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A tall post about Starbucks, anger and language
August 17, 2010 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Even though Starbucks was founded by an english teacher, history teacher and writer, the company has grown to have a particular relationship with language, especially with its drink menu. Notably, the sizes of drinks defies commonly understood usage as it attempts to engage customers on multiple levels while providing a new experience. Said experience has resulted in a glossary of terms and even step by step instructions on how to order and decode the lingo.

All of this helps to explain the recent trouble English professor Lynne Rosenthal had at a Starbuck's on New York City's Upper West Side when she ordered a plain multigrain bagel.

The barista asked the Rosenthal if she wanted cheese or butter.
"I just wanted a multigrain bagel," Rosenthal told the Post. "I refused to say, 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want. Linguistically, it's stupid."
Perhaps the professor and the barista could have used a bit of a few lessons in the language of anger. If they had both known their anger language perhaps they could have deflated the situation after going through the 12 Step Program in Language Anger Management, which has been helping defust angry linguistic mobs for months, if not years.

Having successfully learned the anger language of themselves and other humans, they could have learned to read the anger language of lagomorphs, a rare and vanishing skill.
posted by nomadicink (341 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought my husband was going to get kicked out of a Wendy's one time for refusing to say "Dino-size it!" instead of "large soda." However, I think that she got kicked out for being a jerk, instead of a prescriptive linguist–latteist.
posted by theredpen at 6:53 AM on August 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


A: Do you want butter or cheese?
B: No thanks.

But I suppose it's easier to get an article in the NYP if you are a complete bastard.
posted by public at 6:54 AM on August 17, 2010 [71 favorites]


When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want.

She's never been to Burger King.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:55 AM on August 17, 2010 [47 favorites]


Venti is twenty.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 6:56 AM on August 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by zardoz at 6:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Moaning about Starbucks. That's hardcore.
posted by Artw at 6:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


She's never been to Burger King.

Yeah, if you order a burger, you can request it without any of the extra stuff they normally include (like lettuce, tomato, bacon, whatever)
posted by delmoi at 6:57 AM on August 17, 2010


I would much rather go to a restaurant where I have to enthusiastically yell "Dino-size it!" instead of just saying large. That sounds awesome
posted by Riptor at 6:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


It's usually not neologisms I have a problem with, it's the implicit, sometimes explicit requirement that one be co-opted into proprietary marketing jargon to deal with commonplace and commodity items.

It's not a large, it's a super-size.
It's not a large, it's a venti.
It's not a large, it's a delux[e].
It's not a small, it's a large.

Sick of that.

The clerks are as much victims of this process as the consumer, being watched by managers for whom brand-enforcement is a part of their work evaluation, so I don't take it out on the counterpeople. But it's appalling all the same.
posted by ardgedee at 6:58 AM on August 17, 2010 [31 favorites]


She says, "They don't understand what a plain multigrain bagel is." But somehow, I think, if she said "I would like a plain multigrain bagel," she would have gotten exactly what she wanted.

Or similarly, if the barista asked "Do you want butter or cream cheese on it?" She could have used the very plain, very grammatically correct: "No."
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 7:00 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]



Viva la revolucion! (This is why nobody wants to go to / be in / live in the Upper West Side anymore. Fairway supermarket at 5pm on a Tuesday: 6000 Lynne Rosenthals elbowing you in the face to get to the fish counter.)
posted by bukharin at 7:01 AM on August 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


The Starbucks employee was bossy and rude. The customer was cranky, and escalated to rude. In retail, in this scenario, the need of the customer trumps the need of the counterperson. "You're not going to get anything unless you say butter or cheese!" is a ridiculous and hostile thing for a waitperson to say to a customer. Everybody Fails.

I seldom go to Starbucks, in small part because of the ridiculous use of language.
posted by theora55 at 7:01 AM on August 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm pretty certain that at this point more people have an immediate grasp of what a grande latte looks like than a 16 oz one.
posted by Artw at 7:02 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Instead, she insists on making a pest of herself

And how.
posted by robself at 7:04 AM on August 17, 2010


A lot of friends of mine when I was a kid would only eat plain hamburgers in McDonald's. That's two toasted buns and a patty, naked.

I don't go to Starbucks often as I'm a tea drinker (I'd rather save £2 and put the teabag in hot water myself when I get to work) but I do have a problem with board games. Many eurogames being translated from German to English doesn't seem like a good excuse for using 'less' and 'fewer' interchangeably. I want to go all over the cheat sheet for SmallWorld with a venti bottle of Tippex.
posted by mippy at 7:04 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just order a "large" at Starbucks and they magically know what I want. Strangely, I don't have to speak any special language.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:05 AM on August 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


Starbucks is a venti asshole and Lynne Rosenthal is a grande one. Or maybe vice versa, I always get confused.
posted by sfts2 at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, the lady was a jerk.
posted by empath at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2010


I don't use the specialty lingo at Starbuck's (because they're precious and inaccurate -- tall? -- not because they're new), and I've never had any trouble. The staff sometimes translate for their own purposes, but I choose not to regard that as an assault on my integrity.

I tend to doubt this woman was given any greater difficulty with respect to those uses, and her complaint as to the bagel order was incoherent and inconsiderate. This now raises for me the painful question of whether I have to indulge their coffee terminology in order to distance myself from this kind of asshole. Oh, the politics of the counter!
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm getting tweaked by everybody at cash registers nowadays. I am in the habit of saying, "No thanks" to offers, marketing ploys, and card sign-up attempts, but I swear I had to say it six times at a Bed, Bath, & Beyond the other day. I kept my smile in place just in case the cutie at the register ended with a "would you like to come upstairs, bouncy bouncy."

My father, more of a bastard than I, managed to say, "No, thanks," with a kind of withering contempt that stopped the offers of supersizing in their tracks.

Then there's this.
posted by bovious at 7:09 AM on August 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


From what I can piece together from the article, it seems to have gone like this:

"I'd like a toasted multigrain bagel, please."
"Sure. Would you like butter or cream cheese on that?"
(disdainful pause) "I'd like a multigrain bagel, please."
(confused pause) "Right, but erm...did you want butter or cream cheese on it?"
(yelling) "GIVE ME A TOASTED MULTIGRAIN BAGEL!"
(etc.)

I mean I have no particular love for Starbucks and don't even drink coffee but when I've had to order something from them, I've always said small, medium or large and no one's ever given me any crap. Even from this lady's own account of the experience, she sounds like an insufferable nightmare, down to the newspaper photo where she's smugly beaming like she's got a dick made of chocolate.

Also, "Prof rips schmear tactics." Go fuck yourself, NYP.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:09 AM on August 17, 2010 [69 favorites]


The Starbucks employee was bossy and rude. The customer was cranky, and escalated to rude. In retail, in this scenario, the need of the customer trumps the need of the counterperson. "You're not going to get anything unless you say butter or cheese!" is a ridiculous and hostile thing for a waitperson to say to a customer. Everybody Fails.

So how do you know the Starbucks employee said that? It's all Rosenthal's account. The employee didn't get to yammer huffily to the Post about how he/she had been wronged.

I don't believe Rosenthal's account of how it went down.
posted by blucevalo at 7:10 AM on August 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


I can't even keep track of small / med / large these days. I always specify "12oz" wherever I'm at. Seems to work.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:10 AM on August 17, 2010


She's just being a dick here. Plain and simple. They asked a question, and because she has some wacky bee in her bonnet about how one speaks good, she decided to be awkward.

The polite thing to do would have been to answer the question asked. You're not making a point about simplifying communication if your side of that communication is deliberately obfuscated.
posted by seanyboy at 7:11 AM on August 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


I had a waitress once ask me , "Do you want pink lemonade with your dinner?"
I was a grown man. But it was TGI Friday.
posted by PHINC at 7:12 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, but the anger language of rabbits, how cool is that?
posted by nomadicink at 7:13 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


I follow CunningLinguist's model.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:14 AM on August 17, 2010


From the article quoted she says: If you don't use their language, they refuse to serve you.

Which is pretty ironic considering that English Teachers are usually so flexible when it comes to the correct usage of English grammar and language.
posted by seanyboy at 7:14 AM on August 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


I will say that service at Starbucks in NYC does seem to be an order of magnitude slower and grumpier than in Seattle. Though they have nothing on London.
posted by Artw at 7:15 AM on August 17, 2010


She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL. Proof that education is no substitute for common sense.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:15 AM on August 17, 2010 [227 favorites]


Vanity Fair tried to repeat the experience and get kicked out, but instead got a toasted multigrain bagel.
posted by nomadicink at 7:15 AM on August 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


I can't be bothered to learn the Starbucks language for sizes, and have had earnest counter staff correct me when I use ordinary language to ask for what I want. I'm clearly old enough to be the mother of the sincere young person, and find it mildly offensive to be schooled in how to order a cup of coffee by someone who doesn't have the language skill to comprehend "I'd like the largest size of black coffee; whatever is the mildest unflavored roast, please." A good customer service person would have avoided the whole mess.
posted by theora55 at 7:16 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Starbucks drink framework invites participation and exploration. Learning the language creates a sense of empowerment and belonging. It helps customers feel they are part of Starbucks.

It also helps me realize this is the kind of establishment I wouldn't want to be caught dead in, so it's a win for everybody involved.
posted by Dr Dracator at 7:16 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL. Proof that education is no substitute for common sense.

Oh yeah, a number of New York blogs were chastising her for doing that, especially on the Upper West Side.

I'm curious how this story made the news though, complete with her name, if no one was arrested.
posted by nomadicink at 7:18 AM on August 17, 2010


What a ass. She is mistaking "correct English" for "this really specific meaning in my own, personal English" rather than "the way we communicate in English." I think the barista was perfectly within rights to want her to answer cheese, butter, or neither before serving her. Particularly because in many people's vernacular, the "plain, multi-grain bagel" could easily be confused for wanting the type of multi-grain that doesn't have onions, blueberries, etc. "Plain" can mean *multiple* things and still be "correct English." People that smugly assert they are just oh so particular about grammar and that's why they're communicating poorly piss me off.

I order small, medium, and large in Starbucks, and they know exactly what I mean.

That woman has also never been in a Burger King, where I end up enumerating all the things I don't want on my burger because "plain" never works.
posted by wending my way at 7:18 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want.

Would you like fries or a shake with that?
posted by TedW at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Economist :
I'm sorry, Ms Rosenthal, but linguistically, your position is stupid hovering just above insanity. Most twenty-first century Americans understand that when ordering quick-take food at a counter, you will often be asked if you want various options. This is not limited to Starbucks. The competent thing to do, bringing all your meta-linguistic skills (the study of which is called "pragmatics") to bear, is say "no, thanks."

...Such inanities violate the co-operative principle (illustrated in comic form here) that underlies successful speaking...
The commenters at Starbucks Gossip are not terribly impressed either.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:20 AM on August 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Sort of a side story that I don't see getting much play, but here in the UK I've seen Starbucks store after store close down. They're losing ground badly to another coffee chain - Costa coffee, which I usually prefer anyways since they actually train their baristas and use real espresso machines.

My favorite closing was a store of theirs directly across the street from Taylor St. Baristas, an independent coffee house. The Starbucks store mysteriously dissappeared one day. Taylor St. Baristas, on the other hand, opened up another outlet nearby.
posted by vacapinta at 7:20 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's a rebuttal from one of the Economist's blogs that talks about the co-operative principle illustrated with a Dinosaur Comic on the subject.
Basically for communication to occur you have to assume the other person is cooperating and understanding you, instead of assuming they must not know what you're talking about. Or else you look like an ass.
posted by amethysts at 7:21 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have been a regular Starbucks customer for many years and I have only been corrected once for not using their lingo. And the employee that corrected me seemed like someone that would have been a dick in any circumstance. If I order something and they repeat it in a different order with different terminology it's for the person making the beverage, not to shame me. Or if it is to shame me, I haven't picked up on that after all of these years. I always get what what I ordered and the system seems to keep working.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:22 AM on August 17, 2010


Venti is twenty.

20oz! That's an obscene size for a cup of coffee. No wonder people are so fucking fat.
posted by rhymer at 7:22 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The barista said, 'You're not going to get anything unless you say butter or cheese!' "

wow, just wow - what rude and domineering service.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:23 AM on August 17, 2010


She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL. Proof that education is no substitute for common sense.

I'm quoting this because I can't favorite it twice. Last week a family friend started an anecdote about how they visited a McDonald's in Paris. I (and yes, asshole admission) wouldn't even her get to the actual story because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?
posted by norm at 7:23 AM on August 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


When I grow up, "BUTTER OR CHEESE!?" will be my warcry.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:24 AM on August 17, 2010 [14 favorites]


The real losers in this story are all the people in line behind her. I would like to see their thoughts in the paper. I bet Professor Rosenthal pays by check and haggles with cashiers over prices everywhere she goes too.
posted by TedW at 7:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can remember a day when one could expect to be barked at by hairy-armed NYC lunch-counter men (grown men, not student-types) for not ordering in the arcane deli jargon of the particular boro or neighborhood. Heaven help you if you didn't know that a "regular" coffee meant cream and sugar south of 14th Street, and cream only north of 14th Street (or was it the other way around). But the following (from the links) is very true: "The reality is you can help yourself and no one makes you angry, because anger is a choice. The reason anger is a choice is because anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, before you feel anger, you have felt something else first." I only wish the guy at the Kosher cafeteria on lower Broadway had been aware of it that afternoon I walked in and ordered a cheeseburger. I didn't understand Yiddish, but I got the message.
posted by Faze at 7:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


The professor is completely in the wrong on this one, and I *hate* the stupid venti whatever system.

First, even if it was a stupid policy, yelling at some poor clerk who doesn't make the policy is just an asshole move.

But in this case, she was not in fact being linguistically clear. She did not actually ask for a plain bagel. She asked for a toasted bagel. She simply refused to accept that "plain" was not the default order in this case.

Which, incidentally, makes her Burger King analogy particularly idiotic. A Whopper, for example, comes standard with pickles, tomatoes, ketchup, etc., and you DO INDEED have to specify if you want something other than the default.

Want a pizza without cheese? YOU HAVE TO SAY SO. Want your pasta without sauce? YOU HAVE TO SAY SO. If 99.9% of people ordering a certain dish want it a certain way, it is not unreasonable to consider *them* the default state and *you* the person who needs to specify.

And in this case, they were friendly enough to ask for clarification when they might have been giving you what you didn't want if they just gave you the default case! It's actually *nice* of them!

But, no. You're a *stickler*. Rather than waste a precious, precious second of your time by offering clarification ("Plain, please"), you caused a big pain for everyone and got into an argument and got ejected from a store by police. Oh, yeah, that must have been totally worth it to make the point that ... I don't know. What was your point? Oh, yes, that the world should be organized to cater to your particular tastes rather than those of everyone else around you.

Oh, I'm sorry, you say your point that they should be linguistically *precise*? Was that the point you were trying to make? Have fun painstakingly ordering your flame grilled 113.4 gram beef patty on a sesame seed bun with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and sliced onion every time you want a Whopper in a damn Burger King, then. Yeah, that makes language MUCH MORE USEFUL.

And seriously. Stop yelling at the poor clerk. You are not a "stickler". You're an asshole.
posted by kyrademon at 7:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [33 favorites]


Rosenthal, who is in her early 60s, asked for a toasted multigrain bagel -- and became enraged when the barista at the franchise, on Columbus Avenue at 86th Street, followed up by inquiring, "Do you want butter or cheese?"

"I just wanted a multigrain bagel," Rosenthal told The Post. "I refused to say 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want.

"Linguistically, it's stupid, and I'm a stickler for correct English."


Let me be very, very clear about how very, very stupid this argument is:

She is complaining about the Starbucks equivalent of "Would you like fries with that?"

There's nothing wrong with the "butter/cheese/neither" response from a linguistic perspective. Upselling is content, and if there's one thing linguistics is not about, it's about declaring what messages you are or aren't allowed to send.

Of course, one thing linguistics is about, is capturing the nature of communication between individuals. Do people ask eachother to repeat themselves in unique ways? Absolutely. Communication is a two way street in which senders calibrate to receivers and vice versa. You want to bust out the linguistic card, you should know this.

And anyway, the set of toasted multigrained bagels actually does include:

* Plain
* With Cheese
* With Butter
* With Cheese and Butter

Requesting clarification regarding which of the four was actually ordered, is a perfectly prosaic, normal, linguistically uninteresting request.

