Budweiser very popular in all the pubs, but the bartenders were actually defending it as "a good summer beer."

Starbucks will be ok.
posted by bondcliff at 8:09 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


When I lived in Brussels from late '99 to mid '00, there was at least one Domino's near my flat.

I first saw one in Holland in '98. It was a godsend, just to be able to grab a pie and take it home. Proper pizzerias existed, frozen pizzas existed, but ordinary take-out and delivery didn't. Totally untapped market.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


(As a chain, I mean.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:12 AM on March 1, 2016


In Chile, before Starbucks, coffee shops were places you went to have a bad cortado while ogling the not-so-dressed servers (they're still around, NSFW google image search).

Au Bon Pain tried to get in, got to like 10 locations, then closed up. Starbucks arrived a few years later, and nailed it: many, many locations, always full.

Now, small, neighborhood cafes are opening up all around the more affluent parts of Santiago, in imitation of Starbucks. So we don't complain about Starbucks, there's no lost authenticity, we're actually a little bit grateful.

Also, the Starbucks across the street from my house (in a suburb) opens like at 6AM every fracking day, even New Years Day and Christmas, which is useful especially when your broadband is down and you need to get online to pay it so they reconnect it.
posted by signal at 8:15 AM on March 1, 2016 [14 favorites]


As a ten year (+/-) veteran of MeFi a defining event is occurring in this post--generally positive/neutral comments re: Starbucks. And I am going to leave it at that.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:16 AM on March 1, 2016 [13 favorites]


After seeing the translated-to-fit-our-narrative Wired story, I can't even. So does one of the other two stories address what the fuck they're going to call a Venti in this brand new Italian market?
posted by romakimmy at 8:17 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Tuenti, naturally.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


I have to echo Frowner here: where I live, Starbucks can often be the best option. Over the last few years I have tried many a local coffee shop and some of them just cannot make a decent cup. I mean, I would totally go there instead of the chain, but I'm not going to sacrifice myself on the alter of tasteless brown water just to support a local shop.
posted by dellsolace at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


They're not opening a Starbuck's for Italians, it's for the tourists in Italy right? I imagine that a lot of tourists will be happy to go into a familiar Starbuck's rather than to try and navigate (what I would consider) an intimidating coffee bar.

Nope. For every tourist that will go in to a familiar Starbucks, there will be three who will shun it because they want an 'authentic Italian coffee experience', not the same Starbucks they can get at home.

They're very much opening a Starbucks for Italians - specifically, for the young Italians who have seen photos of Starbucks products bandied about on Instagram for years, and who thus already see it as a hip, exotic lifestyle brand.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:20 AM on March 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


"Twenty what? What the hell is an own-se?"
posted by 1adam12 at 8:21 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


America is the Borg. Come from wherever as a young couple, everyone's welcome. Your kids are gonna be these half-alien things that sort of understand that your traditions exist but hardly care about them and kinda half-assedly speak your language. When you're middle-aged we'll* start serving up something that sort of resembles one of your classic national dishes but not really, and when you're old and wrinkly you'll go back to the old country for a visit and you'll see American chains taking that same bastardized thing back home and the kids there are going to fucking love it.

Resistance is futile. We will adapt your culinary distinctiveness to our own.

*Let's be honest here: I write "we" but I mean "Greek-American diners."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:21 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


re TFA: Is there anything more lazy than a reporter passing off a few twitter quotes as an actual story?
posted by signal at 8:22 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is also the value proposition for public libraries these days.

Libraries don't even want you to have a bottle of water, never mind a nice coffee. They want you to walk 100 yards to the only water fountain.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:23 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a lifelong New Yorker, I gotta say: I'll always respect and appreciate Starbucks for providing a massive chain of ubiquitous, mostly-clean, 100% free public restrooms all throughout the city.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


Can an American explain one thing to me: one thing I noticed when I first moved to Berkeley was that you could go into a coffee shop and have it packed, but silent, with everyone on laptops with headphones on. Obviously a college town is an extreme example, but what's the business model for letting people take up seats for a few hours without paying (except for the drink which is gone after 15 mins) and ruining the atmosphere therefore putting off people who want to go in and have a chat with their friends for half an hour (if they can even get a seat with all the laptoppers there)?
posted by kersplunk at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Relevant, because the first link: how to block adblock blocking on Wired.

(I'm all about paying for journalism, but I'd still like to manage my own computer the way I see fit, thank you very much.)
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


Regarding Dominos - where I am in the UK I can get both Dominos and pizza as good and as well made as any I've had in Italy. I like both at different times. They're different enough that they're essentially different types of food.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Italy gave us music, literature, art, and cuisine. We're giving them caffeine spiked corporate coffee. Fair trade?
posted by njohnson23 at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2016


There was a similar hue & cry before Starbucks entered the Portuguese market a few years ago, another place where coffee culture is important and utterly different to what you get at Starbucks.

Up here, Starbucks is supposed to open in Gaia, but I have some doubts. There's some value in the brand (I mean, I had no clue what Costa was when they opened), but unless they pick up at least two other spots - Boavista and Aliados/Trindade, it will be like a fancy restaurant for a lot of people - something to go on occasion, but not a place to stop by for a pick-me-up, particularly when there's like a coffehouse with a shitty espresso maker every 200 meters or so (where I am right now? at least 6 in a 200m radius. In the freakin' suburbs) and a few fancier, proper coffeehouses downtown.

So does one of the other two stories address what the fuck they're going to call a Venti in this brand new Italian market?
A Royale.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:27 AM on March 1, 2016 [16 favorites]


Here in Montana, there are lots of good alternatives to Starbucks when it comes to coffee, however, no place in the entire damn town makes decent pastries on a regular schedule, so if I want a pain au chocolat (aka chocolate croissant), I have to drop into Starbucks.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:27 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Kersplunk, we don't know either. Walking into a Starbucks with a kid to find tables for 4 taken up by a single person with a laptop not even pretending to drink their 4 hour old cup of coffee is galling. I sometimes ask to share the table to remind them how obnoxious they're being but honestly I don't think they understand human speech, being mushrooms.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


As a lifelong New Yorker, I gotta say: I'll always respect and appreciate Starbucks for providing a massive chain of ubiquitous, mostly-clean, 100% free public restrooms all throughout the city.

Exactly why in our family McDonald's is called "America's Bathroom". I can find one in almost any place in the U.S. and know I can slide in the side door, have a wee, and be back on the road quick as can be.
posted by briank at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


Starbucks is the last choice of desperation for me, but I don't drink fancy coffee so I doubt I am their target market. Espresso or black coffee only. I am spoiled though as there are many decent places to get a coffee around here. I frequent a local roastery where the guys that run the place are absolutely in love with coffee - no snobbery, just so much enthusiasm that they want to share for unbelievably excellent coffee.

And Starbucks brewed coffee tastes burnt. Pbbbblt. There. I said it. Someone had to. I'll take Tim Horton's slop over Starbucks if I am that desperate.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:31 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


There are Taco Bells in Mexico

There are no Taco Bells in Mexico. They tried twice to introduce it, but it failed miserably.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:32 AM on March 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


caffeine spiked corporate coffee

Coffee very commonly has caffeine built in.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:36 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


A few years later and they are still around and get as much of the coffee-drinking market as McDonald's gets of the fast lunch market. (That is, a bit but hardly a lion's share.)

France is the most profitable territory outside the US for McDonald's and it is fantastically successful there.
posted by colie at 8:38 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


If the current election cycle has taught us anything, it's that brand awareness drumpfs good taste, starbucks will be fine.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:39 AM on March 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


When I was in Italy getting a cup of coffee was impossible. The coffee on the plane sucked, and the steward says, "Just wait until you land." So I am in love with the idea of the best coffee in my life or something, but you can't find it in all of the land. You can get an Americana (water poured over espresso) or you can get an espresso, but if you want water poured over grounds in a filter it doesn't exist.

