The Starbucks Skinny: An Open Letter

While indulging in my afternoon holiday beverage today, I had a rather unpleasant encounter.  And I'm sure I'm not the only one. Here's a letter I sent to Starbucks after my experience.  Dear Starbucks,

I’m writing to you from your location on 78th and Lexington on New York City’s Upper East Side, a store I frequent almost daily for your addicting holiday drinks.

Today, after ordering my venti soy Gingerbread Latte I had a rather unpleasant encounter with a barista.

He asked if I wanted whipped cream on my beverage (I still don’t understand why this is offered to soy-opting customers, but that’s another story), I politely declined.  He then informed me that the whipped cream was “free” but I didn’t need the calories.  His words scalded me more than a 500 degree vat of Pike Place Blend.

Firstly, I ordered a venti latte packed with sugar and your new molasses syrup. I have an Ivy League education and pretty decent reading skills; I’m aware that I could have had a lower-calorie lunch, but these holiday drinks are my winter indulgence. If I didn’t need the calories I would have ordered an iced coffee with sugar-free syrup.  Telling a customer to “save” her calories is just bad business.

But that aside, I do not think it’s the place of any Starbucks employee, or any Starbucks customer, to tell me how many calories I do or do not need.   The mainstream media, women’s magazines, and plenty of uncouth New Yorkers already do more than enough to inform me how a woman “should look.”

Further, I don’t believe that the inappropriate comment would have been relayed to a man, or perhaps even a heavier woman (I came in wearing a size 2 Betsey Johnson dress, and I’ll fit into this outfit as long as I desire to, sipping my lattes along the way).  But just because I look a certain way does not mean that I don’t struggle with the body image insecurities of any other woman in the western world.

I’ve watched plenty of friends struggle with eating disorders, temporarily destroying their lives over something as trivial as weight, and had this comment been relayed to one of these women (maybe it has been?), I would be even more irate.

Maybe it was just an offensive joke, a one-off line to try and bond with a customer or make me laugh, but I’m sitting here completely offended.  If it weren’t for the deliciousness of your gingerbread latte (which I was tempted to throw in this particular barista’s face, I kid you not), I would not return to this location.  In fact, I will now return to this location armed with a variety of responses to the potential chauvinistic, offensive, or hurtful comments I may receive based on my order.  Should I be entering Starbucks ready to protect and defend myself?  As a young woman living independently in New York, I work hard, and I come to Starbucks to relax and enjoy a beverage, not worry about my waistline or other people’s opinions of me.

The Starbucks mission statement is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”  I did not receive my gingerbread latte feeling inspired and certainly not nurtured, and I believe that every one of your employees should strive to fulfill the mission of your company on a constant basis.

Thank you for your time.

Warmly,

Melissa, Proud Consumer of 400 Calorie Lattes

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