But way to play off bad behavior as, in fact, rarified knowledge. "I had to tell her off. She was LINGUISTICALLY INCORRECT."
posted by effugas at 7:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


When a young twerp behind a counter is called a barista, then I know I am already heading for trouble. Got friend who is very health nutsy and when he orders toast, simply says: Dry, ie, no butter or anything. it works. But our lady of the sorrows has another gig on the side (when not being annoyingly bitchy)
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/06/26/lynn_rosenthal_named_white_hou.html
posted by Postroad at 7:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I grow up, "BUTTER OR CHEESE!?" will be my warcry.

Eh, it's no CAKE OR DEATH?!
posted by jedicus at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I used to go to Starbucks every morning, until a Peet's opened in a more convenient place for me, and every morning I'd ask for a "medium coffee. Nobody ever questioned it. I always got a medium coffee and everyone was friendly and efficient.

Also, don't be a douche to the counter monkey because of some silly corporate policy.
posted by bondcliff at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


"...I'm a stickler for correct English"

I love people who are such sticklers for correct language that communication is a second-order priority.

My grandma barely spoke English; she smiled and pointed and spoke a couple of words, and she was able to get coffee, buns, and all the crazy grandma crap she ate, just fine.
posted by surenoproblem at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


I'm quoting this because I can't favorite it twice. Last week a family friend started an anecdote about how they visited a McDonald's in Paris. I (and yes, asshole admission) wouldn't even her get to the actual story because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?

Ever tried to find not-French food in Paris?
posted by effugas at 7:26 AM on August 17, 2010


She's wrong about Burger King. Well, I think so. It's been years since I went to one. But when I was a picky adolescent, I perfected an ordering system for my plain cheeseburger that went something like this: "..and a cheeseburger, plain, no ketchup or onion. Yes, just a dry bun, nothing else. No condiments please." Even so I had to make a trip back to the counter about half the time because I had neglected to exclude some other standard condiment, or they had neglected to hear it.

She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL.

Well, she wanted a multigrain bagel. The range of traditional NY bagel flavors definitely doesn't include multigrain - it kind of stops at egg, salt, poppy, sesame, onion, everything. Even so, her preference for a fakey bagel flavor says just as much as her choice of Starbucks.

Finally, it's always a blast to see what the baristas are saying over at Starbucks Gossip. If the barista in question does get a say, it'll probably be here.
posted by Miko at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


because they're precious and inaccurate -- tall?

It's called tall because it is larger than the short. Once upon a time, there were only tall and short cups. But people cried more more more (with a rebel yell).

I don't know if I am supposed to say this, but soon there will most likely be a size even larger than venti called Trenta. It's 31 oz. The sizes will then be:

Short - 8 oz
Tall - 12 oz
Grande - 16 oz
Venti - 20 oz
Iced Venti - 24 oz
Trenta - 31 oz

FYI
posted by Houyhnhnm at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


I usually get my four-dollar coffee milkshakes at Black Dog Cafe, a locally-owned coffee shop with a pleasant atmosphere and sizes like "small" and "large".

The coffee servers at Black Dog get a little annoyed when someone comes in and orders a venti.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Last week a family friend started an anecdote about how they visited a McDonald's in Paris. I (and yes, asshole admission) wouldn't even her get to the actual story because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?

I have had the same experience with traveling companions in both New Orleans and Italy. If you can't find something good to eat in those places, perhaps you had better just stay home.
posted by TedW at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sort of a side story that I don't see getting much play, but here in the UK I've seen Starbucks store after store close down. They're losing ground badly to another coffee chain - Costa coffee, which I usually prefer anyways since they actually train their baristas and use real espresso machines.

Really? They must have stepped up their game as I've always known them as being utterly vile. The best thing about the rise of Starbucks in the UK was that it displaced so many Costas.
posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2010


When I frequent burger places and get asked "Regular or super size?", I answer "normal" or "large" depending on my current state of hunger. In several decades of burger eating I have yet to find a single person behind the counter fail to understand what I mean, or 'correct' me, and I have yet to strop my way into a newspaper over the issue. I've never been in Starbucks so perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems a bit hard to believe they are so much more militant about their jargon they would not likewise simply process the 'wrong terminology' order.
posted by Slyfen at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2010


Particularly because in many people's vernacular, the "plain, multi-grain bagel" could easily be confused for wanting the type of multi-grain that doesn't have onions, blueberries, etc.

I think this is important to highlight. The woman got all huffy because her order should have been plain on its face; as a result I can only assume she has never worked in any kind of service job, much less food service. The poor schmuck behind the counter has no idea that she's a stickler for English and is trying to hedge her bets that "plain" doesn't mean "with cream cheese" or "don't you fucking dare slice it in half" or "if you don't slice it in half I'm going to kick up a fuss and hold up the line for a good five minutes," to this particular customer.

Maybe that sounds ridiculous to some, but really. It's a jungle out there.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:29 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wonder if I could get a free flight from the Post if I promised to use it as research to write a 600-word analytical essay on the "deal" with airline food, to which I inquire of the people if I am right.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:29 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ever tried to find not-French food in Paris?

Why would you want to?
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on August 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


Back when I was new to the Starbucks thing, I did get corrected on the lingo. If I asked for a large, I would get back some variant of, "So you mean venti." I rapidly and briefly entertained a vision of an elderly man, shouting, "My buddies didn't die in the mud fighting the jerries to have to call a big cup a 'venti,' girly!" the first time I heard this. I can only assume that it was some district manager thing, from On High, being enforced.

Probably the same district manager who left up a sign about average customer ratings across the district and what that particular store had received, describing the difference in the two numbers as "variance." The statistics nerd in me flinched.
posted by adipocere at 7:30 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


When in Paris always get a hot dog - best in the world.
posted by Artw at 7:30 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"When a young twerp behind a counter is called a barista, then I know I am already heading for trouble."

Shit, stay away from Italy then.
posted by surenoproblem at 7:31 AM on August 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


Being an ass is being an ass, moreso if you're trying to make some passive-aggressive point.

But yes, it is annoying when food outlets make up their own language and there's some implied thing going on about customers using that language, although the people who work in these places are normally reasonably sympathetic towards people just asking for what they want in plain-speak.

But my annoyance at the language used to describe the food pales into insignificance beside the way young people ask 'Can I get...?' when they really mean 'Could I have...?'. If it were me serving them I'd reply 'Of course you can. You just need to ask for it.' That'd teach the whipper-snappers.

Excuse me. I need to go and tidy my shed.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:33 AM on August 17, 2010


rhymer: "20oz! That's an obscene size for a cup of coffee. No wonder people are so fucking fat."

There's no calories in coffee. (At least not if you drink it properly)
posted by octothorpe at 7:34 AM on August 17, 2010 [34 favorites]


All I know is there's no goddam way I'm ever ordering a "Rooty-Tooty Fresh And Fruity" pancake breakfast. I'll suffer in silence with eggs, hash-browns and toast, if that's what it comes to.

Also, I regularly confound Starbuck's employees by ordering "coffee." I'm nice about it though if they can't follow.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:35 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The coffee servers at Black Dog get a little annoyed when someone comes in and orders a venti.

Working at a different coffee chain, I get this kind of thing multiple times a day:

"I'll have whatever a medium is called here."
"It's called a medium, actually."
"REALLY?!" *incredulous beaming smile*

Makes my day.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


I don't use Starbucks' precious marketing jargon because their coffee is horribly bitter (designed, perhaps, to balance all that sugary crud they put into their goofy concoctions), and I just can't bring myself to order it.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Starbucks whith their whole, "speak our way" is kind of sad. It was novel the first time I ever went in, but the second time I knew I would participate in their creepy-assed marketing shtick. Once a year though I like their coffee, "regular"

I can remember a day when one could expect to be barked at by hairy-armed NYC lunch-counter men

Eisenbergs, 22nd and 5th, if you're lucky and sit at a table you might even get called "hon" by a waitress.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


'Can I get...?' when they really mean 'Could I have...?'.

I don't think there's as much of a grammatical difference here as you seem to see. If anything, "Could I have" is even more conditional. An asshole could respond "Yes, you could, if I felt like giving it to you," and be following the rules of grammar to the letter.

At some point, there are common conventions of conversation that we have to recognize if we don't want to have embarrassing conniptions in retail outlets. Everyone understands that preceding an order with "I'd like..." or "Can I have..." or "Could I get..." or "I'll take..." are conventions that serve no real grammatical purpose (the order itself will be understood anyway whether or not these niceties are included), but serve as social lubricant, to avoid barking orders mechanically at another human being, as if at the Soup Nazi.
posted by Miko at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Ever tried to find not-French food in Paris?

You're joking, right?
posted by norm at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


The woman got all huffy because her order should have been plain on its face; as a result I can only assume she has never worked in any kind of service job, much less food service.

That explains your comment even more than you thought.

The woman didn't get all huffy because of her order. She got all huffy because a person she pre-determined as less significant than her didn't cater to her condescension. That's what every single one of these articles are about; making entitled people who don't have to wear aprons feel better about themselves.

As far as the "they call it venti" stuff goes... Jesus, do these people, especially living in New York City of all goddamn places, not understand what "branding" is? You know what, you twit? If you ordered "a burger" at McDonalds they would also try to clarify what the fuck you actually wanted, because no matter what you particularly want, "burger" isn't on the fucking menu.

These are people bitching that the people catering to them aren't catering to them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2010 [42 favorites]


If you are ever in Franklin, Mass., Spruce Pond Creamery is absolutely awesome. Their pizzas are terrific (made under the restaurant moniker "Franklin Flatbreads," which is a whole 'nother kind of branding weirdness: It's one restaurant with two names), but the ice cream is even better—the best around.

They serve three sizes: kiddie, small, and large. Often I forget this. I step up to the window and politely ask for a "medium cup of [ice cream]." Invariably, they correct me: "I'm sorry, we only have kiddie, small, and large." There is no corporate branding reason for this failure to understand that when you serve three sizes and a customer requests "medium," he is asking for the middle one.

I worked at a Starbucks once. Many, many people ordered small, medium, or large coffees. I was never confused as to which size they meant and I never corrected them ("I'm sorry, did you mean venti?"). I just fetched their coffee. And for the record, I read the handbook front to back and I saw lots of dumb things, but nothing about correcting customers when they speak English.
posted by cribcage at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2010


I seldom go to Starbucks, in small part because of the ridiculous use of language.

I feel like a total idiot every time I order a "Grande" or a "Tall". And they never have any ceramic mugs!
posted by KokuRyu at 7:40 AM on August 17, 2010


This is going to spark another round of the MIT Language Riots, isn't it.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:40 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Dunkin' Donuts' "espresso" drinks are generally not worth the premium price, but I have always loved this ad.

What's really Kafkaesque is going someplace and asking for a small drink and being told "Oh, I'm sorry - we only have medium and large."

norm: I confess, that while on a high school trip to France, some classmates and I stopped at a McDonald's in Strasbourg. But in our defense, it was only because we wanted to be able to say we had gotten beer at McDonald's. The beer was terrible.
posted by usonian at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


But my annoyance at the language used to describe the food pales into insignificance beside the way young people ask 'Can I get...?' when they really mean 'Could I have...?'. If it were me serving them I'd reply 'Of course you can. You just need to ask for it.' That'd teach the whipper-snappers.

Excuse me. I need to go and tidy my shed.


After you are at it for a while -- either your shed, or your plate of food -- I will saunter by and ask, "You still working on that?" Because tidying your shed, or trying to soldier your way through my establishment's shitty food, is work, dammit.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Me: Can I have an espresso, please?
*$: Do you mean a doppio?

No, I just want a fucking espresso. I am aware that doppio = double but we are not in Italy, we are in a Starbucks in Philly.
posted by fixedgear at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2010


because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?

I did this when I went. I had £100 to last three days, much of which went on bottled water and food as we were poor. We ate at McDonald's because it meant we could get enough calories to walk round PereLaChaise and then afford a nice dinner. There are many fine restaurants in Paris but as in London few of them provide a menu for students with little money. We couldn't afford to fill our tummies on crepes at 3euro a time. So we went to McDonald's and said to each other 'I can't believe we're eating McDonald's abroad...'

Sort of a side story that I don't see getting much play, but here in the UK I've seen Starbucks store after store close down. They're losing ground badly to another coffee chain - Costa coffee, which I usually prefer anyways since they actually train their baristas and use real espresso machines.

I haven't seen that, but oddly I have seen many Burger Kings close down - one near where I live, one near work, and the one near where I used to live leased half of their floorspace to a phone-unlocking store.

Upselling tends to confuse me - I ordered something in a chain restaurant a few weeks ago, they asked me if I wanted X or Y, I said no thanks, and only when I had another look at the menu did I realise I'd have had to pay extra for those. It's not yet that common in Britain but it's creeping in - every time I go to Smiths for a magazine I'm asked if I want cheap chocolate.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Calling a woman a 'dick' is still weird to me. Just say 'bitch', people.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2010


"Ever tried to find not-French food in Paris?"

Yes, actually. (I had my reasons.) It's easy. Paris is a major city. Lots of restaurants, of many different kinds.
posted by kyrademon at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only similar thing that annoys me is that when I order a BLT at a local sandwich place, they ask me "Do you want anything else on your BLT?" when it just has bacon on it (which I can't see because there's a high counter between us), so I'm supposed to say "Lettuce, tomato and mayo" to get what I actually want. I've never gotten escorted out of the store or even complained about it, but one time I did end up with bringing home a bacon & mayo sandwich. The local media declined to cover the story.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not nice to laugh at mental illness. This lady seems to have problems.
posted by SPUTNIK at 7:43 AM on August 17, 2010


Calling a woman a 'dick' is still weird to me. Just say 'bitch', people.

If men can be bitchy and sluttish, women can act like dicks. And this lady was being a dick.
posted by mippy at 7:44 AM on August 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


Ever tried to find not-French food in Paris?

Funny thing, that, as French food is dying in France. Il est tous les japonais et l'italien à Paris.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:45 AM on August 17, 2010


Can I have an espresso, please? Do you mean a doppio? No, I just want a fucking espresso. I am aware that doppio = double but we are not in Italy, we are in a Starbucks in Philly.

It'd be helpful to clarify how many shots of fucking espresso you want. People order two, three, five, nine shots all day long. Say one shot if you don't want to say solo. Say double espresso instead of doppio, if you want. But don't be an asshole because your barista isn't a goddamn mind reader.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 7:46 AM on August 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL. Proof that education is no substitute for common sense.
posted by TrialByMedia


Good god yes. I've been to NYC many times, and never once felt the urge or need to visit a Starbucks, be it for a bagel, coffee, or whatever.

And now I'm hungry for a New York bagel . . .
posted by Outlawyr at 7:46 AM on August 17, 2010


She lying.

Here's how I know. When she went to the doctor and asked "What's wrong with me?" and the doctor said, "I'm not sure" and then walked out of the room, would she be satisfied? What if she later found out that, though the doctor didn't know specifically what was wrong with her, he had a ballpark guess (e.g. probably some sort of infection) and he could have cured her with antibiotics.

If she later discovers this, does she say, "Well, I can't blame the doctor. I asked him a question and he gave me an answer. I didn't ask him for a cure. I didn't ask him to make an educated guess. So it's my fault"? No one thinks this way.

It's as if she doesn't understand the idea of defaults. Or she has an incredibly simpleminded model for them, in which defaults are always minimalist. For instance, the default for streak is that it's cooked. But I guess in her world that's not the case. When she goes to a restaurant and orders a steak, does she get pissed off that when she doesn't get a completely raw lump of meat? Or, when she orders, does she always say, "And please cook it."

"I'd like a steak, please."

"How would you like it cooked?"

"I said, 'I'd like a steak please!'"

She also knows that defaults change from culture to culture. I'm not talking about Japan vs. America, though it's true in that case, of course. I'm talking about my house vs. your house. I'm talking about Starbucks vs. Joe's Java Joint. Part of being human is that when you walk into a new culture, you do some work to figure out the defaults of that culture. Apparently, in Starbucks, bagels come with butter by default. So what?
posted by grumblebee at 7:48 AM on August 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


Calling a woman a 'dick' is still weird to me. Just say 'bitch', people.

That's where you're wrong.

(2) Don’t ever make fun of a lady with gender-connotating words like “bitch” or “slut” or whatever the other awful words are. It’s so unnecessary, right? Especially when you’re talking about, let’s see, SARAH PALIN, and you can just call her an “asshole.” It sounds so much better! “Idiot asshole Sarah Palin went on the Facebook today…” etc. etc. I’m such a gentleman it’s insane.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:48 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps Fritalian?
posted by Pax at 7:49 AM on August 17, 2010


Myself? Why thank you for asking- I'll take a large... venti? Sure. Black, dark roast... 'rwandalamadingdong bold', sure.

