A handy guide for writing about shitty customer behavior on the internet is to ask yourself, “am I at all treating this shitty behavior as if it is awesome?” If the answer is yes, STOP DOING IT.
A lot of you have noticed that the first story in last Monday’s BCO about a Starbucks customer who scams/torments his barista every single day of the year has taken on a weird life of its own among other online sources (a genuine thank you for the emails, by the way; they were much appreciated). Let’s recap the story, from a pseudonym named Brad Halsey:
There is a man who comes to my Starbucks every single day and orders the most horrible drink in an infuriating way. He purchased 365 Starbucks cards and registered every one of them online with a different birthday so that he gets a “free birthday drink” EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. Even though I know exactly how he “beat the system” there, he pretends that his app is just malfunctioning and it magically gives him the same free birthday drink every day. If he was a nice guy, I might not be so irritated. But he’s not a nice guy. Here is a sample of our exchange when he orders (when you imagine his voice, it should be pompous and creepy):
Me, scowling on the inside: “Hello.”
Him: “I need a Venti cup and a marker.”
Me: “Oooooohkaaaay. Here ya go.”
I reluctantly give him the cup and marker. He draws lines and arrows and writes all over the cup while telling me: “Two pumps of white mocha here, then add five pumps of vanilla. That should take us to this line here where you’re gonna add cold heavy cream up to this ridge here...it should be halfway between this line and this line. Make sure to add the heavy whipping cream before the espresso, it changes the taste if you do it out of order. Then add your four shots, three regular and one long shot. That long shot is important, since you guys reformulated your machines, it’s been Hell trying to get my drink right. That long shot helps balance it. Then stir it for me, Mister Brad. Now do me a favor and add ice to the top there and it’ll be easy as pie. I’m not picky so don’t worry about shaking it or anything like that.”
Me: “OK. Easy as pie.”
Him: “Now they ring it up for me like this: one quad espresso, add white mocha, sub vanilla, sub heavy cream.”
[He wants it rung up that way so he just has to pay $3.00 for a drink that really should be around $6.50 if it was rung up correctly as an Iced Quad Venti Vanilla White Mocha with heavy cream instead of milk.]
Him: “Now I’m going to use my free birthday reward to pay. Did I tell you about my birthday reward app malfunction? The app is screwed up and it’s been giving me the same free birthday drink for twelve days now! I mean, I’m not going to complain or anything. Maybe I should check my mail at my old house and see if I’ve won free Starbucks for life! Ha ha ha!”
[he tastes his drink & frowns]
Him: “Mister Brad, why don’t you pour a decaf shot on top of this for me? It’ll be perfect then. It’s just a hair too sweet.”
[I pour one decaf shot on top of his drink]
Me, and my skin is crawling at this point: “Thanks! Have a great day. Oh yeah, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”
The revelation of this guy’s evil (but admittedly kind of brilliant) scam resonated surprisingly hard with a lot of places that write about food. It’s important to note that the vast majority of places that picked up the story treated it the way it deserved: BoingBoing, Grubstreet, BusinessInsider, PopSugar and the National Post in Toronto (among others) all made it a point to say that Brad’s customer was a complete dickhead, with several of them noting that what he was doing quite possibly constituted fraud. Eater actually took it a step further, contacting Starbucks directly, who issued the following statement:
“We are aware of this customer’s misuse of the Starbucks Card program. We are investigating this matter as our card program terms prohibit such schemes.”
All of these takes are fine—Eater’s in particular, since it’s possible the guy in question will face some kind of comeuppance for being a doucheschooner, or at least won’t be allowed to get away with it any more. Maybe I didn’t expect this to be the BCO story to take off in other online publications (although in retrospect, I probably should have; the internet loves news of anything pertaining to “menu hacks”), but these takes are totally reasonable, and it would be silly of me to take issue with any of them.
Then you have Seventeen. All the good things I just said about the other places that picked up the story? Throw them right the hell out the window here. From Alyssa Fiorentino’s post:
The post went on to explain how this customer is extremely particular about his order, which makes his cheating of the system even more annoying—but none of that matters. All you need to know is, free drinks for life is totally possible. And you’ll be saving a lot of cash.
Think about it this way: Let’s say you sprint to Starbucks right now and purchase 365 one-dollar gift cards. That will set you back $365. However, if a tall iced coffee costs you $2.25 per day, by the end of the year you’d be out $821.25. Follow this guy’s lead, and you’ll save over $450. (And that’s if you only get a tall... think about the venti possibilities!) Woah.
For fuck’s sake, do I need to explain why these two paragraphs are horrible? I’m at somewhat of a loss for words, since this is so self-evidently cheerleading sociopathic behavior. Let’s start and end with the fact that the appropriate response to someone being horrible should never, ever be “oh shit, I really need to try that!” Ever. For any reason. That really should cover all available bases.
Seventeen’s readership—which is surprisingly vast—is mostly teenagers. This is a good thing in that they’re less likely than adults to have the money to try to re-enact this scam, but it’s a bad thing in that the ones that do have the money have the critical thinking, decision-making skills, and basic empathy of a goldfish. Teenagers are, on average, fucking idiots. The last thing they need is encouragement in that department.
In addition to being idiots, teenagers are also impressionable as hell. Unless Starbucks actually deals with this issue to prevent this sort of scam in the future (and it looks like they might be, thank the deity of your choice), some of them (and some adults, undoubtedly) are going to try this. Some would have done so regardless of whether Seventeen actively encouraged them, because some people are just terrible, but there are others who only needed a push to be able to justify it to themselves.
Moreover, it’s just a plain old dick move to encourage people to shit on food service workers. So maybe don’t? Yeah, I’m going to go with don’t.
Image via mangpor2004/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.