When I left Sacramento the Starbucks across the street from the theatre was exactly as I have come to expect Starbucks to be. More or less just like the Starbucks in Little 5 Points where I stop for coffee and a bit of something on those mornings when I am
too untogether to make my own breakfast a bit time challenged.
I stopped in the one in downtown Decatur last week and it was more or less as usual. There didn’t seem to be as many comfy chairs but really, those chairs are always full of mommies with sticky children or some guy spread out over several chairs with a laptop, 3 weeks worth of newspapers and what looks like a set of encyclopedias. They could use more chairs that take up less room and don’t encourage napping.
But this morning I stopped at Little 5 to discover that, not only have all the comfy chairs been removed, there is a new counter that parallels the display case that is designed to funnel customers toward the register. The outside of this counter has shelves for merchandise- the old kiosk like display stands are gone along with the shelves on the wall of mugs and water bottles and coffee makers. The bins of popcorn and kiddie fruit snacks are gone too. This might actually be a good thing since now once in line there’s no room to turn back because junior wants some dried apples with his triple expresso. There is only one way out- past the register. Since there are still eager barristas clamoring to get a drink started for you before you get even close to check out, the melee at the register is just as crazy as ever.
No, I’m having the vente and the breakfast ham sandwich. That bagel isn’t mine and would you mind taking the caramel macchiato off the bill, I didn’t order it.
Man 3 customers behind: Oh, I think that’s mine.
So, having run the gauntlet and been squeezed out the other end with my croissant, I notice that the barristas are now behind a glass wall. I find myself wondering what the reason for this. Is it bulletproof? Just because I’ve never had the urge to blow away a barrista doesn’t mean someone hasn’t. Is it to keep the guy focused? So people won’t talk to him? Is it maybe to keep people from sneezing on the back side of the expresso maker? Does the Starbucks experience now include putting the barrista’s talents on display like a pizza chef?
Then my eye is drawn to where the community message board used to be. It’s not there. The one in Little 5 was very much in keeping with the neighborhood and always good for a little light entertainment. I look around. It hasn’t been moved anywhere. The walls are bare. No statements about fair trade, and community involvement, and profiles of people who roast coffee beans in South America. No chalkboard with comments from the worker bees. The local art work that used to line the walls leading to the bathroom is also gone. No more trying to be the friendly little neighborhood business.
My coffee is ready. I reach for a cardboard sleeve because I’m going to drink this while driving and I don’t want to cause an accident because I burnt my fingers. The sleeves are in a brand new container. I can’t get one out. That’s because it works just like the napkin dispenser in cheap coffee shops- the sleeves are jammed up in the front of the dispenser and held there with a spring. When I try to grab the sleeve at the front of the row, the entire dispenser comes with it. If it were a napkin, I could just tear it out, but the cardboard sleeve is too tough and so jammed in I can’t pry an edge loose. The thing shakes, people behind me can’t get to the counter to get their drinks and are having panic attacks due to lack of caffeine. Finally, I am able to work one sleeve out as the ones behind it snap forward to close the gap. My fingers were, thankfully, out of the way just in time.
I felt like I’ve just been to McDonald’s.
Snap! Get’em in, get’em out. Snap! Grab some dough as they pass by.
Thank you for choosing Starbucks. Have a nice day.