And, when someone asks what I have, to this I say ' a cup of coffee- I think.'

I'm with mippy- I have my own damnfancy [sic] coffee equipment, and tend to haul around a thermos, looking like a disheveled Steve Martin, ala The Jerk. Now, I think I may ask people if they want a short one, and cackle madly- well, if I wasn't sure that behaviour would get me exiled.
posted by LD Feral at 7:49 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sure it's very jarring to hear Italian in Philadelphia.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:49 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did this when I went. I had £100 to last three days, much of which went on bottled water and food as we were poor. We ate at McDonald's because it meant we could get enough calories to walk round PereLaChaise and then afford a nice dinner.

Ok, I'm totally beating a dead horse now, but you still don't need to go to McDonald's even in this situation (which is the same situation I was in when I visited Paris!). The little patisseries and street food places are just as cheap as McDonald's and serve incredible food.

And to bring it back to the original subject, I wonder how many Americans/Brits abroad go to a McDonald's solely for the assurance that they know exactly what they're going to get and know how to order it without remembering the bare minimum "je voudrais (point to item)" formula. I still think it seems a little sad, but hey! I already admitted I was an asshole on this point.
posted by norm at 7:50 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I appreciate Slate's take: if you don't like Starbucks don't go there. Specifically:

Rosenthal is an English professor and insists that she is a "stickler for correct English." Two points: There is correct English and there is PRECISE English. She placed a perfectly "correct" order for a bagel, but her barista wanted to be "precise" and followed up with a question, for which she could have given the correct answer of "Neither, please." (Starbucks can't read its customers minds and presumably has a lot of customers who order a bagel without requesting butter or cheese but who DO want a spread.) Secondly, you don't have to have a Ph.D. to learn courtesy. That's something that is usually covered in kindergarten.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 7:50 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's really Kafkaesque is going someplace and asking for a small drink and being told "Oh, I'm sorry - we only have medium and large."

I worked at Wendy's for short, sad time in my youth. A customer asked for a drink, I asked the customer "just a 'regular'?" and I got pulled aside by a manager who tersely explained to me that "nothing is regular at Wendy's!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:51 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also --

How a sane person might make this already dubious point:

"Would you like butter or cheese?"
"Neither, just plain, and I wish you wouldn't ask; I could have told you if I'd wanted them."

How a crazy person chooses to make this point:

"Would you like butter or cheese?"
"I refuse to answer!"
"Um ... I kind of need to know what you want on your -"
"I THROW TANTRUM LIKE TWO YEAR OLD NOW!"
posted by kyrademon at 7:53 AM on August 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


Ever tried to find not-French food in Paris?

Agreed. After about ten days of soggy vegetables and cuts of meat that wouldn't fly at a White Castle, I broke down and went to McDo when I was near Avignon. Maybe it was just bad luck, but every time that I didn't eat at an ethnic restaurant, I was disappointed. There's only so many times you can barely make it à la toilette before you realize you can't exist solely on the unforgettable orgy of dairy products and pastries.

I still remember a single piece of cheese that I had seven years ago. That's terrifying for so many reasons.
posted by atypicalguy at 7:55 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


She lying.

Here's how I know.


I thought your telepathic powers only worked if you could touch the person.
posted by nomadicink at 7:55 AM on August 17, 2010


An English professor and a barista engage in verbal fisticuffs over a bagel.

Seriously? A barista and an English professor. Read that out loud and listen to the words coming out of your mouth: "A barista and an English professor." What part of that phrase isn't tedious?
posted by jnrussell at 7:56 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Holy shit do I hate it when people appeal smugly to "logic" or "linguistics" in their defense and don't have the slightest fucking grasp of either. Those people need to be locked in a room until they admit how ignorant they are. And preferably beaten with sticks on their way out. "Linguistically, it's stupid." No. Would she be mad if they handed her the bagel before she specified that she was willing to receive it? Is no-one allowed to move a muscle until she explicitly specifies which barista she's addressing? Talk like a person and you'll get served like a person. If you confuse people so badly that they have to call the police, for god's sake, then you fucked up.
posted by creasy boy at 7:56 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, thanks a latte. Have a grande!
posted by Houyhnhnm at 7:56 AM on August 17, 2010


As for going to McDonald's overseas, I actually make it a practice now to visit one in each new country, to see what fun regional sauces and stuff they're going to have. This started, however, when we were stuck at a train station in Italy and there was literally nothing else open at that time of night within safe walking distance. (And I usually wait until the late night/nothing else open scenario happens now, because McDonald's just isn't that great.) I do the same thing with sushi, Mexican, and Chinese food. It's interesting to see different countries' takes on other countries' cuisine.
posted by wending my way at 7:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


Slate: Tim Harford on Solving the mystery of the elusive "short" cappuccino.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rude customer is rude.
However, I have been in a Starbucks where I ordered a "large coffee with steamed milk" and got an eye roll and a very patronizing, 'you mean a MISTO" in response. I found that irritating. Not irritating enough to start an argument with a barista just irritating enough to never go to the 14th street Starbucks again.
posted by pointystick at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2010


What's really Kafkaesque is going someplace and asking for a small drink and being told "Oh, I'm sorry - we only have medium and large."

Nothing wrong about this at all. The establishment is trying to communicate two things: the sizes relative to one another there, and the sizes relative to external norms. The former apparently explains the use of "tall" at Starbuck's (relative to their little-used "short," I gather); the latter makes sense of the absent "small" in some places. When this is ignored, be prepared for customers to observe, "Can you believe they call this a small?" etc.

When in doubt, I order "smallest" or, rarely, "largest."
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2010



Do you take your laptop to tech support or do you take your Macbook to the Genius Bar ?

Stupid branding is stupid, unless it's a brand you love.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, I'm totally beating a dead horse now, but you still don't need to go to McDonald's even in this situation (which is the same situation I was in when I visited Paris!). The little patisseries and street food places are just as cheap as McDonald's and serve incredible food.

You know, there are fewer things I enjoy more than French food, but man, just because you're there doesn't mean you have to live up to some fake idea where its pan chocolate with a kir royal every morning and steak frites with a nice burgduny every supper. When I was there, I saw more French people eating burgers from McDonalds and whatever the McDonalds clone than I saw eating idealized French food.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't help but think that 95%* of the time, people who claim to have been "corrected" by a Starbucks employee, haven't been. When someone comes in and orders a "latte, with vanilla, medium, non-fat, oh, and iced," the barista will reiterate the order to make sure they've got it, "OK, an iced medium non-fat vanilla latte." It's not a rude correction, it's putting the parts in order, because the person at the espresso bar is making many many drinks, and having orders come in a consistent fashion is a mnemonic device.

It's about as "corrected" as ordering a burger "only a little pink in the middle" and having the server yell, "hey Joe! One burger, medium rare!"

*5% of the time, the baristas definitely are asshats. You'll find that in any food service joint, though.
posted by explosion at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'm quoting this because I can't favorite it twice. Last week a family friend started an anecdote about how they visited a McDonald's in Paris. I (and yes, asshole admission) wouldn't even her get to the actual story because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?

I went to an El Torito in Yokohama, Japan. You can learn a lot in a restaurant that serves the local version of the American variant of Spanish/Aztec fusion.

And the view was terrific.
posted by notyou at 8:01 AM on August 17, 2010


Years ago I was in a restaurant with a group of people and the waitress asked the English teacher, "Would you like soup or salad with that?"
He replied, quite seriously, "What's in your super salad?"
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:02 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just ask for a coffee over ice.
posted by Artw at 8:03 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL.

Awesome.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2010


Oeuf means 'egg'. Frommage means 'cheese'. It's like those French have a different word for EVERYTHING.
posted by grubi at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Back when I was in high school (mid-70's) I did my fast-food-job penance at my local McDonalds. During the training for the register position, I was instructed to ask the customer "You want a shake?" when they ordered a milkshake. Note the absence of the word "milk" in the reply I was instructed to give. Apparently, at least according to my manager, there wasn't any actual, legally-defined milk in the base mix we used in the shake machines. So, we couldn't sell milkshakes. Only shakes. Thus, the "clarification" in my response.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:06 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oeuf means 'egg'. Frommage means 'cheese'. It's like those French have a different word for EVERYTHING.

Indeed.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:08 AM on August 17, 2010


I've solved the problem of getting mildly irked by Starbucks' faux Italian coffee names by not going there.

Well, actually, that's not strictly true. I stopped going there because their coffees were the size and flavor of milkshakes. I mean, that's great if you like drinking a lukewarm milkshake at 8am. But I prefer a coffee.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:08 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible ...
posted by carter at 8:09 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I absolutely refuse to use Starbucks daft terminology for drink sizes. I also see no need to give my name when ordering. Now back to read the article and, no doubt, entertaining comments.
posted by michswiss at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2010


It's a pretty revealing look at capitalism to see how many people are calling the customer wrong for failing to abide by an arbitrary (and stupid) rule set by a private corporation.

Where do free market forces fit in to a world where customers aren't supposed to be "pests"?
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2010


Norm, we didn't know that as we were dumb tourists near the Louvre and my attempts to speak French were embarrassing (I took Spanish in high school and to me written and spoken French are completely different). I tried to order in French.

'L'eau sil vous plait.'
'Pardon?'
'L'eau? *points to the menu as I'm struggling*
'Ah, you want the water!'

I also said 'Gracias' by mistake to a waiter when I meant 'merci'. I can more or less understand the ads on the Metro and headlines in newspapers but ask me to try and actually speak to someone and they'd soon give up and speak to le fou rosbif en anglais.

There are great cheap places to eat in London but they don't tend to be around tourist spots, hence many foreign tourists sticking to familiar chains. I don't think it's always about cultural philistinism - and I say that as someone who can't stand people who go to the Costa Del Sol and only eat chips and egg - more that European cities can be expensive.

Anyway, I still say she was a dick, and I say that as someone with a linguistics degree who had to explain at length to a client that there is no such thing as 'almost unique'.
posted by mippy at 8:11 AM on August 17, 2010


She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL. Proof that education is no substitute for common sense.

Unless I misread, she ordered a bagel at Starbucks. That is not to say she selected Starbucks because of its bagels. And, BTW, the density and convenience of places selling bagels in NY >>>>>>> the density and convenience of places selling distinctively good NY bagels. I suspect the vast majority of bagels sold in NY have no particular edge on the one she tried to order.

The good professor should be mocked for being a jerk, not for her taste in coffee or bagels.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:11 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, can we also use this thread to complain about the other Starbucks problem? You know the one where Starbucks seem to have conditioned an entire nation of erstwhile adults into expecting their day to start with some byzantine machination of milk, sugar and flavoring and a teeny bit of actual coffee?

Also, get off my lawn and all that.
posted by jnrussell at 8:12 AM on August 17, 2010


It's a pretty revealing look at capitalism to see how many people are calling the customer wrong for failing to abide by an arbitrary (and stupid) rule set by a private corporation.

It certainly would be if that were happening, yes.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:12 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


No, I just want a fucking espresso. I am aware that doppio = double but we are not in Italy, we are in a Starbucks in Philly.

Totally, it's like when college friends of mine started spending their year abroad in Europe and came back all like, "And then we went to Eeeetaaahhlia for the week," and it's like motherfucker you are from Jersey and we both know you don't speak a goddamn word of Itlian so check that pretenious bullshit at customs.
posted by The Straightener at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This story is just plain stupid on every level. I read something about it yesterday and had to read it twice, thinking I hadn't understood the issue.

It's just a stupid story. I think the fact that such a stupid story spreads through our culture is more interesting than the story itself.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:15 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Postroad: our lady of the sorrows has another gig on the side.

This appears to be a different Lynn Rosenthal. Here's a picture: She's the one in the middle.

Nice try, though.
posted by Jugwine at 8:16 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not nice to laugh at mental illness.

Then why are you making jokes about it?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:16 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Waitress: Plate or platter?
Lucille: I don't understand the question and I won't respond to it.
posted by snofoam at 8:17 AM on August 17, 2010 [27 favorites]


It's a pretty revealing look at capitalism to see how many people are calling the customer wrong for failing to abide by an arbitrary (and stupid) rule set by a private corporation.

The conflict wasn't about the drink sizes names, it was about the fact that she didn't like that the server asked if she wanted butter or cream cheese when she thought she was clear that she wanted neither one. This could have happened anywhere.
posted by amethysts at 8:17 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


there is no such thing as 'almost unique'

Of course there is. There aren't degrees of uniqueness but there are degrees of rarity.
posted by enn at 8:18 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't drink coffee,so this was my first exposure to this was this video . It was funny to me.
posted by djduckie at 8:18 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"20oz! That's an obscene size for a cup of coffee. No wonder people are so fucking fat."

20oz of black coffee is about 5 calories.
posted by Bonzai at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Have I told you how much I hate "could care less"...?
posted by grubi at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2010


20oz of black coffee is about 5 calories.

Unless you get the coffee with all kinds of sugary awfulness in it -- which most folks do.

Besides, who orders black coffee at Starbucks? That shit is nas-tee.
posted by grubi at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2010


What's the point of being a linguist if you are not interested in communicating with people?
posted by hermitosis at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine came back from Italy talking about how much better the cappuccino tastes there. I have mocked her mercilessly for this.
posted by Zed at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2010


The thing that pains in the asses like Rosenthal fail to comprehend is that the barista (and the guy at Bed Bath & Beyond who asks for your email address at the checkout, or the woman at Best Buy who asks whether you want the extended warranty) are just regular folks trying to make a buck and who are required by their employer to do things a certain way. Often, not only do they have to ask, they get penalized if you don't provide your email address, or zip code, or if you decline the insurance.

Nobody works at these places for the sheer pleasure of it. They're just trying to get by. Why be a jerk, Lynn? You are not a special snowflake.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:23 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, actually, that's not strictly true. I stopped going there because their coffees were the size and flavor of milkshakes. I mean, that's great if you like drinking a lukewarm milkshake at 8am. But I prefer a coffee.

Haha, Starbucks has drinks with coffee in them other than coffee, amirite?

Fuck this shit. Starbucks has, and has always had, good ol' coffee. Want a coffee? Order a coffee. Funny story: every other chain that sells coffee (Dunkin Donuts, Tim Horton's, Peet's, etc.) has the same 500-calorie espresso drinks and 1000-calorie milkshake-like monstrosities.

Trust me, I do hate how the lines stack up because people want their fancy drinks when I just want a cup of coffee, but they're not forcing you to order anything. They're also not charging $5 for a cup of plain coffee. I don't know if people make "jokes" about Starbucks that are just really not funny, or if they actually believe it, but the willful ignorance is just obnoxious.
posted by explosion at 8:23 AM on August 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


...doesn't seem like a good excuse for using 'less' and 'fewer' interchangeably.

I write software for a privately owned chain of grocery stores based in St. Louis. When I am doing my own grocery shopping I regularly get an amusing sense of pride when reading our express lane signs.

20 Items or Fewer

posted by Babblesort at 8:24 AM on August 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


In the spirit of businesses giving stupid names to their products, I remember when the "Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity" came out at IHOP, and the whole ad campaign at the time was about how delicious a breakfast it was, but how embarrassing it was to have to order it by name. The commercials had people going to IHOP with Groucho mustaches on because they didn't want to be heard saying "Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity" out loud. I went to IHOP with my mom once and she ordered it, but she refused to say the name because it was just so silly. The waiter actually argued with her about it, even though he knew exactly what she wanted, and told her, "You have to say it! C'mon, say iiiiiit!"
posted by Gator at 8:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Of course there is. There aren't degrees of uniqueness but there are degrees of rarity.

The first part of that statement was the point - they were talking about the way a product worked, not how unusual or scarce it was. There were two products that did the same thing, client wanted 'unique' in the description, I told them it clearly wasn't, so they said 'how about almost unique'?

it's like motherfucker you are from Jersey and we both know you don't speak a goddamn word of Itlian so check that pretenious bullshit at customs.

See also white British kids who use phrases like 'hella' and 'dope'. YOU SOUND LIKE A TIT.
posted by mippy at 8:27 AM on August 17, 2010


The poor schmuck behind the counter has no idea that she's a stickler for English and is trying to hedge her bets that "plain" doesn't mean "with cream cheese" or "don't you fucking dare slice it in half" or "if you don't slice it in half I'm going to kick up a fuss and hold up the line for a good five minutes," to this particular customer.

