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.


Melissa, Proud Consumer of 400 Calorie Lattes

I recently married a peppermint mocha, come on, Starbucks...


Girl Talk

I can competently find the bathroom, order food, and get directions in myriad countries. I look forward to watching Telemundo after midnight, observe American Sign Language speakers intently as I secretly eavesdrop on their conversations (is that horrible?), and even have a special language with my friends, yet I find my linguistic skills lack when it comes to insanely fanatical girlish statements. What may appear as mundane, apathetic comments are truly packed with meaning, which can take hours to deduce— far too late to apply the actual meaning to the situation. I was recently at a friend’s house for an all night movie party. Awesome? I know. She paused the first movie before it even started and called out to her sister, “We’re going to wait for you, okay?”

“Yeah, sure, I’m just getting food,” her sister called back.

Translation: “We want to watch the movie so get your butt over here. Now.” Translation: “I’m hungry. It’s Saturday night. We’re watching chick flicks. I’ll eat what I want and take as long as I want picking it out.”

It took another friend to properly decode the language from one girl to another, joking that only the female gender would understand this dialect. But do we? Can we just deduce whatever meaning we like from what these girls say and enjoy it?

I sure cannot. I either a) fail to realize that the implications of the code, or even notice that the conversation is being carried on in code or b) respond with some unreasonable code of my own.

“Would you like to come inside?” “Well, I have to be somewhere in an hour.” (Said place is fifteen minutes away) “Okay.” “Sure.”

Now what? Seriously? Stay? Go? Nod rapidly and walk away? What decision was deduced from this foolish, implausible, language of the female gender, in which each girl feigns indifference, never reaching a solution but causing the other girl to completely twist the words in every possible combination in order to conclude something?

This weekend I took a trip to Cleveland with a couple friends. The theme of the weekend was “100% neutral” as in, when we would make plans during our time in Ohio, none of us would make a decision.

“Want to go to a party?” “I’m 100% neutral.”

“Would you prefer a hot or cold breakfast?” “I’m 100% neutral.”

“How do you feel about the flattest land on Earth?” “100% neutral.”

As we boarded the train to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame my friend asked, “Are you sure this is smart?”

Friend 2: “100% neutral.” (I should mention at this point friend 2 is actually male, however exhibits many female tendencies—upon typing this I realize I will be beaten later, sorry man).

Me: “What do you mean? Of course this is smart. We’re here. We’re going.”

Translation: “Do we really want to pay $22 for a stupid museum? I don’t!” Translation: “Not really, but I’ll just go with the flow.” Translation: “Stop talking in code. We’re going to see Madonna’s cone shaped bustier, end of story.”

Upon leaving the museum, which is clearly one of the coolest places ever, there was no question whether the experience was worth our money. Absolutely no question.

We are never indifferent. We cannot accomplish anything by being 100% Neutral. And in lieu of quoting John Mayer, I do however need to ask: Why can we never just say what we need to say? Is it that difficult?

What is with all the code? Why can’t we just say what we really mean? What is going on that even in the closest of friendships we cannot even express our simplest desires? From where did this girl code originate, who thought it was a good idea, and when will it stop?