We here at The Amateur Gourmet pride ourselves on our journalistic integrity, our bravado, and our contacts at Starbucks. It was one such contact, today, that provided me with the keys to the kingdom of behind-the-scenes Starbucks knowledge that we, the average Starbucks consumer, can only dream about. I share with you now the things I learned on my journey–a journey into the dark underbelly of America’s corporate coffee giant–my journey: BEHIND THE GREEN APRON.
[Cue theme music.]
My source immediately made it clear that Starbucks has a firm policy regarding disclosures to outside media sources. I assured her that my website is hardly a media source: my readers are all heavily medicated former alcoholics who live in a school bus on the outskirts of Maine. This seemed to win her over, and she allowed me to take a picture of her from the neck down to provide a graphic for the title of my expose: BEHIND THE GREEN APRON.
[Replay theme music.]
My source, who we will call HARPER, has worked at Starbucks for the last four years. And as much as I wanted her to be a disgruntled employee, eager to dish the dirt, she was surprisingly gruntled.
“It’s actually a great place to work,” she said, “you get great benefits: health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance. Plus stock and 401k.”
401k? Was this some kind of designer jean?
“Sure,” she responded.
Unfatigued by her enthusiasm, I attempted to chip away at her cheery facade.
“But surely you find the corporate structure disturbing,” I pressed. “A huge coffee giant, stomping in and taking over the world?”
“See I don’t agree,” she said, “People try to compare this place to Walmart and I’m like: no, it’s different from Walmart. Starbucks takes care of the people in the communities where they get their coffee. They’re a really good company.”
I began turning red with impatience.
(“Look,” I whispered, “Can’t you sensationalize this a bit? See, my readership is flagging and I’d like to create another internet phenomenon, like my Janet Jackson cupcake shpiel. Can’t you do it up a bit?” Harper nodded. “OK?” I asked. “Oh, sorry, were you talking to me? I was on my cell phone.”)
One thing Harper did wax negative about was how empty and automatic her job had become. Formerly, Starbucks employees actually made the drinks from scratch: grinding the beans, brewing the espresso, heating the foam. Now it’s all done by machine.
“I really thought they were going to fire us when they brought this thing in,” she said. She was referring to the giant chrome automaton the workers stand behind throughout the day. Bringing great risk to her and her future career, I had Harper snap a photo of the machine–a big corporate no-no–which I will post for you now. Click to enlarge:
Basically, then, the system works like this:
You give your order, and the counterperson shouts the order over to the person behind the automaton.
If you order a White Chocolate Mocha, the procedure is simple: a squirt of white chocolate syrup, and then over to the machine where shots of espresso shoot down. You heat up the milk in the machine to the appropriate temperature and mix it all up. Top with whipped cream and you’re done.
“The machine is so exact,” said Harper, “that it knows when the milk is at the perfect temperature. It doesn’t even let you make that decision!”
What is the perfect temperature, out of curiosity?
“Between 140 and 160 degrees.”
Moving on, I next asked about the baked goods. This seemed an area potentially rife with grotesqueries. I imagined week-old crumbcake, saturated with mold, being sold to unsuspecting little old ladies.
“Not quite,” explained Harper. “They bring the baked goods fresh every day from a local bakery. And at the end of the day they give it to a local charity.”
“But I will say,” she continued, “that I do think the baked goods are one place where the company’s lost its focus. They’ve spread themselves too thin with all the stuff they sell. They should have two cookies, two muffins and that’s it.”
What are some strange customer requests?
“Let’s see,” she said, “there’s the guy who likes half soy and half organic milk. Or the people who want extra shots of vanilla in their white chocolate mocha. How can they take all that sugar?!”
I began snorting some sugar out of frustration. “Can’t you dish me any dirt?”
“Ah!” she said. “Well, there is the story of our old assistant manager.”
I rubbed my hands together with excitement.
“Our old assistant manager was on crack. LITERALLY. Like she would have these cups of tea and they’d be almost all empty and if someone threw them out she’d get really upset. And then we realized it was because she was putting her drugs in them. She’d say things like: ‘This is the most expensive cup of tea you’ll ever see in your life.”
“Anyway,” Harper continued, “she eventually quit and started working right across the way at the jewellery store where the ice cream place is now. And apparently she ran off with all these people’s jewellery. We would have people coming in here asking for her and we’d tell them she’s gone and they’d get really pissed.”
That was pretty juicy! “Keep going,” I encouraged.
“Hmm. Sometimes people have sex in the bathroom here.”
Oh wait. That was me.
“Sorry,” I apologized.
Any other bad things she could say about Starbucks?
“Well,” Harper pondered, “I think white males move up through the ranks quicker than anyone else. Not at this particular Starbucks, necessarily, but I think on a national level that’s true.”
“And sometimes customers treat you like shit. They think that since you work at Starbucks you have to be an idiot, so that sucks.”
“One time we were almost robbed. Well, at least I think we were. It was early Sunday morning and I was here at the registers and I saw this guy standing by the door eyeying the place up and down, counting the people. So I made a big show of getting my manager and my manager went and stood by the door. The guy ran away.”
So you saved Starbucks?
And now you shall bring it down, enabling me and my poison pen!
In conclusion, Starbucks is a greedy, seedy corporate monster, cruel to its employees and tolerant of sex in the bathroom. Leaving the kingdom of Starbucks awareness, one is staggered by the sheer mass of heathenism that goes on behind closed doors, behind velvet ropes, behind
“Aren’t you being a little dramatic?”
THE GREEN APRON.
[Play theme music.]