A thousand times this. The person behind the counter doesn’t have the luxury of assuming anything. How pissed would this woman be if the assumed default was buttered and that’s what she ended up getting? I watched a guy grumble “I’ll never come here again!” to a lottery booth attendant the other day because he wasn’t offered his choice of scratch ticket. “But you could have asked for the one you wanted” the vendor said. “Yes, but you didn’t offer”. Fuck those people.

I agree that a lot of rude customers are people who have never had service jobs, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s really just a pool of assholes out there, and their role is largely beside the point.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:30 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


grubi: "Unless you get the coffee with all kinds of sugary awfulness in it -- which most folks do.

Besides, who orders black coffee at Starbucks? That shit is nas-tee.
"

You don't like burnt coffee?

As for me, always black but rarely Starbucks.
posted by Bonzai at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I tried reading this article but kept flashing back to my days as a coffee achiever at Willoughby's in New Haven, CT. Specifically to the utter joy of working a double shift during Yale parents' weekend. This Rosenthal creature isn't even enough of a dickish coffee customer to make the high minors in a notional league of such.

NO THERE IS NOT WHIPPED CREAM IN A CAPPUCCINO
posted by jtron at 8:32 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


And to bring it back to the original subject, I wonder how many Americans/Brits abroad go to a McDonald's solely for the assurance that they know exactly what they're going to get and know how to order it without remembering the bare minimum "je voudrais (point to item)" formula. I still think it seems a little sad, but hey! I already admitted I was an asshole on this point.

We are USians & we went to a Burger King in Sydney on purpose (they're called Hungry Jack's there). My meat-eating son wanted to try the Aussie Burger (made with an egg and sliced beetroot) and my non-meat-eating son was disappointed to learn they boiled their fries in lard. Like a lot of things that are in the US and Oz, it's the same but it's not the same, and that kind of thing is fun to check out when traveling.

Our favorite place there, though, was the Green Gourmet in Newtown. Even us proles can muster up a little bit of class now & then.
posted by headnsouth at 8:34 AM on August 17, 2010


See also white British kids who use phrases like 'hella' and 'dope'. YOU SOUND LIKE A TIT.

Is it because they're using American* slang, slang associated with another ethnicity**, or slang that's around 20 years old?

* as far as I know
** 'hella' and its Bowdlerized cousin 'hecka' I associate with white kids from the West Coast

posted by jtron at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2010


Last week a family friend started an anecdote about how they visited a McDonald's in Paris. I (and yes, asshole admission) wouldn't even her get to the actual story because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's.

Perhaps she only went in for a McShit? McDonald's operate a clean, reliable and geographically diverse chain of depositories across Europe and I for one am proud to say I have enjoyed the facilities at branches across the continent.
posted by biffa at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's not nice to laugh at mental illness.

Then why are you making jokes about it?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:16 AM on August 17 [+] [!]


Wasn't aware that I was.
posted by SPUTNIK at 8:37 AM on August 17, 2010


Years ago, when I worked for a local Mexican restaurant, they got rid of their medium cups. So, the drinks went from small, medium, large, Tios Size to small, large, Tios size. The owner used to get upset when I didn't correct people who wanted a medium, instead just giving them the large.

(I'm also annoyed that they stopped honoring the pact of the Tios size, a plastic cup that you could refill as long as you had it for a quarter. Then fifty cents. Now I don't think they even do it at all.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to a McDonalds in Rome back in '94. After two weeks of pizza, I was feeling homesick and poor and decided to to the unthinkable. Beer to drink? Extra charge for ketchup and salt? What a country! I thought.

Anyways, I was sitting outside enjoying my meal when all of a sudden about 5 or 6 teens approach me and sit at my table - I was 19; they might have been a few years younger. They had never seen a person of my colour and were deathly curious. Back then, Rome seemed to be pretty homogeneous in terms of ethnicity, so wherever I would go, people would look at me curiously (especially the women, whoo hoo!). Plus I had long, shoulder-length hair and loops in each ear (I wanted to look like Bono) - I didn't look like anything the TV or magazines described Asians to look like.

The teens and I had quite an interesting conversation - them speaking slowly; me gesturing wildly, speaking a horrible combination of English and broken spanish.

They taught me a word - "katsuto" - any Roman dialect experts know what that word means? I never looked it up and now being at work, I don't want to, just in case it's a naughty one!

It was such a fascinating evening - a person of color in a city of Europeans; eating at McDonalds in the middle of one of humanity's cradles of civilization; speaking with total strangers in a language that none of us quite understood, yet having a great time.

I'm sure Rome is a different place now - but back then, it truly was a city of the gods.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


...as if at the Soup Nazi.

Coming soon, Jerry Seinfeld's webisode: Soup Nazi vs. Grammar Nazi!
posted by ericb at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2010


I'd just like to say that the only thing I ever really order at Starbucks is a "black eye", which is the coffee of the day with two shots of espresso. Generally I want the espresso to coffee mix to be most favorable to the espresso, so I order it tall.

Yes, I order a "tall black eye". Say that fast before you've had your coffee and you'll see the potential confusion.

My point? If I can go to Starbucks and order a "tall black guy" without contacting the goddamn NYP, this woman can suck it up and specify that she doesn't want butter OR cheese on her fake bagel.
posted by rollbiz at 8:39 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing about Starbucks--not the small-is-tall, not the relentless pushing of their instant coffee, not the racks upon racks of overpriced coffee cups desperate for a home--is nearly as sad as someone with a doctorate from Columbia deciding that the offer of a schmear on her bagel is the hill that she wants to die on.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:39 AM on August 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


le morte de bea arthur
But my annoyance at the language used to describe the food pales into insignificance beside the way young people ask 'Can I get...?' when they really mean 'Could I have...?'. If it were me serving them I'd reply 'Of course you can. You just need to ask for it.'


Even worse, when someone orders, "Yeah. Gimme a...". GIMME?!?! What are you, five years old?

*Hikes up pants, shakes fist at kids*
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:40 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless you get the coffee with all kinds of sugary awfulness in it -- which most folks do.

Do you have anything to cite for that? I occasionally get a sugary treat coffee drink, but most of the time when I go to Starbucks I get a latte. That's milk and coffee. My brother gets 4 shots of espresso, and I don't know what anyone else gets. Do more customers really order sugary drinks instead of coffee, espresso, latte, cappucino etc?
posted by Miko at 8:40 AM on August 17, 2010


You don't like burnt coffee?

As for me, always black but rarely Starbucks.


No, I don't like Starbucks coffee black. As someone higher up on this thread mentioned, it's insanely bitter.
posted by grubi at 8:40 AM on August 17, 2010


ardgedee: It's not a small, it's a large.

That is the worst one, to me. I've literally seen places roll the size names up and then charge people for the "value meal" that is the middle size but is now called small even though the person clearly wanted the smallest one, while never explaining to the person that the names were changed. Pure predatory bullshit.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:40 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm curious how this story made the news though, complete with her name, if no one was arrested.

At least it wasn't a fight that goes awry over a can of Sugarberry Ham!
posted by ericb at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never had a problem with the sizes in Starbucks because I refuse to order anything larger than a "tall", and that keeps their coffee drinkable. Anything bigger, and it's just too much milk and mediocrity. A short/ tall cappuccino, latte, or brew of the day, and a Clover coffee if you're lucky are really all you need from the place. And their restrooms.
posted by peripathetic at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2010


The thing that pains in the asses like Rosenthal fail to comprehend is that the barista (and the guy at Bed Bath & Beyond who asks for your email address at the checkout, or the woman at Best Buy who asks whether you want the extended warranty) are just regular folks trying to make a buck and who are required by their employer to do things a certain way.

Agreed, and not just that...I would be willing to bet cash money that, more than once, someone has insisted on ordering a "medium", and when the barista served up what they considered to be a medium, the customer has gone apeshit because that's not what he/she meant. It may be annoying that Starbucks honchos decided to go with different nomenclature for their sizes, but it is what it is, and the barista is only trying to fill an order as easily and quickly as possible.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2010


Here, I'll help you with that order...
posted by dbiedny at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2010


This is why my boyfriend pulled a Steven Slater on his Starbucks job, left for lunch and never came back.*

He didn't ever repeat back to the customer who asked for a large that they really wanted a venti (or whatever, I still don't know; I've ordered a large for 10+ years of Starbucks visits and never had a problem.) But if he was working the register, he yelled back to the baristas making the drinks "Venti blah blah" -- and more than once, the customer took it as a personal affront.

And often when the barista does ask, it's because hey look at the sign -- that's what the different sizes are labelled. For some people 'large' means 'tall' (because you can actually get a short at most Starbucks, even if it isn't on the menu) and for others it means something else. So you ask so you don't get it wrong. If you ask for their largest, then you don't get asked. But hey, that's linguistically clear. (Much clearer than "plain multi-grain bagel" -- where I come from you have a plain bagel is a type of bagel")

* - Actually he left because of his manager; she was a dick.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2010


All of the above, jtron, all of the above. I might start countering them with 'Radical!' and 'boffin'.

Durn Bronzefist has a point - what if the barista wasn't a native English speaker and needed to clarify exactly what 'plain' involves?
posted by mippy at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2010


The coffee servers at Black Dog get a little annoyed when someone comes in and orders a venti.

Twenty years ago I worked in an arthouse cinema -- during my stints behind the snack bar counter (where we also sold tea, coffee and baked goods), I would occasionally have someone arrive and bark at me, "Large double-double!" I had never been a fan of coffee culture -- and in fact, at that point in my life had no idea what that meant -- so I merely handed the customer a large coffee and indicated where the cream and sugar were available for people to modify their drink as they pleased.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2010


Even worse, when someone orders, "Yeah. Gimme a...". GIMME?!?! What are you, five years old?

As a Grammar/Spelling/Punctuation nazi myself, I have to say...

Seriously? THIS is what you choose to fuss about? The word "gimme"?
posted by grubi at 8:45 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


A local gelato place has 3 sizes - kids, medium, and large. They will REFUSE TO SELL the kids size to an adult. When I've tried to order it, been turned down, and started to walk away, they will reluctantly sell it to me, looking around to make sure the boss isn't watching. This is sizing nonsense to me, what Starbucks does is just branding. When I worked at a different coffee place, requests for a tall anything were met with the innocent question "Is that a large?" The problem isn't Starbucks' branding, it's people who insist on carrying it to other coffee places.

Decaf grande no foam 3 Splenda latte please
posted by booksherpa at 8:45 AM on August 17, 2010


paisley henosis: That is the worst one, to me. I've literally seen places roll the size names up and then charge people for the "value meal" that is the middle size but is now called small even though the person clearly wanted the smallest one, while never explaining to the person that the names were changed. Pure predatory bullshit.

Fucking signage - how does it work?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:46 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is stupid, in part because solutions are so goddamned simple.

This woman is clearly a nutter; every New Yorker will, I think, be familiar with the type. When you live in the city, sometimes there are nutters. The mass of human beings in New York City has to cultivate a kind of pragmatic obstinance, a practical stubbornness that gets them through; this is merely something you have to have when you live in close proximity to other people. Sometimes that stubbornness drives them to speak up when somebody elbows them on the subway; sometimes it drives them to shake their heads, mutter under their breaths, and walk away from a fight when somebody wants to start some aggro on the street. And sometimes people just can't get how this practical, careful, cultivated practice of maintaining your own space while respecting the space of others is supposed to work; these people are nutters. Sometimes they end up flashing people on the subway, sometimes they end up shouting slogans on the street. And sometimes, they just end up harassing people randomly until they have an excuse for their own aggressiveness.

Lynne Rosenthal is the latter form. She was looking for a fight.

It's funny that people don't notice that Starbucks wants to take your money. In leaner times, when I was a starving grad student, I actually worked there for a few months, so I know. If you walk into Starbucks and ask for a medium coffee, they'll give it to you. If they turned away or hassled every person that walked in and asked for a medium coffee, they'd go broke in a matter of days.

Order however you want. Amazingly, language still works, despite Lynne Rosenthal's efforts to prove that it doesn't by breaking it and screaming at people.

And I say all this with the caveat that Starbucks is evil, and that coffee itself is a noxious poison that removes the ability to resist societal mind control and manipulation.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I say "I want a 16 oz coffee" and there has never been any confusion anywhere I've ever been.
posted by desjardins at 8:47 AM on August 17, 2010


The coffee servers at Black Dog

As soon as I saw mention of the Black Dog, I thought "Hey, we have a Black Dog Cafe here in town, too!" until I saw it was good ol' Cookiebastard.

Who lives in the same town I do. That's why I thought it was funny.
posted by grubi at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I say "I want a 16 oz coffee" and there has never been any confusion anywhere I've ever been.

Well, aren't you Captain Fuckin' Fancypants?


I keed; I keed!
posted by grubi at 8:50 AM on August 17, 2010


She lying.

Here's how I know.


I thought your telepathic powers only worked if you could touch the person.

You're quite right to call me on that.

Of course I can't know she's lying. What I meant was that I have no model of human psychology that will allow people to say what she said AND be consistent.

Of course, she might be inconsistent. Or there might be more things in heaven and Earth than are dreampt of in my philosophy. I am sorry that I just assumed she was lying as if it's a definite fact. It's really, to me, a matter of probability. If there was some sort of accurate lie-detecting machine, I would feel very comfortable placing a large bet on the table before seeing its results in her case.

I DO find it hard to believe that she demands this kind of literalism in most situations. I'm not sure it's even possible. Everyday conversation is rife with assumptions and defaults. "Come here" doesn't mean "Come to the exact spot where I'm standing so that our atoms collide." When someone asks her to "come here," does she bump into them and then say, "That's what you said you wanted me to do! Why are you complaining?"
posted by grumblebee at 8:52 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I, for one, was going to Paris, it would be to look at some old-assed paintings, not to eat some buttery-assed snails, but, but all means, let's all don our faux-flabbergastedness because somewhere in the world somebody travels for reasons other than one's own.
posted by wreckingball at 8:53 AM on August 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


MCMikeNamara: Fucking signage - how does it work?

I'm not sure what you're getting at, but the place I'm referring to did not, in fact, have a single sign announcing the up-shift in names, nor were the 'value meals' labeled by name, only by three pricing levels. So you could get the 5.99$ (which was no longer actually listed on the board) the 6.79$ or the 8.99$ or the 10.49$, which were the children's, small, medium and large, respectively (the old small, medium, large and "king sized")

Literally the only way to know about the change was to either have an employee tell you (which they weren't supposed to do) or to order something you had ordered before and notice the change in amount received and price.

Management openly gloated about the extra money they were making because people 'couldn't order right.'
posted by paisley henosis at 8:55 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a pretty revealing look at capitalism to see how many people are calling the customer wrong for failing to abide by an arbitrary (and stupid) rule set by a private corporation.

No, the customer is wrong for the following reasons:

-the article explains she has a history of making scenes at Starbucks
-she got angry and flew off the handle over a simple question that's not at all unusual in any retail environment
-she called the clerk an asshole

Also, she's an English professor who reads the New York Post
posted by Kirk Grim at 8:56 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


coffee itself is a noxious poison that removes the ability to resist societal mind control and manipulation

I did not know that.
posted by enn at 8:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I DO find it hard to believe that she demands this kind of literalism in most situations.

Agreed. I think she was in a pissy mood or fed up with Starbucks lingo and decided to make her stand against the world at the particular point. Sadly, the barista wanted to maker her stand too.

The manager should be given a firm talking to, for letting it blow up as it did. Seriously, you gotta call the cops on a 60 year old woman being cranky? Stay out of public relations.
posted by nomadicink at 8:57 AM on August 17, 2010


16 oz? The rest of the world, we're metric!

I also keed.
posted by peripathetic at 8:58 AM on August 17, 2010


Got friend who is very health nutsy and when he orders toast, simply says: Dry, ie, no butter or anything. it works.

"I'm sorry, we don't have any side orders of toast. An English muffin or a coffee roll?"
posted by ericb at 8:58 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


bitteroldman: "I went to a McDonalds in Rome back in '94. After two weeks of pizza, I was feeling homesick and poor and decided to to the unthinkable."

This is exactly it. I know, you're traveling abroad and should experience new things but constant new things are tiring, and after a week or two sometimes you just want something familiar. Plus it's fascinating to see what weird stuff McDonald's offers in other countries.
posted by graventy at 8:58 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh.
posted by seanyboy at 8:58 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even worse, when someone orders, "Yeah. Gimme a...". GIMME?!?! What are you, five years old?