At least I couldn't find it.

Now I like espresso more than most, but after about my third one I just want a large mug of hot brown liquid! I would have taken gas station, cop shop, or military coffee by the end of my trip.

I go back, I am bringing salt & pepper, hot sauce, crushed red peppers, my own coffee, and fucking ketchup. That's right, ketchup! What kind of godless heathens serve fries (frites) without ketchup you may ask? The Italians, that's who! They don't believe in condiments. No mayo. No mustard. No ketchup. A little olive oil or some vinegar maybe, but you aren't dipping anything into anything.

Now, don't get me wrong. The food was great and you didn't generally need to modify it, but man, if you want something with some kick, Italy isn't for you. Either that or I need to find better places to eat.

Hopefully a place with real coffee.

(Oh yeah, and don't get me started on breakfast. Yogurt and a pastry is what you should be eating as an appetizer to actual breakfast.) Normally I don't give two figs about breakfast, normally I just have a pot of coffee and an orange or something, but when all you are offered is a flavorless pastry and an Americana you realize you must have done something wrong in life to deserve this.

This said, I won't go to a Starbucks in the US, so I don't expect I'll be going in Italy.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:41 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Relevant, because the first link: how to block adblock blocking on Wired.

It's only a matter of time before they figure that out with an adblock blocking blocking block. Red Queen Hypothesis in action, folks.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:42 AM on March 1, 2016


You need something other than vinegar for frites? Weird.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:43 AM on March 1, 2016


There's a Kenny Rogers Roasters in Singapore!
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:43 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have never been in a Starbucks.
posted by Obscure Reference


I'm sorry, perhaps you have the wrong thread?
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


Walking into a Starbucks with a kid to find tables for 4 taken up by a single person with a laptop not even pretending to drink their 4 hour old cup of coffee is galling.

Sometimes I just tell the people at the counter that I am leaving and why in that case. It doesn't do anything, as far as I can tell, but I feel better.

When I was in university they used to have different rules from 11-2, but I haven't see that so often since.
posted by jeather at 8:48 AM on March 1, 2016


As an American living abroad, I'm kind of amazed at just how thick and unselfreflective the weirdly self-flagellating variety of American exceptionalism on display in this thread is. I was really excited when Starbucks came to my city because every so often I like having a place to sit with my laptop for a while as I drink a caffeinated dessert or have something close to a proper drip coffee. It's particularly great because the Starbucks is in my local train station so whenever I'm meeting a friend there I can just show up early and get work done while I imbibe decadence through a straw. It's awesome and a totally different thing from going to my local hipster coffee place. Just because a thing is American doesn't make it uniquely uncultured or worthy of embarrassment, Dominoes is decent-ish utility pizza, and the American sense of utility pizza by the slice is a pretty neat concept worth importing for most of the world.

I mean, I get it, this kind of reflexive shame is also part of who we are, but here its getting in the way of understanding what Starbucks really is and how it relates to the Italian coffee shop market.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2016 [37 favorites]


If someone's working on a laptop at a table for four and you show up with kids, you can pull up a few chairs and blow them away without even trying.
posted by colie at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't know why someone doesn't just go direct and open a chain of bathrooms.
It's called 2theloo and it's the best.
posted by neushoorn at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


A lot of people mentioning wifi: McDonald's in Italy and everywhere else in Europe has offered free unlimited wifi for about 6-8 years now. And you can get beer in there as well.
posted by colie at 8:53 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


In an alternative universe, MetaFilter.it is laughing at the idea of introducing McDonatello's to America. "Why would they want tiny fries, thin burgers made of cheap meat in dry buns (with ketchup!!!) when they can get a hunk of medium-rare rib-eye with thick-cut fries and peppercorn sauce??"
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:53 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


Italian here living in Switzerland and Italy, I like Starbucks when in Switzerland as swiss coffe is distillated dog turd.
In Italy I go for a espresso. But I guess the young hip crowd will probably like it.
But it will be I guess in Rome Florence and the like, can't imagine a Starbucks having a chance in my small town.
posted by elcapitano at 8:54 AM on March 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


..the American sense of utility pizza by the slice is a pretty neat concept worth importing for most of the world.

Except the Italians already had the concept. So part of the problem sometimes is Americans thinking they are bringing in something new.

My own problem with Starbucks is not specifically what they serve or do, but the aggressive way they just shove themselves into markets, often not allowing other types of things to grow or develop. This is true of many UK chains, not just US chains.
posted by vacapinta at 8:55 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wonder if anyone ever opened an Ahab's
posted by thelonius at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Helps to recall that until some dude invented the expresso machine, expresso was not always good or even decent and pretty much depended on which place you went to. I continue to go to Dunkin in keeping with my attempt to burnish my proletarian image.
posted by Postroad at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2016


A lot of people mentioning wifi: McDonald's in Italy and everywhere else in Europe has offered free unlimited wifi for about 6-8 years now.

I don't really go to MickyD's here, but free/open wifi here in Italy was hampered by the Pisanu anti-terrorism law, so by and large restaurants and cafès have only been able to offer free wifi since it's abrogation in 2011.
posted by romakimmy at 9:00 AM on March 1, 2016


the aggressive way they just shove themselves into markets

Not unique to Starbucks, as I believe McDonalds, WalMart, and others have been doing this for years. Big-pocket capitalism allows corporations to bleed money for a few years while their competition slowly shrivels, then start cashing in once they're an effective monopoly.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:01 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Except the Italians already had the concept. So part of the problem sometimes is Americans thinking they are bringing in something new."
Sure, of course the US didn't export pizza - utility or otherwise - to Italy, but the utility pizza you can order in the UK for example is unambiguously American and the UK is enriched by it. This idea that cultural concepts or economic models necessarily have to be either inherently déclassé or inherently appropriated if they are described as American is ridiculous. No, coffee shops aren't uniquely American, but the American take on them that Starbucks coporatizes is, and its pretty neat in a lot of ways. Similarly, the utility pizza concept that most of the world, save Italy and particularly Italian influenced places, imported from the US and melded with local food culture is also pretty neat.

There is a sad irony to the way the reflexive opposition to American culture that you find all over Western Europe is itself incredibly fucking American.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2016 [14 favorites]


i'm not crazy about starbucks' drip coffee, but their iced coffee and iced americanos are adequate. basically, i go to a starbucks to get out of the house. i would patronize a local third-wave coffee shop, but starbucks has (a) faster wifi and (b) a free refill policy. i can make excellent coffee at home, so that alone isn't a draw.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:21 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am excited about this, if only because somewhere out there, my Italian ex is LOSING HIS DAMN MIND over this turn of events.
posted by Naamah at 9:22 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


When traveling (usually when in Las Vegas, or driving between here and Fort Benning every few years), I carry an ounce baggie filled with stuff I grind at home. Hotel drip machines work well enough, but I've had to resort to using my handkerchief as a filter now and then. Works just fine. I used the same system when horse-packing in the back country--metal GI canteen cup, powdered milk, a bit of honey; hands warmed by the cup, squat near the newly built campfire and watch the sun-shadow recede from the meadow. Yeah.

Coffee in the baggie stays fresh enough for a couple of weeks. Even a bit stale, it beats most restaurant stuff. Mrs. mule likes to stop at local kiosks for fancy coffee, but I usually refrain, just not interested. Okay, when she and I are traveling, I may get a latte from the likes of The Human Bean, or some such. Anyhow, I've never been to a Starbuck's either.

About them Italians: I'm sorry. It wasn't my idea. Carry on.
posted by mule98J at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean, I really think the guy only dated an American so he could explain to someone in explicit and repetitive detail how shitty our culture is.
posted by Naamah at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Starbucks is awesome. Clean washrooms. Free WiFi. Drip coffee that actually tastes like something. A place to meet people. Warm. Dry.
posted by My Dad at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Kinda similar thing here in Germany where Stone opened the first American craft beer brewery with much fanfare and a lot of press.

