The Starbucks Era
20 years ago, I worked in an office park in suburban St. Louis and liked to get out of the office for a walk in the afternoon. In the heat of summer, I started visiting the Starbucks along the way for an iced tea. Eventually, my colleague Will introduced me to chai tea lattes (iced and warm) and a habit was formed.
The habit continued when I started working Downtown, and it turned out Shannon also had a taste for their chai so the habit became mutual.
When we moved to Seattle and had different workplaces, we began visiting the store closest to our apartment every morning together. Ten years of a traditional morning constitutional began. It’s not “cool” to visit Starbucks in Seattle, but the only other quality masala chai options were inconvenient (from work we preferred Monorail Espresso). We learned to not care about appearances and enjoy the dependable consistency. Our walk even included a Starbucks chai when we lived in Munich.
When the research store opened near our house, we ended up feeling like participants more than simply customers.
I even became a regular near our San Francisco studio over my dozens of trips to that city.
In Amsterdam, we tried to find other options but the best morning chai around was, again, Starbucks. So we’ve been regulars at three of them here, for some time making the trip an excuse to lengthen our morning constitutional.
Gradually, though, my enthusiasm for this part of our walk has waned. Amsterdam prices are substantially higher than any US city, and the loyalty program isn’t universal so I carry a paper stamp card here. This made me aware of just how costly the habit is. Our current store had great, personable staff, but it seems to have become some sort of training center this year and now has constant rotation to new baristas. I’ve begun to prefer oat-based milk, but the local store variety is not nearly as nice as the ordinary store-bought brands.
Recently, they replaced the POS terminals with much less obtrusive ones. Last Friday this enabled the rollout of a new system that required them to begin entering the extra pump of chai syrup in my usual order. Which it then charges me for, after the new barista of the month spends some time trying to find where in the menus this option is.
It’s all too much. I’m paying twice as much for a lesser product and inconsistent experience. So, after two decades of daily visits to Starbucks, I’m done.