Worst of all (to me)? "Lemme get a..."
posted by rollbiz at 8:59 AM on August 17, 2010


I went to a McDonald's in Milan. I admit it. After over a week of getting crazy, weird upcharges on almost every restaurant tab we came across (not just in Milan, but in other cities in Italy as well), I marched into a McDonald's, ordered a burger, and paid exactly what was on the menu. It was a moment of weakness, but what can I say. I was feeling beleaguered.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:00 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many Americans/Brits abroad go to a McDonald's solely for the assurance that they know exactly what they're going to get...

I went to a McDonalds in Beijing just to find out if what I'd get was exactly what I'd get in the U.S.

I had no idea that a hamburger patty could be made that thin. The staff there had no idea that condiments like salt and pepper could be made available to customers in little packets, or in shakers, or at all. So to believe that you know exactly what you're going to get because of the name on the sign is to be making an unjustified assumption.

I wonder if that *$ in the Forbidden City made people say Venti and Grande.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2010


I watched a guy grumble “I’ll never come here again!” to a lottery booth attendant the other day because he wasn’t offered his choice of scratch ticket. “But you could have asked for the one you wanted” the vendor said. “Yes, but you didn’t offer”. Fuck those people.

I worked at a bar for a while that had 120 brands of bottled beer. Customers would walk up to the bar and say "give me a beer." We had one bartender who would keep a six-pack of generic beer behind the counter for these folks, and would quick-like, whip one open and slam it down in front of them before they knew what hit 'em. It pretty much resulted in hilarity though, because of our general Punk clientele.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2010


USians

Stop that.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can work up an irrational anger about the Starbucks experience, annoyed by some of the same things that grate on Rosenthal.

That's why I never go to Starbucks. That's the rational response to not liking how Starbucks does things.
posted by KS at 9:05 AM on August 17, 2010


mippy: I'm pretty sure "radical" is from the US (and would be glad to see a citation otherwise). I'm sad that you feel so strongly about cross-cultural slang borrowing, which if left unhindered could possibly result in breakdancing Latino Pearly Kings, and how could we not want that?
posted by jtron at 9:06 AM on August 17, 2010


Is it just me, or if she had just said, "plain multigrain bagel" the barista would have given her what she wanted. She refused to say how she wanted it, then was going to complain that it had something on it that she didn't want.

her reason was that it isn't linguistically optimal. But you wouldn't go to a car dealership and say, "I want a car" and then refuse to answer when the salesperson asks, "what make/model/color/features."

The other argument she could make is that the saying "a multigrain bagel" defaults to a PLAIN multigrain bagel, but I think this is a false assumption on her part.

So yeah, she was just being an idiot.
posted by imneuromancer at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2010


MCMikeNamara: “Fucking signage - how does it work?”

And the thing is, this starts with Starbucks before you walk in the door. Notice that it's called "Starbucks," not "Starbuck's" – so apparently it's not owned by a person named Starbuck, it's actually an instance of multiple people named Starbuck. Or something. I imagine they probably just thought the apostrophe was 'distracting.'

That's always a good enough reason for me not to go in at all.
posted by koeselitz at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2010


I've never been to a Starbucks, and my experience with the painfull, over-the-top menus and weak coffee of the Starbucks-wannabes I have been to mean I probably never will, but when I read this story, all I was left thinking was "Is there some peculiarity to American English I'm not aware of that this woman is complaining about?" Because the question seems perfectly reasonably.

"Do you want butter or cheese?"

Possible answers:
"Yes, butter please."
"Yes, cheese please."
"Yes, both please."
"No thanks."

That would be a perfectly valid question and response where I live.
posted by Jimbob at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2010


I got a taro pie (and burgers) at a McDonald's in Hawaii.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2010


I went to a McDonalds in Beijing just to find out if what I'd get was exactly what I'd get in the U.S.

I had no idea that a hamburger patty could be made that thin. The staff there had no idea that condiments like salt and pepper could be made available to customers in little packets, or in shakers, or at all. So to believe that you know exactly what you're going to get because of the name on the sign is to be making an unjustified assumption.


My experience there was quite the opposite, it was mostly like in the US including the English speaking staff. The green tea shakes were good too.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2010


As a 10 year old unadventerous-eating-american living in Singapore, I would often take a bus out to the Burger King and order a "plain double-cheeseburger", but my favorite restaurant was a tex-mex place, about 40 stories up an office tower, which apparently is still there.

As an adult, I now regret all the local cuisine I missed out on. C'est la vie.

Oeuf means 'egg'.

Our french teacher in Singapore had a poster on the wall that read,
"Why are the french so thin?"
"Because for breakfast, one egg is un oeuf"

It seemed a little quirky of joke choice, since she was really really large herself. Then again, she wasn't french.

I am so glad I don't have to talk directly to customers at my workplace.
posted by nomisxid at 9:11 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Customers would walk up to the bar and say "give me a beer."

Heh. I like the story, but I hope you understand that the complaint wasn't that the customer didn't get the type of ticket he wanted, but rather the specific ticket in the display of the multiples of its type. I don't know what they're called; I don't play them. But let's say the guy asks for a "Fools' Gold" scratch ticket, so the vendor reaches into the display and grabs one, instead of hauling it out from beneath the plexiglass so the customer is free to apply the full extent of his superstitious ticket-selecting powers. So the analogue here would be asking for a specific brand of beer and not getting the bottle you had in mind.

But superstitious folks are a whole other thing. I worked a charity casino for a night, selling bingo sheets, and I quickly learned that you can't placate these people; only surrender. "One off the top, one off the bottom, and one from the middle, please."
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:16 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I vaguely regret not eating at the super pricey McDonalds at Red Square in Moscow. Still, one less meal there means one more cheaper nicer Russian meal.
posted by Artw at 9:16 AM on August 17, 2010


Wolfdog: I'm sure it's very jarring to hear Italian in Philadelphia.

I wonder if the owner of Geno's ever goes to Starbucks and how that plays out.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I did go to the Starbucks on the GDR side of the Brandenburg Gate... But hey, Germany, by taking the chain option you are missing nothing.
posted by Artw at 9:18 AM on August 17, 2010


This entire story just sums up the Upper West Side better then I could have imaged.

now if she was also wearing yoga pants and pushing a stroller made by NASA at the time, it would be complete
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


On the subject of McD's abroad, we developed a habit of grabbing breakfast there on the way out of town on various adventures in (or out of) our prefecture in Japan, and I think it was on MeFi that I discovered that the "McGriddle" wasn't some craaaazy Japanese-only McD product. They just introduced it while we were there. Heh.

They did have some unusual flavours of things, though -- sauces, ice cream, etc.. And I have myself had a Maharajah Mac (mutton) in New Delhi. It's a curiosity, not homesickness. I never eat McD's at home.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:21 AM on August 17, 2010


Dammit, dbiedny!
posted by ericb at 9:21 AM on August 17, 2010


This reminds me of a philosophy joke:

Jean-Paul Sartre sits down at a café to work on his Being and Nothingness manuscript. When the waitress comes by, he says, "I’d like a cup of coffee without cream”.

She walks off to fill the order and Sartre returns to his writing. A few minutes later, however, the waitress returns and says, “I’m sorry, we're all out of cream — how about with no milk?”

posted by parudox at 9:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [20 favorites]


As an English professor, she has nothing to do with the study of linguistics. If she did, she would recognize that the employee speech community is deploying a corporate code and understand that competence in that code is an essential part of constructing their "professional vision" (Goodwin 1994). She would understand that competence in that code and adherence to the professional vision is likely necessary for their survival in that workplace - and hopefully wouldn't punish them for using it. That said, on the few occasions that I go to St*rb*cks, I order a SMALL coffee and when they ask "a tall coffee?" I say "yes." She should learn how to code switch.


Goodwin, C., 1994 Professional vision. American anthropologist: 606–633. In Duranti, Alessandro. 2001. Linguistic anthropology : a reader. Malden Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.
posted by jardinier at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


These language battles fascinate me. The armchair psychologist in me really wants to know what's going on under the hood.

I feel like 90% of the time, language is a smoke screen for something else. I say that as a writer who cares deeply about tiny nuances of word choice. When people are really and honestly arguing whether a particular sentence should end with the word "too" or "also," the argument has a different ring to it than these sorts of circumstances. For one thing, truthful arguments about language tend to be less bitter and angry -- at least in my experience.

I am as prey to this as anyone else. It realized this yesterday when I read that the MTA (the agency in charge of the NYC subway) is planning to curtail "unlimited" metrocards to only three rides a day. My immediate reaction was "HOW DARE THEY ABUSE THE WORD 'UNLIMITED' IN THAT WAY!"

And the New York press agrees with me. And many New Yorkers agree with me. So many people are up in arms about this abuse of the mother tongue. Or IS that what they're really mad about?

Now, I do see how this is false advertising. Someone might buy a Metrocard assuming it really allows them unlimited rides when it doesn't. And it makes sense to be upset about that. But I'm upset about it on a PERSONAL level -- not for some tourist who doesn't know what's going on. If I bought an "unlimited" card under this system, I would know it was limited. So why am I turning into the Hulk over the language issue?

As best as I can analyze myself, I'm throwing up a smoke screen. It's just easier to call them on the language than what I REALLY want to call them on -- what I'm REALLY angry about -- that fares are going up and that I'm going to have less money than I used to (or I won't be able to take the subway as often as I used to).

I think part of me knows that the economic situation is complicated. The MTA may be dealing with all kinds of forces that are out of their control. They may have to raise fares in order to survive. In any case, they are probably GOING to raise fares, whether through necessity or greed.

Necessity and greed are big monsters to fight. And I don't know if I'm up to it. But I CAN play the English teacher. I can restore some illusion of control to my life by harping about word use. It will do NOTHING to bring the fare down. At best, the MTA will say, "Okay, you're right. We'll still charge the same, but we'll call the card the Generous-But-Limited Card." And I'll feel vindicated. And I'll still be poorer.
posted by grumblebee at 9:28 AM on August 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


This is a little tangential, but all this talk of bagels is reminding me: I worked for a couple of months in Boston on a short-term software development thing about ten years back, and I remember stopping into a bagel place (the name of which escapes me now) on my way to work a couple of times.

The layout of the place was about what you'd expect, with one exception. Once you'd ordered your bagel, the person behind the counter put it through a plastic chute that ran the length of the counter, where it met the Whirling Bagel-Slicing Blade of Doom (WBSBoD). Once your bagel hit the WBSBoD, there was an unholy "shhkrEEK!" sort of noise, and the now-bisected bagel was kicked out at the other end of the chute where all the cream cheese and butter and other condiments were.

It was a completely unnecessary and overly showy system, and I loved every minute of it. Maybe Starbucks should install something similar to cheer up the Dr. Rosenthals of the world.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:29 AM on August 17, 2010


They taught me a word - "katsuto" - any Roman dialect experts know what that word means? I never looked it up and now being at work, I don't want to, just in case it's a naughty one!

Cazzuto. That Wiktionary page should be safe for work, but don't click on the related term cazzo as it would probably trip some word filters, being Italian for crock minus the r.
posted by romakimmy at 9:32 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


bitteroldman, they taught you how to say cazzuto, which would indeed be pronounced something like "katsuto." It literally means "with a dick," though in Italian the word cazzo, or dick, functions pretty much exactly like the word fuck does in English, with all its assorted fucking, fucker, for fuck's sake, fucking around, fucked up, etc. derivations.

Roughly translated for meaning, cazzuto can mean either "badass/tough" or "fucking dumb" depending on context and the regional Italian variation. I use it to mean stupid or insignificant, but I'm not from Northern Italy, not Rome.

Aaaand now you know more about it than was ever necessary, clearly.

/derail
posted by lydhre at 9:32 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have decided this can all be blamed on Dr. Suess.

Pointless invention of novel, semi-whimsical menu terms? Check.

Insane battle over preparation of breakfast fare? Check.

Professor Lynne Rosenthal . . . expert in children's literature? Check.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


When in doubt, I order "smallest" or, rarely, "largest."

(It's entirely likely that I told this story in another Starbucks thread, so, sorry if you've heard it before.)

The one and only time I voluntarily went into a Starbucks for coffee was when a friend and I were in a strange city painting a warehouse for another friend. We desperately needed caffeine, and the only place that we knew of that had cofee was a Starbucks in a nearby strip mall.
Me to cashier person: I'd like a cappuccino in your smallest cup.
Cashier: a [Starbucks word for something]?
Me: I don't know, whatever your smallest is.
My Friend: ... and I want your largest mocha!
Cashier: a [Starbucks word for something]?
Friend: I guess... Is that the biggest?
Cashier It's a [SWFS]!
Friend: Okay...

A few minutes later we pick up our drinks. They are both the same size. We look at each other and don't say anything until we are outside.

Friend: This doesn't look like the biggest!
Me: This isn't a cappuccino. There's like a pint of milk in this. Lame.

A minute later:
Friend: Did you pay?
Me: Uh, no. You didn't?
posted by oneirodynia at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


It was a completely unnecessary and overly showy system, and I loved every minute of it. Maybe Starbucks should install something similar to cheer up the Dr. Rosenthals of the world.

I don't think she'd fit in the chute.
posted by Artw at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


Err, Seuss.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2010


I've been in the McDonald's in Paris when it was 90 and we were sweltering and there was a bathroom that I didn't get glared at to use and I could get a coke with ice quickly. I have backpacked solo through Egypt and India and Cambodia, please do not start with me about authenticity or turn up your nose. Seriously.

Sometimes Starbucks is the only thing between you and the office that serves drinkable coffee. Sometimes you just don't have another 15 minutes to trek over to the songbird-free, fair trade coffee shop where the line will be six times as long and the help completely inefficient. Yes, I find it all despicable. Yes, I hate when they chirp back with their buzzwords but it's not their fault, it's dictated by corporate, and we're all just trying to pay the rent so I don't hold it against them. I just won't play along. I manage.

I also won't give clerks my phone number or zip code when checking out at chain stores. I have occasionally asked "Unless me not giving it to you will get you in trouble" in which case I'll make something up. I just say "No thank you" and they move on.

Also, if someone asks me for my "social" I feign ignorance and say, "I'm sorry, what?"
"Your social security number".
I know they have to ask for it all day but seriously?
posted by micawber at 9:39 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Between this thread and the LOLCLIENTS graphic designer thread, I'm really rethinking the idea that Asperger syndrome is being overdiagnosed these days.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:51 AM on August 17, 2010


"It was very humiliating to be thrown out, and all I did was ask for a bagel," recalled Rosenthal, who said she holds a Ph.D. from Columbia.

Very telling IMO. Did the interviewer from the Post ask her for this information ("ok, I think that's everything. Oh, any advanced degrees you'd like us to mention?"), or did she just work it in there to demonstrate how important she is?

Also, the Post tried to add a 'read more...' link to the text I copied, so eff them too.
posted by Who_Am_I at 9:54 AM on August 17, 2010


I am very interested to hear what languagehat has to say on this matter.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2010


"It's called a 'cuppacchino' and wait til you see what it costs!"
posted by cgomez at 9:56 AM on August 17, 2010


** 'hella' and its Bowdlerized cousin 'hecka' I associate with white kids from the West Coast

Nor*Cal to be precise.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


She should learn how to code switch.

My favorite code-switch example is John Barrowman. I watched a BBC documentary about the genetics of homosexuality in which he was the main subject. He'd talk to everyone in his regualr American accent, but when speaking to his parents, he automatically drops into his original Scottish accent. Fascinating.
posted by grubi at 9:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


20oz! That's an obscene size for a cup of coffee. No wonder people are so fucking fat.


That was a joke. Right?

That's about 2.5 standard 'cups' of coffee. I drink about 3 of those on a normal day.

And, like others have said, the caloric content of black coffee is just about nil. Even a couple ounces of whole milk or half-and-half doesn't make it a gutbuster.
posted by spirit72 at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2010


"Would you like butter or cheese?"

The correct answer to this being, "WTF, no!".
posted by madajb at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2010


"Got friend who is very health nutsy and when he orders toast, simply says: Dry"

And then you order four whole chickens.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


And then you order four whole chickens.

And a coke.
posted by grubi at 10:03 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


We New Englanders drink Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and ordering concisely is the norm. One morning while visiting Seattle I walked into a coffee joint (not Starbucks, the other one that's on every other corner there) and ordered my usual: "Medium iced, cream, two splendas." The puzzled person on the other side of the counter stuttered and ummed, and then responded "I'm sorry, we don't serve ice cream until lunchtime."