A lot of beer traditionalists were up in arms, tons of comments about beer with chemicals and oh my God the Reinheitsgebot...
But as a craft beer fan I for one welcome our new American overlords.
(and hope it somehow helps kickstart our small but growing local craft beer scene.)
posted by ts;dr at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I had a good LOL in the car last night when the NPR guy said "frappuccino" in an Italian accent. I bet it's about to get real funny over there with the drink names.

Also, nthing that Starbucks sometimes felt like a godsend when I was living abroad. I was surrounded by high-quality coffee and pastries (and indeed got fat as hell during that time) but there was comfort in Starbucks when I was homesick. I'm pretty sure I made a trip to the nearest big city at least once just to visit Starbucks. I also got a kick out of how they wrote my name on the cup. So many little delights in Starbuckses abroad.
posted by witchen at 9:29 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


> Libraries don't even want you to have a bottle of water, never mind a nice coffee. They want you to walk 100 yards to the only water fountain.

The Boulder Public Library has one of the nicer coffee shops in town these days, complete with a seating area where you can look through enormous windows onto the ducks splashing around in Boulder Creek running underneath, and better wifi than most people can get at home or office. Also, they don't kick anybody out for not buying a drink, because, well, it's the public library and they can't really do that.

Seems like a pretty good model in a lot of ways.
posted by brennen at 9:30 AM on March 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's only a matter of time before they figure that out with an adblock blocking blocking block. Red Queen Hypothesis in action, folks.

You can get around the Adblock blocking with referrer control extensions. I'm also all for paying for content with ads, as soon as publications stop using malware-hosting ad networks. Also Adblock does have a program for sites to get certified that they have responsible ads and by default it allows those.
posted by melissam at 9:49 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Walking into a Starbucks with a kid to find tables for 4 taken up by a single person with a laptop not even pretending to drink their 4 hour old cup of coffee is galling. I sometimes ask to share the table to remind them how obnoxious they're being but honestly I don't think they understand human speech, being mushrooms.

Why don't you ask them to share the table in order to share the table? Why do people who lack the social skills needed to be comfortable sharing a public space pretend that the problem is *everyone else* having the nerve to exist in that space?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:57 AM on March 1, 2016 [14 favorites]


"I mean, I really think the guy only dated an American to explain to someone in explicit and repetitive detail how shitty our culture is."
Oh man, when I can stand the fremdschämen, the evergreen hilarity of this is one of my favorite parts about living in Western Europe.

At the local Saturday and Sunday markets that have been running -almost- continuously since medieval times in my town there is a very strange man who sells soft unpasteurized goat cheese from a cart and who passionately hates Americans. I love this dude, he is like a vaguely wild and unkempt cheese Nazi who just gets set off by American accents rather than anything so reasonable as misunderstanding Costanza's tip jar fumbling. The moment he catches a whiff of an accent, even if you're speaking one of the national languages, it will spark about half an hour of rant that only maybe a third of which is repetitive. Its a truly amazing thing to experience. When you ask probing questions it eventually becomes apparent that much of his beef stems from how American food safety regulations intended to prevent things like Listeriosis would make his cheese illegal unless he aged it for much longer than he does, and eating his cheese honestly wouldn't be a good idea for older adults, pregnant women, children, and adults with weakened immune systems in ways he is not in a headspace capable of acknowledging, but thats not how his anti-Americanism comes across. At least for me, hearing the meat of his rant was like having the useless kinds of self-hatred I internalized from left-wing American culture reflected back at me by a clownishly ridiculous man. There are no useful kinds of thoughtful criticism in it, just a seemly endless parade of how Americans have no taste for good food (never had barbeque, or clam chowder, or pastrami on rye, or frybread, or sweet tea, or gumbo, and doesn't care to), Americans have no sense of culture (lol), things Americans like are inherently degraded by that, Americans are lazy (despite working harder and longer than anywhere in Europe), Americans don't know how to relax, Americans don't know how to enjoy themselves, and Americans hate everything good.

Its what the momentum of appropriate self-criticism drives so many lefty Americans to that goes way past self-parody, but can be hard to see until its shown to you. I fucking love this dude's rant, and provoke him by walking up and saying howdy to him every so often when I have guests to show around, because its inherently funny and theatrical but also to remind myself of how absurd his ideas about what I am are.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:21 AM on March 1, 2016 [20 favorites]


I use uBlock Origin + Privacy Badger + Ghostery. Wired works fine for me, no ads.
posted by signal at 10:21 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Libraries don't even want you to have a bottle of water, never mind a nice coffee.

A few in my area have decent coffee shops. One actually moved to an office park temporarily while its permanent space was remodeled, and the coffee shop actually came over to the temp space.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:22 AM on March 1, 2016


My own problem with Starbucks is not specifically what they serve or do, but the aggressive way they just shove themselves into markets, often not allowing other types of things to grow or develop.

If a small town has been around for a hundred years without a specialized coffee shop, is Starbucks really killing the local market?

I've heard an economic analysis regarding Starbucks that they are in some ways the anti-Walmart of stores... They create markets where there were previously no markets (for high end coffee), and they never undercut competition in price. So coffee shops can (and do) pop up and compete with them and people that want to support local business can go to them instead of Starbucks.

I'm not a huge fan of the coffee, but I do know they treat their workers quite well (I have a cousin that works as an assistant manager at one), and haven't seen evidence that they are bad for local coffee shops.
posted by el io at 10:26 AM on March 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


el io: That's precisely what I've seen happen in Chile. And the workers there are consistently cheerful and seem to be having a good time, which compared to your average sullen chilean service worker is frankly a bit shocking
posted by signal at 10:32 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like Starbucks and I think their lattes taste better than local shops and other chains. Then people say to me "Well I guess some people like bitter stuff." But I feel like I'm living in some alternate universe. Starbucks tastes creamy and sweet (not talking about the syrups, talking about a plain latte with 1 sugar packet) and everything else is unbearably bitter to me. So I really don't understand all the Starbucks hate from everyone all the time.

I also thought the description in the post was bizarre. I thought we were supposed to sneer at Americans for rushing around with their to go cups that were UNHEARD OF in Italy with their leisurely little ceramic espresso cups and their 3 hour lunches followed by naps.
posted by bleep at 10:42 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why don't you ask them to share the table in order to share the table? Why do people who lack the social skills needed to be comfortable sharing a public space pretend that the problem is *everyone else* having the nerve to exist in that space?

I suppose the eye-rolls and over-the-top sighing I get in response are my imagination. Because clearly, I'm the one here lacking in social skills. Maybe it's my crazy New York values talking, but if you're one person occupying a space meant for four people for hours, and you have your belongings sprawled out all over the place forcing someone to ask you to move so they can sit, the person doing the asking has a right to be exasperated.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:42 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


Obviously a college town is an extreme example, but what's the business model for letting people take up seats for a few hours without paying (except for the drink which is gone after 15 mins) and ruining the atmosphere therefore putting off people who want to go in and have a chat with their friends for half an hour (if they can even get a seat with all the laptoppers there)?

Speaking as one of the people on his laptop with earbuds: I'm not ruining the atmosphere, I *am* the atmosphere. I put in a day of work once every other week or so at the Starbucks in Harvard Square. Mostly just to ward off cabin fever from working 80-hour weeks at home. 75% of the patrons in the massive upstairs room at the Harvard Square location are, like me, there to fucking work. Each of us is purchasing ~$30-50 worth of Starbucks products each day we're there, usually with excessive tips, and the daily fulltime regulars are putting up anywhere between $7000 and $10000 a year. Those guys (actually: those people, it's an atypically gender-balanced crowd at Harvard Square) all know each other and for them it's basically a co-op workspace with a vast array of multi-disciplinary experts on hand willing to help each other out. Or at least less unwilling than is typical for Boston.

