Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Starbucks, Part 2

The other really irritating thing about the Starbucks experience is having to say Tall, Grande, and the invented Venti to order anything.

This, of course, is a thoroughly beaten dead horse. We've all complained about the stupid size-names, we've all bitched and moaned, we've all made jokes. End of story? Not quite.

What is so worrying here is how quickly we as a nation admitted defeat. At first we stuck to our guns, refusing to say "grande", laughing at "venti", etc. But those friendly Starbucks people kept gently correcting us, kept smiling, kept insisting on the stupid names and kept rewarding us with nice big cups of delicious coffee. And quite quickly, we folded. We gave up. Now we say Grande and nothing could be more normal.

And what has been the result? People walk into other, non-Starbucks cafes and ask for Grandes. Some other coffee shops actually have adopted the word Grande for everyone's convenience. But worst of all, other food-service businesses have been inspired at how easy it is to force stupid names on us and are rolling out their own crazy names.

I walked into a Cold Stone ice cream parlour the other day, and saw a sign declaring new names for the cup sizes. Instead of small, medium and large, it was now "Like it!", "Love it!" and "Gotta Have it!"

I need to pause for a moment to calm down.

Cold Stone could never have done this without the Starbucks example. As I ordered my medium ice cream, I said "medium". But I was on the edge of rage. If the guy had corrected me with a "You mean you want a Love it!", I would have totally lost it.

Here's the point. This marketing strategy where crazy names are substituted for normal ones only can work if the customer chooses to participate. If we can summon the courage and strength to say "medium", then there is nothing Starbucks can do to stop us. We can take this fight up again if we want.

"But why does it matter?" you ask. Well, I don't normally throw around words like "Orwellian", but isn't there something sinister and Orwellian about the size "Tall"? It means the opposite of what it means. What if the GAP changed its XL size to a new size called "Slim"? Would we care? Would we roll over and take it?

Every time you say "I want a Tall mocha." the people behind the scenes who have gambled that you are an idiot have been proven right. They'll just do it again somewhere else. You got that Jayden?

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