We had a laugh, and no newspapers spilled ink over the event. Miscommunication happens all the time and I can't believe we've batted this one around for 200 comments...and now I've added to it.
posted by dust of the stars at 10:04 AM on August 17, 2010


And a coke.

Diet, ideally.:)
posted by spirit72 at 10:04 AM on August 17, 2010


I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?

And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
posted by Rangeboy at 10:10 AM on August 17, 2010


> I am very interested to hear what languagehat has to say on this matter.

theredpen nailed it in the first comment: the lady is a jerk.
posted by languagehat at 10:12 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


And if we globally replaced all the actual old people in the world with fat Jewish black people, certain other people would still be far more interested in talking about some minor bagel inconvenience they suffered at Starbucks.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2010


I'm sure I've mentioned this in the blue before, but when I worked for Starbucks as a wage slave - uh, barista - back in the summer of '96, the company was obsessed with the possibility that Frappuccino would become the generic term for a coffee squishee, a la Kleenex and Xerox. There were these directives in the manager's binder about how, every time someone asked for a Frappucino - or, heaven forfend, a "Frapp" - we were to respond, "Okay, so you'd like a tall Frappucino blended beverage?" Or words to that effect.

At my rebellious little Yorkville (Toronto) outlet, we ignored that directive.

Point being: Yes, all the weird linguistic tics at Starbucks are very much deliberate, and based on pretty solid human psychology. Give people a special lingo for your products, and it actually does their sense of belonging, inclusion, ownership, their sense that this is a coffee joint apart from the others. (For that matter, Big Mac and Whopper and the rest do the same for burgers.)

Scoff all you like, there are millions in sales being rung up from people who truly feel that "grande no-fat low-foam latte" is a small part of who they are. I mean, I was working at Starbucks in the very first months after its arrival in Toronto, and by the end of that first summer, a significant plurality of our regular customers had memorized not just the lingo of their favourite drink but the byzantine "calling order" used to communicate that order from cashier to barista. I can only imagine how deep the connection is now, 15 years on, for Starbucks diehards.

By the way, none of this is meant as a defense of Starbucks or its products. I only buy their coffee if there is no other readily available option, and I find their whole "culture" obnoxious as shit. But it works for their target market.
posted by gompa at 10:16 AM on August 17, 2010


Diet, ideally.:)

Not if you have working taste buds. BLEAH
posted by grubi at 10:16 AM on August 17, 2010


"The waiter actually argued with her about it, even though he knew exactly what she wanted, and told her, 'You have to say it! C'mon, say iiiiiit!'"

I remember a similar situation in a Burger King in the 80s with a customer refusing to say he wanted a "Yumbo".

That was BK's branding of a hot ham and cheese sandwich, for those of you who are too young to remember them.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2010


. . . actually does deepen their sense of belonging . . .

/need-another-coffee filter
posted by gompa at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2010


I live in Poland, and while I don't patronize McDonald's here (warning: Flash, repetitive smooth jazz) that much, they are downright swank for fast food places here, open on national holidays (which makes them great on car trips), and are one of the only places where the concept of a take-out breakfast exists. So if I am driving from here to Tarnobrzeg or Wałbrzych or Lidzbark Warmiński or somewhere else in the back of beyond, I will steer my vehicle through the McDrive (yes, the McDrive), and say dzień dobry, tak, poproszę McMuffin Jajko i Bekon, in my atrocious Polish, and know that I will get what I have ordered, and not have to endure the glare of anyone for butchering the language.

Do I love Polish food? Yes. Do I eat it 13, 19, 21 times a week? Yes. You will pry my shredded beetroot salad from my cold, dead, purple hands. But on a car trip at 8 in the morning when the town - no, the province - has not yet woken up? No, idę do McDrive.

I will be guilty no more! I will fly my McDonald's-in-times-of-limited-alternatives flag high! Who's with me?!
posted by mdonley at 10:21 AM on August 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


I wonder if the owner of Geno's ever goes to Starbucks and how that plays out.

Venti mocha whip wit.
posted by Pax at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


A few years ago, I was visiting Macau, where I am able to read but not speak the languages (Cantonese and Portuguese) used. I'd been walking around all morning and was just looping back by way of Largo do Senado, a lovely Portuguese-style square at the center of the old city, when I passed a Starbucks and decided that it was probably time to caffeinate.

My Cantonese was and is basically nonexistent, but I figured I could at least order a coffee by using the Cantonese readings of the Mandarin words. So I asked for "Yat dai bui dong yat kafei m'goi," and the barista looked at me blankly.
Fine, I thought. Mandarin, then. So I asked for "Yī dà bēi dāngrì kāfēi, xièxie." Again, a blank look from the barista.
I tried again in English: "Can I have a large coffee of the day, please?"

"You mean a venti?" asked the barista.

...and then I said "NO I MEAN I WANT MY FUCKING MULTIGRAIN BAGEL NOW NOW NOW."
posted by bokane at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


(not sure how onions will go on a mocha, but I had to get wit in there)
posted by Pax at 10:29 AM on August 17, 2010


Whip wit? Good.

</devo>


As someone from the Philly area, born and bred, and a lifelong fan of the cheesesteak, I have to say I don't know who on earth thinks a cheesesteak is better with Cheez Wiz is better than with provolone, but if I were King of All Things, I would have them summarily executed in the name of Taste.
posted by grubi at 10:41 AM on August 17, 2010


If you can't find something good to eat in those places, perhaps you had better just stay home.

Yes, because the food is the only reason to visit a new place.
posted by not that girl at 10:42 AM on August 17, 2010


Yes, because the food is the only reason to visit a new place.

Then we agree!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:44 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What does everyone do that they get to get this upset and defensive over language? I work in IT, and my focus is PCs. I hate all the stupid jargon that Apple makes up for their OS and file functions, but if I have to utilize a foreign system, i find it helps me more efficiently do so if I familiarize myself with the local terms for things.

Also, this isn't a secret fucking club, there is a large picture on the menu of small, medium, and large cups with their corresponding terminology. If it takes longer than .5 seconds for your brain to go "Size = x; x = identify(picture && size); request = "Size", "Order"", this upset says more about your lack of cognitive ability than your "Pride".
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember a similar situation in a Burger King in the 80s with a customer refusing to say he wanted a "Yumbo".

That was BK's branding of a hot ham and cheese sandwich, for those of you who are too young to remember them.


I remember this! It was an article in one of those Scholastic-magazine things we'd get in school.

I also remember an article about a fabulous rookie for the New York Mets by the name of Darryl Strawberry man I'm old
posted by Lucinda at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, because the food is the only reason to visit a new place.

That and accents.
posted by grubi at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2010


So let me get this straight:

Short = Small
Tall = Medium
Grande = Large
Venti = Extra Large
Barista = Coffee Monkey

That about it?
posted by rocket88 at 10:53 AM on August 17, 2010


That and accents.

Accent? You mean MSG? That's cheating!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just for laffs, without reading any of the comments, I did a search in the thread for "burn" and "burnt." Lo' and behold MetaFilter, you did not disappoint!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Last week a family friend started an anecdote about how they visited a McDonald's in Paris. I (and yes, asshole admission) wouldn't even her get to the actual story because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?

What's wrong with me is I watched Pulp Fiction a lot in high school.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:57 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Uther Bentrazor: "Also, this isn't a secret fucking club, there is a large picture on the menu of small, medium, and large cups with their corresponding terminology. If it takes longer than .5 seconds for your brain to go "Size = x; x = identify(picture && size); request = "Size", "Order"", this upset says more about your lack of cognitive ability than your "Pride"."

I love you.

"OHHH NOOOO THE COFFEEE THINGS ARE CONFUSING ME!!"
Good lord, I hate having to say "venti" for any reason but somehow my head manages not to explode when I'm able to hide my hipsterection and fucking get on with the ordering. Maybe some of these babies would do better to text their orders from from across the room?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2010


Okay ... hmm. What part of this is about Starbucks lingo? If you order a bagel, and they say, "Did you want butter or cheese on that?" then that is ... not Starbucks-speak. As far as I know, Starbucks has no special lingo for a plain bagel. If the employee, however, then insists that YOU MAY NOT HAVE YOUR BAGEL UNLESS YOU CHOOSE BETWEEN BUTTER AND CHEESE, then that is not Starbucks-speak, either. It is the employee being a complete patoot by refusing you your plain bagel. On the other hand, if you refuse to say "Neither, please" to the "butter or cheese?" question, then the patoot is you.

She is not entirely credible to me, and therefore, I doubt her account in which the Starbucks employee refuses to give her a bagel out of simple obstinate commitment to forcing people to eat butter and cheese.

I can totally understand why people don't like the cute names for things like sizes, but in my experience, they do not actually refuse to serve anyone a "small" or a "large" unless they say "tall" or "venti." I've seen plenty of confused tourists muddle through Starbucks orders using totally ordinary language, and I've never seen them browbeaten over it. At my Starbucks, when they call from the counter to the barista, they like to start with a word that signals plastic cup or paper cup, but they then name in full what the drink is, so if I say "venti iced coffee," they call out, "Iced venti iced coffee." They have never expected me to do this. Which is good, because it's very silly, but I kind of get why they do it.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:11 AM on August 17, 2010



"I just wanted a multigrain bagel," Rosenthal told The Post. "I refused to say 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want."

The article says Rosenthal is sixty years old. That means she is old enough to remember the following Burger King jingle:

Hold the pickle,
hold the lettuce,
special orders
don't upset us.
All we ask is
that you let us
serve it your waaaaay....

posted by magstheaxe at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


our regular customers had memorized not just the lingo of their favourite drink but the byzantine "calling order" used to communicate that order from cashier to barista.

As someone who has been forced, grumble grumble take away my simple to order signature hot chocolate grumble grumble, to make a long-form order, it always kinda bugs me when there's a new kid working the counter who changes up the sequence.

Not in a get arrested by the cops for making a scene kind of way, just as odd little sense of double-wrongness. The first level of wrong is that they goofed the sequence, even though they are 'trained' in it. The second level of wrong is that I care.
posted by nomisxid at 11:18 AM on August 17, 2010


hipsterection

This word is making me go to a bad place.
posted by The Whelk at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2010


So basically she's a returning problem customer who was probably on a 'watchlist' where if she started up any more shit, the cops would be called.

And she did.
posted by darlingmagpie at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2010


I absolutely refuse to use Starbucks daft terminology for drink sizes. I also see no need to give my name when ordering. Now back to read the article and, no doubt, entertaining comments.
Oh, the thing with asking your name is for conflict-resolution at the pick-up end. I only ever see them ask for names when there are enough people that there's possible confusion about whose drink is whose. They don't need your real name, just a unique identifier. Me, I just enjoy the suspense of seeing how my name will be spelled on the cup when I finally get it.

Oh, and all the people getting snobby about people drinking their "milkshakes" and all... I'll grant you the Frappuccinos, but lay off my lattes. I like milk. It has protein and calcium in it. And if I want my morning serving of milk heated and flavored with coffee instead of poured cold over a bowl of grain flakes, that does not make me a philistine. It means I like coffee flavored milk.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Philistine! You're not doing it the right way! Oh, and I like my coffee burnt. I have several good coffee places to choose from in my neighborhood, and I nearly always choose Starbucks, because I like the way their coffee tastes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:56 AM on August 17, 2010


"Lynne Rosenthal, the English professor who caused a ruckus in an Upper West Side Starbucks when she refused to bow to what she called the coffee giant's 'linguistic fascism,' says she's no folk hero — but she won't ever patronize Starbucks again.

... Rosenthal told DNAinfo that Starbucks' use of language was 'Orwellian,' a reference to George Orwell's depiction of government manipulation of language in the novel '1984.'

'It's all about control,' Rosenthal said. 'They're trying to control the language and in that way create a different reality. Unless you obey that language, they lose control.'

... Rosenthal said she's been flooded with calls from reporters and requests to appear on TV, but she's turned them all down.

I'm no leader,' Rosenthal said. 'If I were a leader, I'd be on TV tomorrow.'

... She added that an invented language is the only thing that separates Starbucks from run-of-the-mill coffee joints.

'Without the language, Starbucks would be nothing,' Rosenthal said. 'Even Dunkin' Donuts has frappuccinos, or whatever they're called there.'"
She sure is a doozy!
posted by ericb at 12:00 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


bondcliff: "Also, don't be a douche to the counter monkey because of some silly corporate policy."

Please don't call me a monkey. It hurts my feelings.
posted by Gin and Comics at 12:04 PM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'll grant you the Frappuccinos ...

Trivia: the Frappuccino was developed, named, copyrighted and sold by the Boston-based chain of shops, The Coffee Connection.

"In 1994, Starbucks bought ... [the] Coffee Connection chain. Some argue that the chain was purchased only for the Frappuccino recipe. Starbucks then premiered the Frappuccino nationwide in 1995." *
posted by ericb at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's a pretty revealing look at capitalism to see how many people are calling the customer wrong for failing to abide by an arbitrary (and stupid) rule set by a private corporation.

Asking if you want cream cheese on your plain bagel is not a sign of the private corporation trying to crush the will of the common man.

Oh, sorry, you wanted it sliced? You should have said so.

In a bag? sigh. Next time, please let us know ahead of time. I figured I could just put it on the counter in front of you.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:06 PM on August 17, 2010


From the DNAinfo link:

Lynne Rosenthal, the English professor who caused a ruckus in an Upper West Side Starbucks when she refused to bow to what she called the coffee giant's "linguistic fascism," says she's no folk hero

No folk hero.

No, no, folks - no accolades, please. I'm no hero.

I must specify that I was not there when this happened and I don't know what was really going on and I've never met this woman and also the facts as presented in this case make me perhaps a bit biased against her. Having said that...

No hero.

I just...

Jesus.

Jesus.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:11 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


great, now people are actively trying to get cortex and Astro Zombie to write a song about them.
posted by The Whelk at 12:12 PM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


'They're trying to control the language and in that way create a different reality. Unless you obey that language, they lose control.'

Um ... it's reall rather simple, lady.
Q. Would you like your bagel with butter or cream cheese?

A. Neither, please. Thank you.
Bagel, butter and cream cheese aren't words that Starbucks is "trying to control."
posted by ericb at 12:13 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Y'know, I just bet Miss Manners would have something hilarious and dry to say about all this.
posted by Gator at 12:16 PM on August 17, 2010


Just stop for a moment and think about what it would take for Starbucks to call the police for an unruly customer. There are many, many steps along the way before you get to 911.

"Butter or cream cheese?"
"Bagel."
"Butter or cream cheese?"
"Bagel."
"Yes, but do you want butter or cream cheese?"
"I want a bagel."
"Yes, I'm getting you a bagel. But do you want butter or cream cheese on it?"
"I've said three times now that I want a bagel."
"Ma'am, I'm the manager, can I help you?"
"Yes, I want a bagel."
"Great, we can do that for you. Do you want anything on it?"
"I said I want a bagel."
...

This wasn't some flip I AM SOUP NAZI YOU FOLLOW RULES OR GET OUT interaction.

It was probably several minutes before they asked her to leave. And then it was several minutes after that before they called the police. And then several minutes after that before the cops showed up.

Can you imagine what all the other customers were thinking?

DUDE.

What a colossal bitch.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:27 PM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


In the UK, you can get Crunchie, Cornetto and Yorkie McFlurry, but none of those green milkshakes you get in the States. We get to try new products at work but sadly they never send the ice-creams and drinks.

My mother, who can be Mrs Malaprop in all but name, thinks Starbucks is called Roebucks.
posted by mippy at 12:29 PM on August 17, 2010


Everyone understands that preceding an order with "I'd like..." or "Can I have..." or "Could I get..." or "I'll take..." are conventions that serve no real grammatical purpose (the order itself will be understood anyway whether or not these niceties are included), but serve as social lubricant [...]