There's always two-three 3-5 person groups sitting at the small tables on the side in to have a chat, and they don't seem put off by the rest of us... I suspect your reaction is neither terribly uncommon nor the overwhelming majority.

Finally, as someone who hits movies and parties on a regular basis with most of the staff of a different, more local Starbucks, I can say with relative certainty that we Starbucks-as-home-office types cover the salaries of the staff at least twice over - which is good for the staff at Harvard, because the single most prime location/best view in the whole Square has gotta have a rent I can't even imagine.
posted by Ryvar at 10:44 AM on March 1, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh what you missed.

I had the pleasure of being an habitue in various coffee shops in the late 60's, 70's to mid 80's when coffee shops were all local. You got to know the barristers who got to know you. Very sociable places. At that time there was actually an Italian coffee revolution in the US, university towns mostly leading the way in my experience, outside of major cities, every little town vying for that first genuine espresso shop. When you traveled, seeing a sign "We make espresso" was about as exciting as it got.

My first espresso experiences were in Berkeley and North Beach, SF - oh my gawd - yum.

Then came Starbuck's "building" off the trend. And that was that. Depressing, most locals gone, though now, with Starbuck's trend toward mediocre beverages at best, the locals are clawing back. Really, a shot in a little cardboard cup? Shudders.

Starbuck's is a convenience that serves coffee "flavored" beverages. In an absolute pinch, nodding off on the road, restroom break and catch a drink on the road is about the best they can do for me now.

Plus, I finally bought an espresso machine and wow, never looked back. (Even the crappy, ironically, Starbuck's espresso machines they sold so widely a few years ago do the job. Dime a dozen used on Craigslist.)

But, my memory of those drinks in the 60's, 70's, the crema (done right) served out of porcelain, wow, priceless.

I saw that article about Starbuck's in Italy and thought of Portofino's in North Beach, a traditional Italian men's hangout that my girlfriend dragged me into and the espresso drinks were out of this world even though my sweetie was ogled mercilessly. Starbuck's in Italy good luck.
posted by WinstonJulia at 10:44 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I lived in Italy 15 years ago, the price of a shot of coffee was actually regulated by the state. I guess Starbucks' entry means that law must have long gone.

It was impossible to buy a bad cup of coffee. The cappuccino was buttery smooth, without any tiniest hint of bitterness, and served at a perfect drinking temperature. The foam was completely integrated into the coffee - something that seems to be marketed as 'flat white' now, which at least is progress instead of an inch of scalding, stinking, obviously totally burnt fluid underneath a teetering bucket of cheese-foam. Every coffee shop was independently owned. It was coffee paradise.
posted by colie at 11:00 AM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes the 70s was truly a paradise on earth of which we will never see the like again. Nothing will ever be good or even acceptable ever again. We get it. When are we as a culture going to be allowed to move on?
posted by bleep at 11:16 AM on March 1, 2016 [12 favorites]


Walking into a Starbucks with a kid to find tables for 4 taken up by a single person with a laptop not even pretending to drink their 4 hour old cup of coffee is galling. I sometimes ask to share the table to remind them how obnoxious they're being but honestly I don't think they understand human speech, being mushrooms.

This made me laugh.
posted by My Dad at 11:18 AM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Coffee was made by lawyers in the 70s?! Whoa.
posted by witchen at 11:19 AM on March 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


Here in Berlin, there are a few Starbucks. Mostly seem to be full of tourists and 19-year-old kids from Brandenburg villages who seem to think Starbucks is a sophisticated exotic thing from far away lands. I imagine it will be similar in Italy, if they have locations on high streets in major cities. Lots of tourists from smaller towns will go "ooh Starbuck! the famously large coffee things from America. C'mon lets try it." Its sort of like cotton candy or giant lollipops for adults on vacation.
posted by mr.ersatz at 11:29 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Starbucks' products are ridiculously bad in comparison with even the shittiest local bar in Italy, but I can still see it work. Many places in Europe, local non-chain cafés work like Starbucks: you can sit there for ages, do business there, use their clean bathroom etc. and Starbucks can't really get a foothold because the local cafés have better coffee and better cakes and sandwiches.
But in Italy, most bars are not really geared to longer stays. The coffee is a million times better and cheaper, but you can't sit and do your homework, or hang out as a bunch of teens after school, or have a business meeting. That said, it's not like I think Starbucks could ever really succeed in Europe, not even on the level of McD's. The reason McD is a succes in France is that they have changed their whole product-line to fit local taste, and it must be on accord of some genius local manager, because it's not at all like that in the rest of Europe.
Starbucks isn't there yet at all. Local cafés and even chains are much better at adapting to local tastes, even when they are inspired by Starbucks. For instance, a Venti. That's just too big and expensive. It gets cold. And milk is for calves (after 11 AM anyway).
posted by mumimor at 11:32 AM on March 1, 2016



I don't know why someone doesn't just go direct and open a chain of bathrooms.


This seems close to what you see in Germany where there are nice pay bathrooms everywhere.

In Italy, however, I encountered multiple toilets that had NO SEAT. Like, a regular toilet, without any seat of any kind. In a single-room unisex bathroom. As a guy that was... OK but weird. But not as fun for my wife. I've never seen that in any other country, but it happened at least 3 times in Rome.

So if Starbucks can go the McDonalds route and provide reasonable bathrooms for tourists, that seems like a good feature there...
posted by thefoxgod at 11:38 AM on March 1, 2016


To be fair, Italy really hasn't done penance for the destruction of Byzantium, so maybe replacing Venuce with a giant McDonalds Fun Land would be only just....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:40 AM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is a thoughtful article about Italian vs US coffee. Someone in the comments mentions the state regulation of the price of an espresso; if they're right it only applies to the price you pay if you stand at the bar to consume it.

"One of the reasons (but certainly not the only) that this relatively low-input recipe is so common in Italy is that espresso coffee is a beverage created out of necessity: It's a brewing method by-product of the Industrial Revolution, invented as a means to quickly invigorate a working-class population whose stomachs were empty before lunch and, subsequently, whose productivity slagged around midmorning. Coffee breaks were the perfect solution to the lull, but they took too long; lo and behold, espresso—a small, concentrated, made-to-order drink prepared quickly under pressure and consumed in a swallow or two—was born."

posted by colie at 11:43 AM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


Starbucks had eyes on Italy back in 1998, and they announced plans to open shops, later abandoned. There was a article in the New Yorker about at the time.

I remember a quote from a café-owner in Rome. Asked if he was worried about competition, he said something like "They're not competition. I sell coffee. They sell milk drinks."
posted by Steakfrites at 12:00 PM on March 1, 2016


Each of us is purchasing ~$30-50 worth of Starbucks products each day we're there

OK I give up, how do you purchase $50 of Starbucks product over the course of a day without becoming too jittery to work? Do you, like, have a lot of T-shirts and mugs?
posted by escabeche at 12:14 PM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


OK I give up, how do you purchase $50 of Starbucks product over the course of a day without becoming too jittery to work? Do you, like, have a lot of T-shirts and mugs?

Starbucks also sells food and soft drinks.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:22 PM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Breakfast + Lunch + 4 ventis (if I'm working 14 hours instead of the usual 12) with two extra shots espresso, three extra shots caramel... some other stuff in there I think. Truthfully I don't actually know what my exact order is anymore, my fiancee's the one who knows that stuff and placed the original order, the staff has just made it when they see me ever since.

