Oh, no! To some people I'm about to sound like a heartless right-winger, even though I'm a proud progressive. Tough.
This isn't a left vs. right issue. It's an annoying homeless people vs. courteous paying Starbucks customers issue.
Understand: I'm almost always a happy Starbucks coffee consumer.
Two years ago I blogged about how I'm strangely proud of my Starbucks Gold Card. Today I pay for my coffee via the Starbucks iPhone app, which makes me even prouder (because fewer people use it).
But recently I walked into a Salem (Oregon) Starbucks store and was immediately aware of a large, noisy, rather slobbily dressed guy slouching on a cushioned chair near the entrance. He was talking loudly into a cell phone...
Obama, I can't stand him! He's a Muslim! What a jerk. [blah, blah, blah along that absurd line]
That was annoying in itself, even if the guy had been a customer. But I saw no sign of a Starbucks purchase anywhere near him, though he could have sipped his way through a 12 ounce coffee before I arrived.
What increased my annoyance were his two friends, even more shabbily clothed, standing with their duffel bags outside the men's restroom, waiting to do whatever once they got inside.
These three guys acted like they owned the place, whereas they should have been grateful the Starbucks staff didn't throw them out -- something I increasingly wished would happen as some friends and I tried to have a normal conversation while the homeless crew talked in a decidedly loud fashion just a few feet from our table.
So where are you going to go the rest of the day, dude? was one subject of zero interest to me, yet it unavoidably penetrated into my brain through three sets of obnoxiously loud male vocal cords.
I'm sympathetic to the plight of the homeless, poor, and chronically unemployed. However, these guys struck me as being perfectly capable of working. Could be wrong, but I felt like I came to know them fairly well after being forced to listen to them blather for over half an hour.
I started to get so irritated, I thought about asking them to take their conversation outside.
That didn't seem like a good idea, though, given their aggressive macho style. Getting up and asking the Starbucks manager to do something about them was another option. However, I figured they'd realize who was the complainant, and I didn't want to stimulate another round of shouting. Or worse, shoving.
I'm sure if you work in a Starbucks in a city you get lots of fun homeless people. Some of my favorite regulars in our store:
-the guy who sprawls out on the squishy chair, takes off his shoes, props his feet up on the end table, and proceeds to fall asleep, snoring loudly, until one of us have to go upstairs and ask him to leave, after which he checks his watch and says, "Oh! Look at the time! I was just leaving anyway."
-the guy who, without having bought anything, spends 20 minutes in the bathroom doing god knows what and leaving it smelling like absolute death for the next unwitting customer.
-the guy who paces in front of the store before we open every morning and comes in right before we close and asks for a cup of hot water and tells us about how he has to walk all night long. He's actually really cool, he turns on the lights for us upstairs in the morning and waits in line instead of coming straight to the bar.
-there's this blind guy who comes in all the time who positively reeks of henna and has this ridiculous patched pants and crazy long dreadlocks.. he buys a drink and sits upstairs staring into space for awhile. Then this other girl sees that he's inside and she comes up to us and asks for a refill on iced coffee, claiming that she lost her cup. She drinks half of the coffee, then asks us to fill the cup up with ice and whipped cream. She then sits down next to the blind guy and steals half of his coffee. We thought at first they were friends, but he assured us that they were definitely not.
-this guy who used to come in wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase with his long gray hair slicked back like the suave beast he was. He would sit down and start talking to high school and college girls while they were trying to do work and, even after they tried to get away or make him stop, would keep taking to them. After several complaints from other customers who watched him creep on minors, he got banned from the store but claimed he was going to write a letter of complaint to our manager because he was "wrongly accused."
There are more, but these are the most colorful of the ones I've seen. I live in a pretty tame little city though so I'm sure these aren't very bad comparatively. Do you guys have crazy homeless people stories?
Well, my story isn't about a crazy homeless person. The guy who irritated me was annoying rather than obviously crazy. I'm more sympathetic toward the clearly mentally ill.
I realize that Starbucks wants to convey an open-minded, compassionate, community-oriented corporate spirit. That's great. But if Starbucks becomes a haven for the homeless, other customers are going to be turned off.
It's one thing for a homeless person to get out of the cold and quietly nurse a hot cup of coffee at a table in the corner for several hours. It's a whole other thing to dominate several chairs in the center of a Starbucks and talk loudly about Obama's Muslimosity and other ridiculous crap while paying customers are trying to enjoy a Sunday get-together at a coffeehouse.
A positive side of my experience was that I've now discovered I Hate Starbucks. The site is run by someone clever who has a pleasingly cynical sense of humor. Since I moderate comments on my own blogs to keep out spammers and assholes, I enjoyed reading this on the site's home page:
An Answer to the Question... "Hey why did you take down my post?"
About three people, you know who you are, have been putting up heaps of posts on the site that talk about how wonderful Starbucks is, I delete 'em. Why? Because I like to think of people self-righteously typing their little hearts out thinking that they are going to take a stand against some bunch of anti-Starbucks hooligans and with one click of my mouse their work disappears. Boo hoo.
I also liked the rebuttals page, which starts off with:
|I have been besieged by these people lately so here they are, for your reading pleasure... hate mail and stupid postings from the Starbucks Posse.
My comments are in white.
Date: Tuesday May 09th, 2000 01:18 PM
hey, i work at starbucks and i enjoy it and i posted many postthat seem to get taken off. Before,judging on 1 experience why won't you let people stick up for the company too! Take both sides.
|How many licks does it take to get to the center of a clue? Post your squishy ideas somewhere else, for example, try to find an ilovestarbucks.com website, or get off your mocha decaf booty and make one.
|Name: Starbucks employee
Date: Sunday March 05th, 2000 03:22 AM
I happened to stumble upon this site. It saddens me greatly that people are so full of hate. Sure not everbody likes Starbucks coffee, but not everybody likes tomatoes. Are you going to start Bitching about people who sell tomatoes and like tomatoes? Think about it? Aren't you being a little imature? This is the best job that I have ever had. You can't expect everybody to like everything. The way I see it is that you're jelous that one man made it and your still sitting in front of your computer wishing it was you. Sorry but, Get a Life!
|Just in case you were curious, this is the most common type of negative correspondence to the site. Who are they? How much time do they waste traveling to sites that they don't agree with trying to lobby for a corporate monster and influence people by saying brilliant things like "get a life" ?
These lovely people are true hypocrites. Don't go to a site with different opinions from yours and insult people. Jeez. And once again, the site is ihatestarbucks.com not ihateeverything.com or even ihatetomatoes.com.