Indeed. However, while there's no grammatical distinction, in my days behind the counters of various coffee and fast food establishments, I found that the speaker's selection of an opener can often tell you something about the person. In general, the more abrupt or assertive the opener, the greater the likelihood that the speaker is a jerk. From most-to-least friendly, it goes something like:

"Can I please have a [thing]?"
"Can I get a [thing]?"
"I'd like a [thing], please"
"I'd like a [thing]"
"[thing], please"
"[thing]"
"I'll have a [thing]"
"I wanna [thing]"
"Gimme a [thing]"
"Yeah, gimme a [thing]"

Obviously, it's all pretty subjective, since the whole idea is based on what openers I personally found annoying or rude, but I found it to be roughly 65% accurate as a predictor. Perhaps it says something about me that the openers I found most friendly are the ones framed as a question. Also I suppose I should confess that when placing my own order, I've found that I usually open with "can I get" or "can I have" (or, when ordering a beer from one of my usual servers in my usual bar, "kinniva").
posted by nickmark at 12:31 PM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


...she refused to bow to what she called the coffee giant's "linguistic fascism," says she's no folk hero

All hail, Lynne Rosenthal for standing up to 'The Man.' Vox Populi! We're Not Going to Take It Anymore!
posted by ericb at 12:35 PM on August 17, 2010


great, now people are actively trying to get cortex and Astro Zombie to write a song about them.

To the tune of a truncated version of Don Quixote by Gordon Lightfoot:

From the D train, up Columbus
Comes a harpy, dreadfully
Bloviating and pedantic
Who can this awful woman be?
She is smug and she is grating
She is loud and she is shrill
She is snide and she is pointless
She is harsh and she's a pill.

Reaching for her Whole Foods tote
She takes the OED into her hand
Then standing in the Starbucks line
She shouts in just the most unpleasant drone
Till we can bear no more:

Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah
Multigrain, blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah blah, blah blah bagel
Blah blah English, blah blah blah
PHD from blah blah blah blah
Stickler for correct blah blah
Blah blah blah blah, blah blah asshole
Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah

See the poor baristas here
Who just attempt to do their job
See the wide-eyed kids a-crying
Frightened by this windy blob.

Reaching for a point to make
She gets real pissy, and begins to shout
Then striking a defiant pose
She vomits bad opinions like a spout
Until they kick her out

Blah blah blah blah, blah blah Orwell
Blah blah blah blah, it never stops
Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah
Blah blah -- wait, here come the cops.

posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:46 PM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


So basically she's a returning problem customer

I wonder if corporate retail stores are more crazy-person friendly. As many people have mentioned, there are plenty of places in NYC to get a bagel, but I suspect in any mom-and-pop shop, her kind of shenanigans would get her 86'd, whereas at a corporate store, she can keep inflicting herself on each new batch of employees, who are hamstrung by corporate policy, from simply banning her like a locally owned place would.
posted by nomisxid at 12:57 PM on August 17, 2010


"Great, we can do that for you. Do you want anything on it?"
"I said I want a bagel."


It would have been very tempting to give her a plain bagel with another bagel on top of it.
posted by booksherpa at 12:57 PM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


That and accents.

This argument actually reminds me of one of my favorite unexpected smile moments ever-- a few years back when I was still living in my hometown in NJ I stopped by a takeout Chinese place for lunch. The Chinese clerk, probably 17-18 at most, was on the phone taking an order in Chinese. A Latino guy was in front of me and was just coming up to the counter to order. Chinese kid says whatever the Chinese equivalent of "excuse me for a second" was, and asks the guy "hi, can I help you?" Latino guys starts placing an order in broken English.

Chinese kid says "Spanish?" Latino guy says "si." Chinese kid begins processing entire lunch transaction in Spanish. Finishes order, turns to kitchen, barks the order in Chinese to the Chinese cook and then again in Spanish to the Latino cook.

So 1. I imagine wherever he is now he graduated with a better college degree than I or this Post article writer did, and 2. I've never been to France and dealt with three different language when ordering an egg roll.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:59 PM on August 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


This is a little tangential, but all this talk of bagels is reminding me: I worked for a couple of months in Boston on a short-term software development thing about ten years back, and I remember stopping into a bagel place (the name of which escapes me now) on my way to work a couple of times.

The layout of the place was about what you'd expect, with one exception. Once you'd ordered your bagel, the person behind the counter put it through a plastic chute that ran the length of the counter, where it met the Whirling Bagel-Slicing Blade of Doom (WBSBoD). Once your bagel hit the WBSBoD, there was an unholy "shhkrEEK!" sort of noise, and the now-bisected bagel was kicked out at the other end of the chute where all the cream cheese and butter and other condiments were.

It was a completely unnecessary and overly showy system, and I loved every minute of it. Maybe Starbucks should install something similar to cheer up the Dr. Rosenthals of the world.


This was at Finagle-a-Bagel, and it was AWESOME. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure they've either discontinued it or not adapted it to further locations.
posted by threeants at 1:00 PM on August 17, 2010


I wonder if corporate retail stores are more crazy-person friendly. As many people have mentioned, there are plenty of places in NYC to get a bagel, but I suspect in any mom-and-pop shop, her kind of shenanigans would get her 86'd, whereas at a corporate store, she can keep inflicting herself on each new batch of employees, who are hamstrung by corporate policy, from simply banning her like a locally owned place would.

I've never known franchise stores to have difficulty banning people.

However, a "woman vs. the mom-and-pop store" doesn't make for as good a headline. If there's one thing I've learned in recent years, it's if you pick the right villain, loads of people will overlook the fact that you made a shaky case against it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:06 PM on August 17, 2010


Linguistically, this post is fantastic.*

Just to add another pragmatic dimension to this, I'd be super curious to know what the intonation pattern was on "Butter or cheese?" Was it one implying 'butter or cheese are your only two options here. Pick one.' Or was it one implying '[Would you like] butter, or perhaps, cheese, with your bagel?'

The pattern on the former has overall rising intonation; the latter has rising on both 'butter' and 'cheese', with 'cheese' being much more pronounced. Both send you down different interpretation paths, with different socially conventionalized cooperative pragmatic responses. Neither of which Rosenthal opted for, being the unique and perpetually deictically-centered planet that we satellites orbit.

*And by 'linguistically', I mean that and a bunch of other things.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]



I wonder if corporate retail stores are more crazy-person friendly.

Starbucks bathrooms are very popular places to o.d!
posted by The Whelk at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2010


It would have been very tempting to give her a plain bagel with another bagel on top of it.

Trying to figure out whether to put butter or cheese on the second bagel would have been pure comedy.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:48 PM on August 17, 2010


This was at Finagle-a-Bagel, and it was AWESOME.

Brings to mind when Larry Smith, founder of Finagle-a-Bagel, drove a bucket of Boston water down to New York City to test the often cited claim that "it was impossible to make a good bagel outside New York City because nowhere else has water that tastes quite the same as Gotham's."
"At the shop of a bagel equipment manufacturer, Smith made two batches of bagels: one using New York City water, the other with Boston water. 'There was absolutely no difference between them,' Smith reported. 'What makes the difference is equipment, process and ingredients.'"
posted by ericb at 1:50 PM on August 17, 2010


I wonder if corporate retail stores are more crazy-person friendly.

You're onto something here. there are still stores on the Upper West Side where, if you pulled shit, they would refuse to serve you after a while.

I miss that New York.
posted by micawber at 1:51 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Our family stopped at a hot dog shop in rural Massachusetts that had been recommended to us. After ordering 4 hot dogs from the cashier and paying, the girl preparing the hot dogs said to us, "butter'on'em?" We looked at each other with cocked heads, none of us having ever had a buttered hot dog before. We appeared to be confused, and no one volunteered immediately to have a buttered hot dog, so again, she asked, "butter'on'em?" As Californians visiting Massachusetts, we were all high on regional differences. Out here, you put jimmies on an ice-cream sundae and got a drink of water from the 'bubblah'. So, adopting a when-in-Rome attitude, my father replied, "Sure!" Exasperated, the hot dog girl summoned all her powers of enunciation to spit out, "WHAT ARE ON THEM?" We were crestfallen. After the rollercoaster ride of confusion, elation at the discovery of another New England quirk, and the anticipation of trying this unheard of tubesteak accoutrement, we meekly listed off some standards in response. We were embarrassed at our inability to parse a simple question and interpret the local customs, so we escaped to a bench outside with our prepared sausages. Had this happened today, I would have responded, "NOTHING IS ON THEM AT THIS POINT IN TIME, BUT I ANTICIPATE THERE WILL BE MUSTARD!" I would have then upended a chair, and stormed out to blog about it.
posted by iloveit at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


I wonder if corporate retail stores are more crazy-person friendly.

As has been mentioned above, how did the New York Post even learn of this incident? From Starbucks on Columbus Avenue at 86th Street? No. From an observer? Likely not. From Lynne Rosenthal? VERY LIKELY.

"Look at me. Look at me. If JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater can get attention as a 'folk hero,' so can I."

My bet is that this was all calculated on her part.
posted by ericb at 2:01 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


...the Boston-based chain of shops, The Coffee Connection.

I miss them just as much as I miss the small natural food market chain, Bread & Circus before they were gobbled up by Whole Foods in the early '90s.
posted by ericb at 2:06 PM on August 17, 2010


"butter'on'em?"

In New England that could indeed be an honest question -- as per whether you wanted the bun 'buttered' or not.

It is common to 'butter grill' a roll (aka a New England Style* roll) for a 'Lobster Roll' or a 'Hot Dog.'
posted by ericb at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2010


* -- "You must have noticed that it [is] a New England style hot dog roll that is employed. The rolls are baked as a group and then magically sliced in the top and sides [so] they pull away from each other leaving no side crust. This allows for toasting or grilling of the sides of the roll. (not 'bun.' sheesh.) That is what alows for the sublime delight of the lobster roll experience, and also makes serving and eating hot dogs more sensibly accomplished."
posted by ericb at 2:21 PM on August 17, 2010


Not wanting to make this about all about the crazy lady wanting a bagel, I found other links about language and Starbucks and anger. After 45 minutes of reading all the links and writing the post, I figured it was meaty enough to discuss something other than the crazy bagel lady.

Oh, foolish, foolish me.
posted by nomadicink at 2:31 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why you should you never order coffee in plain English at Starbucks?
Because one egg is an oeuf!
posted by doublehappy at 2:33 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


un

Also. Seriously. You guys just do coffee wrong.
posted by doublehappy at 2:35 PM on August 17, 2010


Trying to figure out whether to put butter or cheese on the second bagel would have been pure comedy

You can't fool me sonny, it's bagels all the way down. er, up?
posted by nomisxid at 2:49 PM on August 17, 2010


Last week a family friend started an anecdote about how they visited a McDonald's in Paris. I (and yes, asshole admission) wouldn't even her get to the actual story because I was so appalled that they would go to Paris and voluntarily choose to visit a McDonald's. What is WRONG with people?

I like eating where the locals eat. McDonalds are great places to people watch - families, teenagers on dates, office workers grabbing lunch, etc. And like many people here, I find the menu variations fascinating. Filet-O-Fish and hot dogs for breakfast!?

Of course, I never go to McDonalds in the US - why would I when there's In-n-Out?
posted by betweenthebars at 2:51 PM on August 17, 2010


When I moved to Boston I had no frickin' idea that a "regular" coffee comes with cream and sugar in it. Boy, was I surprised.

(Is ok, I learned to correct ordering procedure soon enough).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:52 PM on August 17, 2010


This now raises for me the painful question of whether I have to indulge their coffee terminology in order to distance myself from this kind of asshole.

To better distance yourself from this kind of asshole, stop going to Starbuck's.

I'm clearly old enough to be the mother of the sincere young person, and find it mildly offensive to be schooled in how to order a cup of coffee by someone who doesn't have the language skill to comprehend "I'd like the largest size of black coffee; whatever is the mildest unflavored roast, please."

I'm totally boggled why you would even consider Starbuck's. Isn't there a gas station or corner store within walking/driving distance?

Ever tried to find not-French food in Paris?

Why would you want to?


Vegetarian? There is plenty of non-French food in Paris, particularly in the 3rd (Marais) and 11th. Middle-eastern for one. Also Thai.

There are many fine restaurants in Paris but as in London few of them provide a menu for students with little money.

Agreed. It's OK to go to McDonald's in Detroit but not Paris? Huh?

Also, drone drone drone drone drone drone drone.

Word rage ... not?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:21 PM on August 17, 2010


christ, what an asshole.
posted by geekhorde at 3:27 PM on August 17, 2010


Not wanting to make this about all about the crazy lady wanting a bagel, I found other links about language and Starbucks and anger.

Some on MeFi might have considered that you were "padding your FPP."

No one can predict the direction the discussion will go after hitting 'post.'
posted by ericb at 3:28 PM on August 17, 2010


I figured it was meaty enough to discuss something other than the crazy bagel lady.

The framing built to the peak of "All of this helps to explain..." which seemed to suggest that the Rosenthal event was the central subject of the post, and that everything else was padding or context - it felt like you were building to the big reveal.

Also, she's the newsworthy piece. The other links have been around a while, whereas this just happened.

Finally, the clash of a privileged snotty English professor + a Starbucks barista, with some juicy grammar arguments thrown in, could not but be like a red, moist, delicious steak tartare for MetaFilter.

You might have started with the Rosenthal link and provided the rest afterward as background, but even that might not have helped because we would still have been drawn to the red red meat. Alternatively, the links about drink ordering and Starbucks language might have made for a good focused post topic all by themselves. Rosenthal, language, and anger all together became kind of too many topics for a post. A reader had to choose a focus and there was NOM STEAK TARTARE.

I really enjoyed your post and the language links, and don't mean to critique a post that has given rise to an entertaining conversation. Just hoping to maybe help explain. Making a MeFi post is a crapshoot.
posted by Miko at 3:29 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or, what Miko said!
posted by ericb at 3:32 PM on August 17, 2010


No one can predict the direction the discussion will go after hitting 'post.'

Oh yeah, totally and it's not a big deal, I was just amused/surprised about the direction it went. Didn't think it would sprout up to so many comments about the Professor/barista angle, but live and learn.
posted by nomadicink at 3:37 PM on August 17, 2010


No one can predict the direction the discussion will go after hitting 'post.'

To the contrary, I think most experienced MeFites would have accurately predicted the direction of this discussion. If this were a crapshoot, predicting that the thread would go some other way would be like betting on boxcars.
posted by grouse at 3:42 PM on August 17, 2010


Holy crap, I'm glad I don't drink coffee. It sounds confusing, expensive, and time-consuming (you mean you have to go somewhere to buy it? And then stand on line? With jerks? Every morning?).
posted by Eideteker at 4:07 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Er, no, you can make it at home for cheap and it's dead simple. Jerks infest everything, but don't let them sully the holy name of coffee, damn it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:20 PM on August 17, 2010


I'm getting tweaked by everybody at cash registers nowadays. I am in the habit of saying, "No thanks"...

I wish I could remember what it was, but I asked for something in a store last week, and the clerk said "Would you like two?" And I said "Sure!" I laughed and said something like "Way to upsell" and happily shuffled off with my two of whatever the fuck it was I bought.
posted by marxchivist at 4:36 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a somewhat extreme caffeine junkie, I can say that almost every chain restaurant has their own lingo for extra-large beverages, venti, king-size, jumbo-sized, etc... Some of them use extra-large, but sometimes they have an even larger size with their own argot. I long ago took to saying "a bucket of Diet Coke", and holding my hands out about a foot apart and making my eyes big. The only place where I'll use the local slang is A&W when they used to have "the Barrel", because how cute is that?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:45 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're right, it's not really a "crapshoot." I guess what I should have said is that when you post something, you have to let go of your idea of what the responses might have been, and let the community do as it will.
posted by Miko at 7:19 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not a small, it's a large.

I once went to a Vietnamese restaurant where the Phở sizes were listed as "Large" and "Extra Large" instead of the usual "regular" and "large". I thought that was much more helpful, actually.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:02 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


She lives in NEW YORK. She went to STARBUCKS for a BAGEL.

Yeah, but she ordered a multigrain bagel. So it's clear she really just likes bread with a hole it. Here's how it works, people: if it has blueberries in it, or pesto, or is loaded up with bran and sprinkled with oats and flax seeds, it's not a bagel. Bagels are supposed to be a life lesson: different on the outside (poppy seeds? garlic? onion?) but the same on the inside. Just like all us snowflakes.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:09 PM on August 17, 2010


I've had powerful experiences related to everything bagels and smoked salmon.

little perrer, lightly toasted, splash of lemon juice
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Some on MeFi might have considered that you were "padding your FPP.""

Holy God, not me. If the Rosenthal bit was the steak tartar, then the rest of it all was the wonderful starters, sides and perfectly paired wines; finished off with a delectably complex cheese plate for dessert. Also, an after dinner mint in the shape of a bunny!