Honestly? I hate coffee. It was just an excuse for face-time during the day with the hottest girl in the office, who I'm now marrying in 8 months. When she found out, a few weeks after we started dating, that it was all just something I suffered through to be with her, she put together an order that was, in her words, "a fahkin' caffeine milkshake." (Boston)

Which is really all I wanted, anyway.
posted by Ryvar at 12:25 PM on March 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh, and my caffeine intake is about 70% hers. Work from home days, just a $0.25 caffeine pill every six hours does the trick.
posted by Ryvar at 12:27 PM on March 1, 2016


4 ventis (if I'm working 14 hours instead of the usual 12) with two extra shots espresso

I'm deeply impressed. I would die if I drank this! Bets on whether it'd be from gastrointestinal distress or simply vibrating till I disintegrated.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:55 PM on March 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


A few years ago we were visiting our friends in Florence. We were on our way somewhere for the day and Paolo pulled over to stop for a coffee at some tiny place that he said was good and we walked in to this packed little hole in the wall, ordered espressos, stood there at a counter and drank them and left. The whole thing took about 5 minutes and probably cost 90¢ but it it was the single best coffee experience I've ever had. I dream about that coffee.

The flipside of that story is that they moved here for a few years and Paolo completely fell for Tim Horton's. Like totally loved Tim Horton's. Couldn't get enough of that place and its vile brown water, despite his coming from the absolute apex, the pinnacle of coffee. So go figure.
posted by chococat at 1:35 PM on March 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


4 ventis (if I'm working 14 hours instead of the usual 12) with two extra shots espresso, three extra shots caramel

ok, i would like to retract my question of "how did you spend $50" and replace it with "how are you actually alive rn"
posted by escabeche at 2:07 PM on March 1, 2016 [15 favorites]


I could make peace with Starbucks if they stopped making up stupid names for their coffee drinks and sizes that make things ridiculous for every other "real" coffee house out there.

I shouldn't have to explain what a real macchiato is for the ten thousandth time, and that it doesn't involve ice, whipped cream, a blender or 200 grams of fucking syrupy sugar.

Actually, if you could manage to attach a generator to my eyeballs you could power half the planet every time someone orders a "venti caramel macchiato" and my eyeballs just instinctively roll back so hard in my head it perturbs the tidal forces of our moon.

Ok, granted, I take some kind of sick pleasure in being a snooty barista about this, because a traditional macchiato is a sublimely delicious thing, perhaps second only to a cubano.

I mean, if you actually like the taste of coffee. If you really want a sugary coffee flavored milkshake, a real macchiato is probably like getting repeatedly slapped in the face with the unwashed haunches of of a coffee plantation burro.
posted by loquacious at 2:11 PM on March 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: If I don't like it, it's objectively bad.
posted by Bugbread at 2:20 PM on March 1, 2016 [11 favorites]


uncleozzy: "Tuenti, naturally."

Same as in town.
posted by chavenet at 2:21 PM on March 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


I shouldn't have to explain what a real macchiato is for the ten thousandth time, and that it doesn't involve ice, whipped cream, a blender or 200 grams of fucking syrupy sugar.

OH MY GOD THIS. This was the worst part of being a barista, to the point where when I was on register I pretty much automatically explained to anyone getting a caramel macchiato that we served a traditional macchiato (yes, I am a snooty barista about this give me this one thing), and if I was on the espresso machine I would literally call people over, explain to them what they had just ordered, and about 95% of the time wind up making them a caramel latte. I have served up enough macchiatos to people who look quietly stunned and sad to be offered something that tastes of espresso to last me the rest of my life.

Also I am very glad I will not be barista-ing at the height of frappachino season because I would probably kill someone.
posted by kalimac at 2:22 PM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Actually I think that's my order: venti iced caramel macchiato with two extra shots espresso, three extra shots caramel. Something about less ice, more (skim) milk in there, too. I fucking hate coffee. And, by Metafilter's definition, I'm not actually drinking any so I guess that works out.

The alternative of showing up at a Starbucks to work all day while downing caffeine pills from home just seems unspeakably rude.

Some math: assuming Starbucks slightly-larger-than-standard espresso shots of 65mg caffeine, my order comes out to 355mg per venti, or 1420mg per day. Which is borderline for caffeinism, but still laughable rookie territory for the people who work from Starbucks daily.
posted by Ryvar at 2:30 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Actually I think that's my order: venti iced caramel macchiato with two extra shots espresso, three extra shots caramel.

Next up, calculate how much sugar you've been consuming.
posted by vacapinta at 2:36 PM on March 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


What I don't really get about the Metafilter Starbucks hate is that Mefites, overall, seem like the kind of people who are okay with milkshakes, and are okay with coffee, and are okay with hot beverages. I'm with Blasdelb thinking it's basically because Starbucks is American. If it were a non-American chain selling hot coffee milkshakes people you'd have some fans and some people saying "I dunno, it's not for me", but not the constant litany of "it is horribleness incarnate."
posted by Bugbread at 2:56 PM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


This isn’t how it works in Italy....

I'm sorry but I don't believe that. Literally every single time I see "Italy" represented in some kind of media it's people sitting around in cafes, being either ridiculously good-looking or old and short and moustachioed and fat, same as China is just old men playing mahjong in a park for nine hours a day. At least Americans pretend to work on their novels - Italians just sit there with their tiny espressos. Espressos are stupid btw.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:08 PM on March 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have mixed feelings as I loved Italy but ended up not only paying a table fee but playing a round of "despite being Canadian, I really can count my change" pretty much every time I got a coffee there. Having a menu with North American style pricing would have helped for the First Caffeine each day.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:08 PM on March 1, 2016


I have never been in a Starbucks.
posted by Obscure Reference


So you may think, but since Schultz and his team of topologists finally succeeded in 'opening' the Klein Bottle Memorial Store at a secret location in Seattle in 1982, you've actually never been out of one.
posted by jamjam at 3:17 PM on March 1, 2016 [23 favorites]


I mean, if you actually like the taste of coffee. If you really want a sugary coffee flavored milkshake, a real macchiato is probably like getting repeatedly slapped in the face with the unwashed haunches of of a coffee plantation burro.

Some of us like both coffee and coffee milkshakes.
posted by jeather at 3:33 PM on March 1, 2016 [10 favorites]


what? It's just going to fill up with expats like every other starbucks in Europe
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:11 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have never been in a Starbucks.
posted by Obscure Reference


drive thru still counts yo
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:14 PM on March 1, 2016


It didn't really work out for them in Australia.
posted by Diag at 5:42 PM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


"The discovery that brewed coffee has more caffeine in it than a tiny thimble of muddy espresso is enlightening."

No, it has less per oz, its just served in bigger cups with more oz's.

Sort of like saying a gallon of gas has more gas in it than a pint of gas.

Drip coffee: 8.1 - 15 mg/oz.
Espresso: 30-50 mg/oz.


[ https://www.coffeechemistry.com/chemistry/alkaloids/caffeine-content-in-espresso-vs-drip-coffee ]
posted by blackfly at 6:25 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


What I don't really get about the Metafilter Starbucks hate is that Mefites, overall, seem like the kind of people who are okay with milkshakes, and are okay with coffee, and are okay with hot beverages.

Yeah, I don't actually hate Starbucks, milkshakes or coffee in milkshakes. Actually, my favorite beverage these days is a cold breve chocolate milk with a dash of caramel sauce. I don't actually drink that much coffee at work any more because I just don't have time and I'm too busy hustling.

I actually don't mind Starbucks as a company or institution. They spend more on health care than they do coffee, and that's how it should be for a business of that size.

What mainly bothers me about Starbucks at this point in my life is how they've apparently intentionally, calculatedly totally fucked up every other coffee counter in the Western world by mis-appropriating coffee language and history and customer expectations in a way that McDonald's can only dream of.

No, really. That's part of their corporate strategy. It's how Starbucks isn't just responding to customer tastes but cultivating and directing them as a coffee juggernaut.

