Starbucks is Still Dumb

I pretty much gave up on Starbucks years ago. I didn’t like that they wouldn’t support fair trade and organic coffee and their baked goods, to put it mildly, sucked. So I’ve continually stuck with my local coffee shops and only hit a Starbucks when we were traveling and it was the only option for coffee.

But then Starbucks decided that they were buddies with Target and planted themselves in ever store. Target is my unfortunate necessary evil. Toilet paper, swimsuits, underwear (what do my kids do with all their underwear? They always need more underwear!!) require that I venture there at least once a month, twice since I usually forget something.

And then I had a third kid. Trips to Target seemed to be non stop, because with three kids I always forget something. And my timing is bad. And then they are hungry, and I didn’t get enough coffee that morning and suddenly…there is that Starbucks. And I notice the ads: “Fair trade!” “Real food!” I take a look and yes, they do now offer fair trade organic coffee and cookies made with the same ingredients that I’d use at home. Still not as good as my local haunts but it’s right here, and I don’t need to drag all three people back in and out of the car one more time.

So I give in to Starbucks, and it’s not bad. They do make a mean iced coffee and the baked goods actually taste good. Until last Friday.

The five of us had ventured out to the way outer ‘burbs to pick up our mini van (yes, we finally got one!). On the way back we passed a Target and stopped to pick up a few things. And of course there was Starbucks beckoning to us on the way out, “You need an iced coffee!” The Skeptic ran out the the van, brought in our mugs and took the boys back to the car while I placed our order. And then had the most frustrating conversation I’ve had in a long time.

You see, I’ve been hardcore this year about not wasting disposable cups. I’ve been planning ahead and 90% I’ve got a mug with me. So like I usually do at any coffee shop, I hand over my mugs and order iced coffees. The girl takes my cups over to the counter and I hear her mumble a “Hmmm…” as I proceed to check out their free mp3 of the week.

Then I notice she’s mixing them up in plastic cups. That’s weird, I thought. And then my jaw dropped as she then proceeded to dump whatever she mixed into our reusable mugs and then (yous see this coming, don’t you?) she dumped the plastic cups into the garbage.

“Did I just see that right?”

“I made you iced coffees with milk. That’s what you ordered, right?”

“Yeah, but I mean that I gave you reusable mugs specifically to avoid putting two more plastic cups in the landfill.You just made my drinks in two plastic cups, dumped them into my mugs in threw the cups out.”

“Umm….we’ll, we have specific measurements we need to use.”

“You couldn’t have washed out those cups and used them again?”


“Or maybe get a measuring cup? This is just really disappointing, because the whole point of a reusable mug is to NOT make more garbage, you see?”

“Ohhh….” A light started to flicker. I think she got it. “You should write to Starbucks.” She had this terrified but strangely chipper look to her. Obviously this conversation had not come up before.

“Yeah, I will, do you think maybe you could mention to your manager that you guys might need a measuring cup, or something?”

“Ummm, we’ll you can write to Starbucks about it.”

“Yeah, I will. Maybe next time you can just rinse out the cups, right?”

“Yeah, I see what you’re saying…”

But I wasn’t convinced that she did. At this point, I left, dumbfounded and headed back to my car. “It’s hopeless. We’re all going to die.” And I relayed what took place in the store.

I need to stop this saga now as I have two small boys hanging on my legs. So, I urge you to try it out. Take a reusable mug to Starbucks. Order some sort of iced beverage and see what they do. Report back, because I’m hoping that this was just a case of a girl who just doesn’t think that much. Although, if Starbucks was smart, they’d know they have employees like this and provide them with a measuring cup. And a 20 cent discount for a reusable mug, like my local coffee shop does. So yeah, they’re trying. I appreciate that. But they’re still dumb.



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16 responses to “Starbucks is Still Dumb

  1. I get a discount at our Starbucks for using a reusable cup (or I used to. . . should check to see if I still do!).

    My brother in law works at Starbucks. I’ll call him and ask him about this.

    Tomorrow I’ll go there to see what they do, or at least ask.

    I’m sure they can’t reuse the plastic cups due to some health code, but a measuring cup or even “eyeballing” it would be a good place to start.

  2. So frustrating! I remember when some Starbucks would take back the plastic cups to recycle them, but they quit doing that about 5 years ago (maybe because of the specific limits on plastics recycling in this area?).

    I love my clear Grande Starbucks Frappuccino style tumbler–they’re available only during the summer, and usually sell out quickly. I have the Venti size on my wishlist for next year. : ) (I’ve never seen baristas use plastic cups for measuring when I use it.)

  3. Gwyneth

    Starbucks also stopped treating their employees well. Some of them are trying to unionize. The Target Starbucks employees are treated especially badly. They are not eligible for the benefits that regular Starbucks employees are and they don’t pay their managers a living wage. There not just dumb they are a bad company. Stay local and never go to Target without a list. I forget things too even when I make a list. Most of the time I don’t immediately need whatever it is that I forgot. If I do need the thing now I go to Walgreens and pay the extra $.10 cents. I also dislike Target!

  4. Just asked my brother in law–at the Starbucks he works at, they eyeball measurements in travel mugs and give discounts for people bringing in their own mugs,

    • I’m starting to think that this poor girl might also have been, shall we say, a few shots short of a latte? Because I was thinking the same thing, just eyeball it…

  5. Ugh. She’s probably sort of stuck, too – working from a procedures manual and she’ll be in trouble if she innovates/deviates…

  6. The Starbucks sites in other stores (Target, Barnes and Noble, the one at my husband’s softward company, etc.) are not “real” Starbucks, in that they don’t follow all of Starbucks’ corporate practices and policies.

    Whenever I go to a real Starbucks and bring my reusable mug, I’ve always seen drinks mixed in washable stainless-steel containers. And I get a five-cent credit for bringing my own mug.

    Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, I see this at the Starbucks in my local Barnes and Noble, too (my knitting group meets there)–both the reusable containers and the five-cent credit.

    (On a totally unrelated note: have you considered Trader Joe’s for toilet paper? It’s amazingly inexpensive and it’s recycled content.)

  7. Good call on the TJ’s TP!!

  8. Hmm, I always seem to forget my coffee cup, at home so I (shamefully) have to get my drinks in the disposable cups many times. I haven’t seen that happen, as I don’t order iced drinks much, but am just curious what they’d do at one near my home.

    Maybe she was somewhat new and had to make drinks using items she’s used to… but I wouldn’t have appreciated the way she handled the situation either.. that YOU had to be the one basically to initiate the request for a change rather than she do her part too. Maybe that’s the company policy, who knows.

  9. I can’t believe that! I am a bit of a zealot when it comes to reusable mugs too, and I must admit I have NEVER seen something so outrageous. Pathetic. I hate SB but I am always going through their drive-through…it’s just so much easier. (sigh)

  10. You know, I got a Starbucks mug as a gift years ago and never knew I could use it at a real SB branch. I just always used it for my own coffee from home.

  11. Jess

    The few times I’ve gone there with and used my own mug, they’ve had absolutely no problem mixing it up in the mug and gave me a discount for bringing my own cup.

    That said, I don’t go there often because I don’t support their business practices and their coffee isn’t my favorite. Much better to support my favorite local coffee shop.

  12. missscarlett

    Probably you just had a slower than norm barista.
    The whole point of a reusable mug is lost with that kind of procedure. I know the ones I frequent don’t do that!

    Maybe it’s best you spoke with her – she clearly never would have thought of this on her own!

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