The presentation was excellent as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed dining with you all, and will reminisce these good moments as I stand in line for my daily fix tomorrow.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:41 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I moved to Boston I had no frickin' idea that a "regular" coffee comes with cream and sugar in it. Boy, was I surprised.

Hah! The coffee shop across from work has the same thing. I used to order a "large with milk and sugar" but the coffee ladies (charming, all) have taught me that what I want is a "large regular with milk", where the "with milk" means "substituting milk for cream".

That said this is the land of the double-double: the "standard" Tim Hortons coffee is a 10 oz coffee (Canadian medium -- US Timmy Ho sizes are one size inflated!) with two heaping spoonfuls of sugar and two... somethings of cream. Ew.
posted by mendel at 8:59 PM on August 17, 2010


I'm going to shout "Dino-size it!" tomorrow while ordering my morning coffee at Starbucks. That'll show 'em.
posted by pkingdesign at 10:26 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh come on, people! Its called Asperger syndrome.
posted by c13 at 12:03 AM on August 18, 2010


Loving the idea that all prescriptivists suffer from Asperger's. If only that would have got me marks on my college essays.

"butter'on'em?"

I went to visit MrMippy's family in Fife and went into a shop. 'Have you got any pens, please?' 'Pens?' 'Yes.' The assistant took me round a shelf and pointed out...the pins. She must have thought I was an English tourist putting on a really bad accent and decided to just be polite.
posted by mippy at 1:37 AM on August 18, 2010


Oh come on, people! Its called Asperger syndrome.

To be fair, your "its" is missing an apostrophe.

ASSBURGER
posted by grubi at 6:01 AM on August 18, 2010


: stupid hovering just above insanity

This is how I feel most days.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 6:11 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to shout "Dino-size it!" tomorrow while ordering my morning coffee at Starbucks. That'll show 'em.

Definitely a good idea. See if they have any toys, too! In the interest of shallow anecdote accuracy, I should mention that he says now that it was a McDonald's, not a Wendy's. It's really important to get these things straight. This is a normal extended conversation for married people to have, right?
posted by theredpen at 8:44 AM on August 18, 2010


If I, for one, was going to Paris, it would be to look at some old-assed paintings, not to eat some buttery-assed snails, but, but all means, let's all don our faux-flabbergastedness because somewhere in the world somebody travels for reasons other than one's own.

At least I admitted I was an asshole.
posted by norm at 9:14 AM on August 18, 2010


Starbucks is not a coffee shop. It is a drive-through milkshake shop that has managed to brainwash millions of people into thinking that it's OK to have a milkshake for breakfast on their way to work. Coffee, bagels, etc are just there to give the place a healthy aura.
posted by miyabo at 9:34 AM on August 18, 2010


If you're really under the impression that most people order "milkshakes" at Starbucks, seriously, you gotta go to an actual Starbucks in the morning. The one I hit on the way to work features a TON of people who are just getting coffee, or a latte, which is ... coffee and milk. Overpriced, MERCY YES. Sometimes hopelessly twee? DOUBLE MERCY YES.

But in addition to the fact that "drive-through" is a weird descriptor for a place most people still don't drive through, the number of people getting "milkshakes" or the equivalent is really quite small. It may be hard for you to believe people would go there to just get coffee, but people go there to ... just get coffee.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:19 AM on August 18, 2010


FYI -- Lynne Rosenthal is an Associate Professor, English Literature at Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY.
posted by ericb at 11:11 AM on August 18, 2010


I keep picturing the exchange going something like this for some reason.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2010


It may be hard for you to believe people would go there to just get coffee, but people go there to ... just get coffee.

The coffee isn't that good, it's too expensive, and there are always too many people in line. So why go there?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:06 PM on August 18, 2010


But they've been open for 50 years! damn that shitasscoffeeshop.
posted by bam at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The coffee isn't that good, it's too expensive, and there are always too many people in line. So why go there?

Because not everyone on Earth experiences things exactly the same way you do.
posted by bondcliff at 12:19 PM on August 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh, I'm not saying they SHOULD go there for coffee.

I'm saying they DO go there for coffee.

I, personally, have a fondness for their iced coffee in the summer, and it doesn't actually cost four dollars, because it's ... coffee. So I typically grab that on the way in to work. I'm actually not aware of another location that's equally convenient that I could choose instead, so that's how I do it.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:18 PM on August 18, 2010


The coffee isn't that good, it's too expensive, and there are always too many people in line. So why go there?
Bitter coffee is still good enough to flavor my warm milk, it's conveniently located, and the line moves rather briskly. Not that I go to Starbucks all that often, but it's not as bad as you make it out, especially when you work someplace that likes to give out gift cards in lieu of bonuses.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:24 PM on August 18, 2010


I enjoy harshing on Starbucks as much as the next person, and their style of West Coasty acidic coffee is not my favorite either, and I generally favor patronizing independent businesses. But I won't pretend I don't understand why people go there. It goes something like this:

1. Choices for most people for morning coffee out: Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts/Tim Hortons, McDonald's, local mom-and-pop breakfast shop, gas station.
2. Local mom-and-pop are harder and harder to find. A lot of people do patronize them, and I am a fan of them wherever there is a good one, but they don't have the capacity right now to serve everyone who wants coffee.
3. And coffee at mom-and-pops and gas stations is not necessarily any better than Starbucks and sometimes much worse.
4. Coffee at the other options, like Dunkins or McDonald's, is also thoroughly crappy (often burnt). In addition, the atmosphere is not welcoming (hard plastic seats, flourescent lighting, loudness) and you get the sense you are not supposed to linger, despite the cluster of retired old guys who meet there every weekday to get out of the house.
5. The places are also full of retired old guys (and their concomitant pronouncements on current events and society's ills).
6. The most common paper available in other outlets is USA Today.
7. other outlets usually have no Wi-Fi.
8. Starbucks has a variety of seating choices, some soft and comfy.
9. Starbucks carries better newspapers.
10. Starbucks employees, as a general rule, are pretty nice and pretty attentive to doing things just exactly the way you want. Their company policy is actually not to hassle you - it's "just say yes."
11. Starbucks provides employees a benefits package including health if they work over 20 hours a week. It is not the best package in the world; but ask a Dunkin' or a mom-and-pop employee what their health care benefits look like.
12. Starbucks has free wi-fi.
13. The line moves efficiently.
14. Their locations are carefully chosen to be somewhere convenient either on your way out of a residential area, or in a heavily walked pedestrian area.
15. The coffee drinks are incredibly consistent.
16. The lighting is comfortably low for early morning.
17. Range of mediocre foods including breakfast-y items but also sandwich-y items, candy, etc.
18. Of the 5 or 6 coffee shops in my town, Starbucks is the only one that will happily show up at a nonprofit event with large carboys of donated coffee, boxes of donated pastry, free giveaway items and staffers to handle it all for you and clean it up. The others can't or won't give anything away for free.
posted by Miko at 1:32 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Miko: “Starbucks has free wi-fi.”

I might point out, however, that this is a very recent development – I'm pretty sure it happened in the last month or two. Before then, the Starbucks "free" wireless required you to buy a $5 gift card and then spend at least ten minutes signing up with AT&T's arcane and ridiculous login process. Argh.

Miko: “...other outlets usually have no Wi-Fi.”

Do you really find this to be true? In every one of the four or five areas I've lived in within the past three years, every convenient coffee shop has had free wi-fi – and that's not counting a whole slew of other places that had wi-fi, too. I used to spend a lot of time in the Burger King here in downtown Denver back when I was sorta broke because they had not only free wireless, but free wired ethernet hubs that you could plug into. In fact, that Burger King was across a parking lot from Starbucks, and I remember people used to come over from Starbucks all the time so they could just use the internet hassle-free.

And there are at least a dozen other cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, and even bars I know of downtown that have free wi-fi; and there are others in various neighborhoods. I actually can't remember the last time I saw a coffee shop that didn't offer free wi-fi; I think it's sort of a given at this point. I think that was one front on which Starbucks was really losing customers, and that's why they've scrambled recently to try to actually offer free wi-fi.

I agree with your other points, though; Starbucks knows what they're doing.
posted by koeselitz at 1:55 PM on August 18, 2010


4. Coffee at the other options, like Dunkins or McDonald's, is also thoroughly crappy (often burnt).

...

In a recent national taste test, more Americans preferred the taste of Dunkin' Donuts coffee over Starbuck's.

Dunkin' Beat Starbuck's

The coffee isn't that good, it's too expensive, and there are always too many people in line. So why go there?

Because not everyone on Earth experiences things exactly the same way you do.


That wasn't my personal opinion. That's a condensation of the opinions of people in this thread who go to Starbuck's regularly.

My own personal opinion is that people who buy coffee are suckers. If you have a job, your employer should provide it. If you don't, you don't need it.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:27 PM on August 18, 2010


I might point out, however, that this is a very recent development – I'm pretty sure it happened in the last month or two.

Well...the locals in New England have had it free for years without this gift-card and login process - but I don't frequent it enough to really claim any expertise.

Do you really find this to be true?

Yeah, it's still relatively uncommon. I am truly surprised that even your Burger Kings and places like that have Wi-Fi. That is not the case in Northern New England. I just checked a listing for the town I just moved from - one independent sandwich shop, Panera, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and two restaurant/bars. That's it (city of 18,000). In the town I live now, just Starbucks and one indie coffee place (city of 25,000).

It may be a West/East thing. I was made aware of a tech divide between states the federal government has considered "rural" and heavily subsidized for tech recently; most of the Western states, as it turns out, actually have better infrastructure and investment for information delivery. I learned about it specifically in the context of educational technology, in which Western school districts have much more tech than Eastern ones, but maybe it extends to the business community as well. Systems also just tend to be newer/more recently built out there. Whole towns newly built, that never required reverse-engineering...
posted by Miko at 2:29 PM on August 18, 2010


more Americans preferred the taste of Dunkin' Donuts coffee over Starbuck's.

That still doesn't make it good coffee.

If you have a job, your employer should provide it.

Egad, the coffee here at my office is the worst. of. all.
posted by Miko at 2:31 PM on August 18, 2010


Yeah, it looks like Starbucks just went to free wifi on the first day of last month. It's interesting that Starbucks does it different in New England - but it makes some sense, I think, since I know they have regional directors that sometimes make decisions like that.

Maybe it is a regional thing that wireless is more common in the west, too; I don't know. I confess I haven't spent that much time in New England - lived in Boston, but only for a couple years, and that was before wifi became more ubiquitous.
posted by koeselitz at 3:00 PM on August 18, 2010


Yeah, I dunno - most national chains float things on a regional level before going national. I just did a Google news search to find out when WiFi started arriving in Starbucks in New England, and it looks like it was around 2001, 2002. The charge apparently varied, at first it was through T-Mobile and apparently at some times it was up to $6 an hour, and then more recently they were offering 2 hours free with your Starbucks card and then charging for time after that - which is the model my local one used. I guess they felt the competition from other stores starting to offer totally free, no-strings WiFi. I found a mention of how our local store found it was making no money on its paid WiFi services a few years ago when the city established wireless throughout downtown for two months in summer.
posted by Miko at 3:57 PM on August 18, 2010


To be fair, your "its" is missing an apostrophe

Heh. Don't confuse intoxication with a developmental dysfunction.
posted by c13 at 5:09 PM on August 18, 2010


If you have a job, your employer should provide it. If you don't, you don't need it.

wut. you can pry my coffee from my cold, unemployed hands.
posted by desjardins at 5:12 PM on August 18, 2010


Also, an important note: coffee is conformity juice. It produces docile and willing servants. It does this by fooling the victim into believing that she or he is getting a perk or a pick-me-up – but that 'added energy' turns out to be just enough to continue on every day doing the same menial tasks, and it quickly dissipates, so that over time (at faster or slower rates for different people) more and more coffee is needed to produce enough energy to get by, and the victim becomes jittery, impatient, and incredibly uncomfortable without the effect of that particular stimulant. The point is that enough time is taken up – in the procurement of, the consumption of, the comedown from, and the reawakened hunt for coffee – that the victim never once has time to consider her or his circumstances in life, her or his different options to make that life better. All this is added to the fact that caffeine, as a stimulant, tends naturally to produce a sort of pacifying tunnel vision, a mildly buzzing laser focus that blocks out apparently external questions and concerns like "am I really happy?" and "why am I slaving away at a terrible job to enrich people I hate?" The very capacity to ask questions that could prompt the liberation of the human spirit from bondage is entirely liquidated through intentional chemical sublimation, in order to make sure that the victim has just enough 'oomph' that they remain productive, and no more.

Of course, that's just my own experience, and might not reflect anybody else's observations of the effects of that vile brown corrosive.
posted by koeselitz at 5:33 PM on August 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can;t drink coffee if I'm doing any serious inking or detail work.

It is however, AMAZING at getting raw words down on a page.
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 PM on August 18, 2010


I just think it's a nice warm, rich beverage to drink with breakfast. Not too complicated.
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on August 18, 2010


koeselitz, you'll get my coffee when you pry it from my cold, dead but still-twitching, clinging, grasping, acquisitive, bourgeoisie corner-office claws.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:44 PM on August 18, 2010


I like Starbucks coffee.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:35 PM on August 18, 2010


I probably should've mentioned – I think coffee's impact on my head has a lot to do with the fact that I'm ADD. Anyone who doesn't believe that people with ADD have brains that are wired differently should sit down and observe the effects when a non-ADD person and I each drink a cup of coffee. Seriously. That beverage quite literally destroys me, leaving me a sobbing, muttering pile of wreckage.

And I confess that I'm well aware that some people can drink the stuff like it's water and never feel any extreme effects. My mother-in-law was one such person; she could have one or twenty cups of coffee, you couldn't tell the difference. I still have a hard time believing that people aren't repelled by the stuff, but far be it from me to tell people what to like.
posted by koeselitz at 11:30 PM on August 18, 2010


Regarding "tall" and "short" at Starbucks -- I'm pretty sure that isn't Starbucks-specific usage. I know back in the early to mid-80s here in Seattle, before Starbucks became the huge thing it later became, many of the other espresso bars around here already used that terminology. My regular order was a single tall latte because I am a coffee wuss (much less now than then, though) and I like milk with my espresso. I generally did not go to Starbucks back then -- my regular hangouts were elsewhere, and there wasn't a Starbucks on every corner like there is today. (Back then, they didn't even have much seating, either! It was a different sort of place than what it is now.)

Now, "Venti" and "Grande" are definitely Starbucks-isms.
posted by litlnemo at 6:42 AM on August 19, 2010


koeselitz - weird, all the ADD people I know (including my husband) get great benefit from caffeine if they are not taking ritalin. Once my husband started medication, he stopped drinking coffee. So if you are on meds, maybe the combo = too much stimulation for you?
posted by desjardins at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The McDonald's in Paris derail left a mark on me. Reasons to eat McD in Paris:
- open on Sundays, Mondays, pointless national holidays, and usually until 2am
- you can stay a long long time without being hassled, in a city that has lots of grungy smoky cafes but no coffee shops
- FREE WIFI. FAST. FREE!! Most wifi points here are locked down, so McD is a reliable stop
- actually, it tastes better here than in the US, but is better yet in Japan (and Japan's blizzard flavors are more fun)

But, I have seen Americans here still freak out a bit at McDonalds when they can't get the right sauce for their McNuggets (it's called sauce chinoise, rather than Sweet & Sour) or can't get the promised beer at McDonald's (after 10pm).

Don't get me started on the "Japanese" restaurants in Paris. There's probably as many Japanese restaurants as there are Japanese residents, most of these being run by Chinese or some Vietnamese. Leave Paris and you see the same restaurants but the people are all French. Blech.

El Torito, on the other hand, has their shit together. Quite tasty Tex-Mex, falling short only in quantities of grease (too little to be authentic Texan) and portion sizes (I ate it all already?).
posted by whatzit at 10:24 AM on August 19, 2010


mdonley: I live in Poland, and while I don't patronize McDonald's here (warning: Flash, repetitive smooth jazz)

I followed your link and clicked around a few times and ended up at Symbole Ameryki, which appears to be an ad campaign featuring "American symbols" including a harley, an astronaut, and baseball, mixed in with good old American McDonald's food items. The food includes a hamburger, chicken wings, and something called jablecznik, which Google tells me is Polish apple cake.

I keep picturing an earnest young Polish McDonald's employee telling me that their burgers are "as American as baseball and apple cake" and I can't stop smiling.

also I've had that tab open for the last 15 minutes or so and now I'm afraid I need that smooth jazz to live
posted by Partial Law at 12:13 PM on August 19, 2010


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