I waste an great deal of customer friction and service energy - no, really, an incredibly enormous, aggravatingly disproportionate amount of my day and patience - asking "Tall as in small?" or saying the words "I have large and small?" or "We don't really offer caramel venti machiattos here, would you like a large caramel latte?"

I guess on the flip side, it really makes me appreciate someone who actually wants a traditional machiatto or an extra dry breve cappucino or other craft drink that isn't mainly steam-caramelized milk and additional sugar and for a moment I'm going to put everything aside and take a few extra minutes to make some genuine coffee art, pull really good shots and present them with the best coffee I can make with what I have on hand.

And I live for those moments like some kind of sick drug addict. I've become good at what I do because I have taste and a brain and I love coffee. I've had people come back and drop 5 or even 10 dollar bills in my tip jar in appreciation after a really good machiatto or dry cap.
posted by loquacious at 7:09 PM on March 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


In Seattle, there are lots of coffee shops. Many of them are holes in the wall that serve excellent coffee. Starbucks, whose coffee I have always enjoyed, provides space to sit and wifi. Lots of people sit and talk with each other. Starbucks is noisy. But friendly.

And they don't mind coffee at the Seattle Public Library or King County Libraries. It's Seattle; they let you drink coffee everywhere.
posted by lhauser at 8:48 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Starbucks crashed and burned in Australia.

I mean, Australians are serious about coffee, but we aren't a patch on the Italians. They may literally burn Starbucks stores.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:13 PM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


I live in Australia (in a regional part) and when I needed to go to a Third Space last year to work on something I was sort of dumbfounded that I couldn't find a coffee shop that appeared in any way welcoming to me, my laptop, and my intention to spend four hours there. No comfy seats, tables not big enough for laptops, no outlets, wifi required having a conversation with the barista for the day's password, and the occasional weird look and employee coming over to ask whether I needed anything else. (I was doing my duty and ordering something significant food- or drink-wise roughly hourly.) It was only a few months later that I started to read how that whole Third Space thing is a sort of unique American phenomenon. It's awesome. It is. Get some, Australia! (And the UK. In retrospect I think I made the same mistake there, but missed the concern/confusion of the staff due to passive aggressive English politeness going over my head)

And agreed that Starbucks is different than "coffee", in a generic sense. Sometimes you want a proper Italian espresso. That's cool. Sometimes you want Starbucks. That's cool too. Similarly here in Oz, once I finally came to terms with the fact that what Australians call "pizza" is a distinctly different food from what I consider "pizza" I stopped being angry every time I ordered pizza and received a piece of flatbread with some shit on top. (PIZZA CAPERS HAS A PIZZA WITH A HEAP OF GUACAMOLE AND FUCKING NACHOS ON IT WHAT IS THAT IT SURE AS HELL AIN'T PIZZA anyway) So I think everything Starbucks offers other than the coffee-specific experience - the social status of that white cup with your name on it, the Third Space experience, customer service, convenience, clean bathrooms, whatever - makes it enough of a distinct business that it could succeed. That said, I'll be fascinated to see if it does succeed in Italy, given its failure in Australia (to which a significant portion of Italian coffee culture immigrated) - I think the cultural rejection of American Things probably differs in a few ways between those countries that may have an impact on its success.
posted by olinerd at 9:34 PM on March 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


If the price of Third Space is shit-coffee-like-substance, then the price is too high. That's a Faustian bargain. Also wifi in Oz is crap anyway and I'm reflexively suspicious of any place that has it as a selling point. In other news, yes I'm a grumpy gus.
posted by um at 11:30 PM on March 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Olinard, sitting in a coffee shop with your laptop for hours and hours is typical in London, so maybe you were just at the wrong cafes.
posted by toerinishuman at 11:31 PM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


From what I've seen over the last twenty years, ginseng becoming a popular option at any/every corner bar (= café) was the canary in the coalmine, coupled with the Nespresso's conquest of the Italian home: Italy's totally ripe for individualized coffee-like drinks.

The passive-aggressive hustle for your three-minute morning spot at the bancone for a "caffé e un cornetto" (or "brioche" if you're north of Rome), as well as the generally better coreographed mid-morning or -afternoon one-and-a-half-minute espresso-stop will still be available at your local; but the temptation to go American every now and then will be impossible to resist, just like you're now regularly having casual pre-fab sushi for lunch that wasn't even an option five years ago.

In Italy, however, I encountered multiple toilets that had NO SEAT. Like, a regular toilet, without any seat of any kind. In a single-room unisex bathroom. As a guy that was... OK but weird. But not as fun for my wife. I've never seen that in any other country, but it happened at least 3 times in Rome.


Girls are taught to stand on the bowl and squat, even when there's a seat on the toilet; it's an archaic mistrust of public hygiene that... feeds a lack of public hygiene.
posted by progosk at 11:53 PM on March 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


toerinishuman - yeah, I was living in Plymouth. So.
posted by olinerd at 1:26 AM on March 2, 2016


a real macchiato is probably like getting repeatedly slapped in the face with the unwashed haunches of of a coffee plantation burro.

So, a thing that any reasonable adult might freely choose to do in the privacy of their home on any give Friday night? This simile fails for me because, if I drink coffee after about 2pm, I just don't sleep well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:47 AM on March 2, 2016


4 ventis (if I'm working 14 hours instead of the usual 12) with two extra shots espresso, three extra shots caramel

Is this typical though? I was under the impression most people were slowly nursing a half empty cup for a few hours rather than wolfing through drinks.

On a slightly related note, Irish barmen hate Spanish and Italian students who come over to learn English. They come in in very large groups, buy maybe one drink, and sip on it for several hours while talking loudly. The product sold per square metre is very low.

I'm with Blasdelb thinking it's basically because Starbucks is American

Living in Europe I never got Starbucks because you were paying usually more for something that tasted worse, but when I was in New England I realised it rocked compared to the ubiquitous crappy thin drip coffee (especially Dunkin Donuts).
posted by kersplunk at 3:22 AM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Re: typical - depends on what context you're evaluating it within, same as anything else. For the "grab something at Starbucks, move on" patrons it's insane. For the "Starbucks as co-op workspace" crowd it's decidedly weaksauce. Admittedly the three caramel shots per venti is an excessive sugar load by *any* standard, but I don't eat enough to maintain weight while working from home - 2160kcal from the 4 ventis is just about my Basal Metabolic Rate, so I'm over by the sandwiches (800-1000kcal) on days I work from Starbucks.
posted by Ryvar at 3:56 AM on March 2, 2016


I'm with Blasdelb thinking it's basically because Starbucks is American. If it were a non-American chain selling hot coffee milkshakes people you'd have some fans and some people saying "I dunno, it's not for me", but not the constant litany of "it is horribleness incarnate."

Here in Denmark there is another chain, copying the philosophy of Starbucks, which started before Starbucks arrived. And their products are similar, but not the same. The drinks and snacks are smaller, there is a lot less sugar overall and you can have a real espresso. The founder is half-Italian. In other words: it is adapted to local taste. So when Starbucks arrived, they couldn't really get a foothold and they are only in big stores and the airports. Not so much about anti-americanism, more about local preferences.

Generally, I think most Europeans are fascinated by USA and enjoy American food and culture.
posted by mumimor at 4:14 AM on March 2, 2016


mumimor: "Not so much about anti-americanism, more about local preferences.

Generally, I think most Europeans are fascinated by USA and enjoy American food and culture.
"

I think you misunderstood me. I wasn't talking about non-Americans who dislike Starbucks, I was talking about American MeFites that complain about Starbucks, and was saying they wouldn't complain if it it were non-American.

(Okay, to be really specific I was talking about American MeFites who complain about Starbucks on flavor-related grounds ("too burnt" "too sweet" "too creamy" etc.), not on issues like forcing local cafes out of business or other non-flavor related reasons)
posted by Bugbread at 4:46 AM on March 2, 2016


Aha!
posted by mumimor at 4:55 AM on March 2, 2016


I'll take Tim Horton's slop over Starbucks if I am that desperate.

I don't drink coffee and I'm far too spoiled to drink what passes for tea at either place... Saying that I'll always take Starbucks over Tim's for the simple fact that their bathrooms are consistently clean, roomy and usable. Tim's bathrooms are consistently beyond gross, claustrophobic, poorly maintained and worthy of that recent terrifying bathroom thread. Sorry Canada but your chain needs a bathroom upgrade desperately.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:18 AM on March 2, 2016


Our homegrown coffee joints out are out hipping starbucks. So the SB's here are turning into drive thru's...
posted by judson at 7:39 AM on March 2, 2016


Huh. Tim's is always our go-to bathroom stop when driving. They are usually okay. Can't speak to the inner city ones though.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:07 AM on March 2, 2016


The city Tim's are really bad but the ones on the road can be just as bad. Heaven forbid that you might might need to change a kid in the men's bathroom at a Tim's! They are way too small for the volume of people who go through them and I have yet to see one that didn't have a significant amount of urine on the floor. Starbuck's toilets are an oasis!
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2016


"Yes the 70s was truly a paradise on earth of which we will never see the like again. Nothing will ever be good or even acceptable ever again. We get it. When are we as a culture going to be allowed to move on?"

You cannot. Time stopped when Reagan said what me worry. This is all a dream.

If you wake up it will be sex, drugs, and Rock&Roll time again. Turn on tune in drop out.

thank you for your service.
posted by mule98J at 11:35 AM on March 2, 2016


The pizza with guacamole and nachos on top is excellent and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:26 PM on March 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I shouldn't have to explain what a real macchiato is for the ten thousandth time, and that it doesn't involve ice, whipped cream, a blender or 200 grams of fucking syrupy sugar.

That explains it. Just the other day I ordered a macchiato at Starbucks because they have a giant illustrated sign promoting them. The girl behind the counter asked if I wanted caramel, even standing right underneath the big giant sign. My wife and I both thought this was weird and didn’t understand, but I could only guess at the time that maybe a lot of people thought that was what a macchiato was. I guess I was right.
posted by bongo_x at 12:44 PM on March 2, 2016


I still think the hanging out and working all day at a coffee shop thing is weird, unless you’re homeless or have no internet or other options. And it’s really annoying for people who’d like to just sit for a bit and have a coffee. I just don’t really understand it. I work at home most of the time. I’m not going to get up and haul myself to Starbucks so I can sit in a crowded place and work all day. That’s where I’d go to get away from working.
posted by bongo_x at 12:51 PM on March 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Third Space attractions:
- I have someone watching my toddler for me and I want to go somewhere that is not where the toddler is to work on my resume, job apps, etc so I can go back to work (most recently)
- I work remotely from home and it is so bloody lonely and isolating and I want to see people (most common)
- I work remotely from home and have crappy self discipline sometimes and want to work where Netflix is hard
- I work remotely from home and want a reason to put on pants today
posted by olinerd at 4:22 PM on March 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also I had a prof once who basically held office hours in a coffee shop in Davis Square. Grab a latte and chat chemistry. Good fun.
posted by olinerd at 4:23 PM on March 2, 2016


If I have to get out of home and work I usually pony up the day fee for a desk at a coworking space. I don't know how common they are in the US anymore but here in Europe they've really taken off.

Barcelona, for example. Or the one I use in Lisbon. You can safely wander off and leave your laptop behind, meet interesting people, and not feel compelled to drink bland coffee all day.

On the subject of Lisbon, I should add that there are maybe 2 Starbucks in central Lisbon. Not much point in them as the portuguese are also espresso drinkers. And if you want to laze around, the weather is always nice so you hang out at a Kiosk, many of which even have wi-fi.
posted by vacapinta at 1:33 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Man, Starbucks is the only place I can get a flat white in the Midwest of America. Believe me when I say that I go out of my way to small or hyper local shops, too and the staff look at me weird when I explain what a ristretto is and the proportion of milk.... And screw it, I end up at Starbucks. But I am a heathen, drinking milk based coffee drinks after 11 and in quantity.

When I travel, it is with relief when I see the arches of gold and the topless lady of the Columbia river, for they are the beacons of safe harbor, clean toilets and soothing sugars and salts. There is always room at the inn for three cranky children and a frazzled parent.
posted by jadepearl at 2:27 AM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dominoes is decent-ish utility pizza, and the American sense of utility pizza by the slice is a pretty neat concept worth importing for most of the world.

I totally agree. Here in Madrid the competition is Telepizza, which is so bad, basically just shredded plastic and a thin tomato-flavored substance on a dry cracker*, that Dominoes looks luxurious by comparison. Sometimes we do export superior products, it's nothing to be ashamed of.

*Ok, I haven't eaten Telepizza in years and years, maybe they're better now?
posted by lollymccatburglar at 4:56 AM on March 3, 2016


I used to work for the US Army's PX system (AAFES, represent!), and spent a stretch of that time working up at Thule AB: way the hell and gone up in northern Greenland, the only road off base was to the radar site we served. The base population is about a thousand people, half American military & civilian employees, half Danish contractors. Everybody's up there for at least a year, with all spouses & families left back home.... there's drinking, the gym, the library, and the hobby shop. That's pretty much it for entertainment.

ANYhoo, we at the PX sold a ton of booze. After a little while, I noticed that the Americans bought most of our Tuborg beer, and the Danes bought most of the Miller (specifically the Miller Light, God knows why). I got curious, and decided to hold my own little opinion poll: why? The answer I got from both sides was always the same: "because it's imported".... the Americans were drinking Tuborg because it was imported, and the Danes were drinking the Miller because it was imported.

So like McDonald's in France or Disneyland in Japan or Domino's in wherever or heck, the Afghan restaurant down the road from me, just because Starbucks isn't a homegrown Italian company, it'll get customers..... "because it's imported". People are weird.
posted by easily confused at 5:19 AM on March 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


When I lived in London, my friendly neighborhood booze shop proprietor was always excitedly pushing Budweiser on me: "It's imported!" I was like, "Right, but where I'm from, I can get it at any gas station, can I have lame British gas station beer please?"

Ditto wine, California wines were VERY trendy at the time and three times what they cost in the States, and the despairing booze guy couldn't believe I wanted cheapie French wines when I could have expensive and rare CALIFORNIANS.

I like Budweiser, and California wines, but I didn't go abroad to drink them for three times the price! But I totally get it ... Just being rare (and imported) makes it a more special treat than the local stuff you can get every day for cheap, even if the local stuff is objectively superior.

But I made my booze guy very sad.

(I feel like trade tariffs had just changed when I was there, so American booze's wide availability was newish and exciting, everyone was pushing it.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:00 AM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I’m late to this but oh as a Milanese can I add that the Wired article is, how can I put it, bullshit? They hand-picked a few anonymous twitter comments and call it "media reactions", and they misquoted them too - the "Careful, the arrival of #StarbucksItalia could destroy the country!" adds "oh what drama this free market! #keepcalm" – it’s obviously a joke. Same with the one about the apocalypse, it’s sarcastic.

Of course you’d expect skeptical reactions and I’m sure Italian Twitter had lots of fun with that, but the actual Italian media articles were not at all critical about the plan - they all quote the official statements about how Starbucks want to enter the market "con umiltà" and not coming to Italy to teach anyone to make coffee etc., and all the details about interior design and having a proper bar and a specially selected blend to match local taste, and Italian food.

So basically the news is a new hip design café is going to open next year in Milan, stop press... Sure, the big deal is the brand, obviously, but it doesn’t sound like such a big deal in the details, and I don’t actually see a big deal being made of it in Italian media, not in negative terms at least.

Some reactions were even very positive, and from surprising sources like Gambero Rosso, which is like the Michelin Guide for Italian restaurants and bars, an institution for food in Italy (they publish guides and books and a magazine and have a tv channel even). The blog editor there goes overboard praising Starbucks and how it has improved in recent years and adapted locally in different places in Europe, and criticising the declining standards in average Italian cafés (the average across the country, not the excellent ones they review and recommend), emphasizing how Starbucks’ plan is to adapt respectfully to local culture etc.
That piece is overstating the case to provoke debate, but the source is decidedly more authoritative on the matter than a bunch of random tweets.

The stereotypes quoted in the linked BBC piece are also a bit outdated, maybe? Or rather, they are still true about one type of customers, but there is a lot more variety in Italian cafés and in the café experience, especially in a city like Milan. It’s absolutely not unusual to be sitting in a café for longer than a shot of espresso or bring your laptop and do some work. It’s bullshit to say that doesn’t happen. It’s not 1950s Italy... there is a variety of coffee specialties and hot drinks on any café menu (and no of course you’d never ask for "latte" in Italy, because it’s called latte macchiato, just call it what they call it locally, any bar will serve that! amazing isn’t it?), lots of places offer selections of proper teas even, which was unthinkable even just ten years ago, and there are more lounge-type cafés and bars with wider seatings areas and couches and wifi etc. It’s nothing new. There are already Starbucks-like places in Milan, in a sense.

And if they are going to serve blends of coffee especially chosen for Milan, then they will fit right in. It’s not a gamble as it would have been years ago. It’s one opening, in the heart of a major tourist-packed city, it won’t change local culture and it won’t put local cafés out of business, no one is seriously fearing an apocalypse.

Honestly, it’s more of a big deal for Starbucks as a PR stunt, than for the Milanese. I think most people will just be curious to see how far they take the "adapting to local culture" thing. They waited long enough to figure out how to do it right, after all...

(This is not in defense of or against anything, I couldn’t care less about Starbucks either way, I’ve only ordered there when it was convenient traveling through airports and train stations in Germany and the UK and in those places it’s no worse than any other local big average chain, probably better. But that Wired article is just silly clickbait.)
posted by bitteschoen at 2:09 AM on March 6, 2016 [7 favorites]




No, really. That's part of their corporate strategy. It's how Starbucks isn't just responding to customer tastes but cultivating and directing them as a coffee juggernaut.

As someone who worked at a indie coffee shop for years in my 20s, Starbucks deliberately conditions its customers so that they feel awkward trying to order anywhere else. (Oh, I too have felt the irritation of explaining what a macchiato actually is and what they are getting at Starbucks is a caramel latte.) I sometimes stop by a Starbucks now--I didn't ever go to one until I was in my 30s--but I hate hate HATE saying venti/grande/tall. I am like, "Dude, we both know that's a medium so I can please have a medium latte?"
posted by Kitteh at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I hate hate HATE saying venti/grande/tall. I am like, "Dude, we both know that's a medium so I can please have a medium latte?"

I felt that way for the longest time (and I would just say "small" "medium" and "large"), but then the venti came out, and then they took the short off the menu for certain items (I think in the US they took it off the menu for all items, but that may be my memory playing tricks on me), so now I'm cool with the concept of non-standard names. The names they chose are silly, but if they'd gone with "small", "large", etc. it would also be ridiculous -- originally they only had the "short" and "tall". If those had been the "small" and "large", then right now the smallest drink would be the "large".

I'm kinda struggling to think of what names they should have used. Imperial units are weird and don't apply in most of the world. Italian names are pretentious (well, except in Italy, of course). Standard "small/medium/large" becomes ridiculous: "I'd like a medium coffee" "You mean an extra large? Our smallest drinks are called large drinks, so the second-largest would be the extra-large"...While I'm certain that there are better choices than the Italian/English hybrid they use, I suspect they would jus be less bad choices. I'm not sure there's any actually good solution.
posted by Bugbread at 1:38 PM on March 7, 2016


If the initial sizes were small and large, and then they added and changed and removed sizes, they can just rename them. There is no law associating drink names and how many ml they contain.
posted by jeather at 4:19 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but that just creates new confusion between the old small and the new small and then further with the "1st generation large, later renamed the medium (2nd generation), then renamed the small (3rd generation)".

Another option would be sizes like "A", "B", "C", etc.

Or go with ml. That would be easily my favorite choice, but I didn't even take it into consideration because I just assume American consumers would have a snit about using metric instead of imperial. But if they would be okay with it, then, yeah, metric sizes, hands down, no question about it.
posted by Bugbread at 8:03 PM on March 7, 2016


Americans have been using metric for drinks from the grocery store for decades. Why this works perfectly fine yet people still panic about using it for anything else is baffling to me.
posted by bongo_x at 8:17 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Huh. I hadn't really thought about it before, but while I remember beer and soft-drink cans being marked in ounces and milk jugs in gallons and quarts, soft-drink bottles were marked in liters. In summary, America is a land of contrasts.
posted by Bugbread at 10:39 PM on March 7, 2016


All liquor bottles have been metric since the late 70’s.
posted by bongo_x at 11:09 PM on March 7, 2016


It really isn't that confusing when a store redoes its drink sizes. You don't need to call it small-used-to-be-medium-used-used-to-be-large, you just call it the current name. They warn in advance, remind people for a bit during the changeover, then just switch. But just stating the sizes in ml would work.
posted by jeather at 5:47 AM on March 8, 2016


About the "short": you can still order whatever drink you want in a short, even though it's not on the menu, and they'll make it. I've never had anyone tell me no.

They list how many ounces each drink is (12, 16, 20 = tall, grande, venti) already, so you could just order by that, if you like. I will admit that "tall" throws me off and I forget about "grande," so I think I'm getting a 16 oz and then I get a 12 instead.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:20 AM on March 8, 2016


In Starbucks, I always say 'small' or 'medium', depending. If they're rude enough to correct me to 'grande' or whatever, I just repeat 'small' or 'medium'.

They get it.
posted by signal at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2016


way to stick it to the minimum-wage-earning service workers brah
posted by entropicamericana at 8:38 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


(On a related note: one reason I have never, ever purchased a coffee at Starbucks is that I just....I can't say it, I can't do the dumb fake names. There used to be some chain around here which had a very good mango smoothie which was called a "mango fandango", and I only ever had one once when someone else was ordering because I just....couldn't. I recognize that this is somewhere in the bermuda triangle formed by weird brain things, stupid and snobbery, but I just, ugh. I bought about a gazillion iced teas at Starbucks instead last year when I was trapped in a hotel due to work; I am not trying to hold this up as principled anti-Starbucksism.)
posted by Frowner at 9:02 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just....I can't say it

I just order a tall dark roast. I kind of like their "toffeedoodle" cookies, but I definitely can't say that. I sometimes ask for an "awful poodle" cookie, and they
Usually give me the right thing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:41 AM on March 8, 2016


I just....I can't say it

I pretty much only drink drip coffee, with the occasional cappucino. But when I go to a Starbucks (either because I'm in a hurry and it's close, or I'm on tour with my band), I just say "Medium drip coffee", and get what I want.

From time to time someone will say "You mean a Ventellocino?" or whatever it is, and depending on my level of general surliness I'll either say "Yeah, sure" or "I don't speak Italian"
posted by lumpenprole at 4:40 PM on March 8, 2016


On a related note: one reason I have never, ever purchased a coffee at Starbucks is that I just....I can't say it, I can't do the dumb fake names.

If you ask for a small/medium/large they give you a small/medium/large. And my impression is that's what most people do.
posted by escabeche at 4:28 AM on March 9, 2016


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