“Masochistic Purchase Practices” or “Why I like being treated like a 5-year old at Starbucks,” by Joseph Pierandozzi

May 20th, 2007 | By | Category: Prose

I have somewhat of a high-pitched voice to begin with, so maybe you can imagine the horrible noises that I emit when I talk to small children and puppies. Maybe you can’t. I wouldn’t suggest trying to either way. The sound is horrible and I can’t for the life of me understand how it makes babies giggle and tiny animals come running, but it does. A side effect of this is, however, that any surrounding adults cringe and plug their ears. And that’s if I’m talking to someone else. If I’m talking to them, they get very very angry.

Think about it: would you enjoy being talked to as if you were a child? No. It’s patronizing, aggravating and often painful to the ears. So why do I get to spend almost 30 hours a week talking to people this way and getting smiles and fistfuls of cash in return?

Simple: I work in retail. Starbucks, specifically, where we dole out burnt-as-fuck coffee for extortion prices and then laugh at you behind your back. Yeah, you.

I can almost guarantee that one of you reading this has been into a Starbucks and has been greeted by the whiney “Welcome to Starbucks, how can I help you?” Text can’t convey the upward shift in pitch or the arbitrary lengthening of words that immediately makes you rethink your latte, but it’s there, slicing through your eardrums like broken glass. We do it to everybody who walks in the door, no matter how old you are, what sex you are, color, style, it doesn’t matter. If you enter a Starbucks you will be treated like a child. It’s part of this weird retail training process that teaches us to simultaneously worship and despise the customer.

We need you guys, and we understand that, but whenever you come in and order a Frappuccino we can’t help but want to stick your hand in the blender. Sure, you tipped us a buck, but once you are outside we rip into you like Michael Richards at a comedy club. So why is it that people keep coming back? Maybe they don’t get it. Maybe they don’t mind the giggling and the cooing and the high prices. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. But then, why do *I * keep coming back? When I’m not working there I go to Starbucks to write or listen to music almost every day, and every day they treat me like I have no idea what I’m doing. They squeal at me like a baby, then overcharge me, then probably make fun of me even though I’m one of them, and yet there I am the next day. Grande coffee. Room for cream. Three Splenda.

I’m positive that there have been books written about masochism and why we want to torture ourselves, but I haven’t read any of them. So I’ll take a guess at this. I’m pretty sure that, for brief moments of our lives, we want to be treated like garbage by a large corporation. We expect it. No one walks into a large bank branch and expects friendly, fast, and easy service. It’s not going to happen. You don’t go to a major chain restaurant expecting them to have your very favorite table ready and your favorite wine chilling in the back. Doesn’t work like that. And you don’t walk into a Starbucks expecting respect. Because we don’t give it.

It’s a game we play, the consumer and the company. Starbucks over-charges and you get to act like a snob because you spend so much on coffee. They serve you 1500 calorie snacks and you get to tell everyone that you ordered the “reduced fat” coffee cake. They patronize you and talk really slowly and correct your mispronouncing of “Carmel Macchiato” and you get to feel good about hating a company that you give hundreds of dollars to each year.

Think about it the next time you go into one of the many Starbucks across the country. That squeaking noise? That’s Howard Schultz giving you the finger.


Joseph Pierandozzi writes hip-hop songs with his roommates and once built a fully functioning acoustic guitar out of rubber bands and his car. Determined to never let his upper-middle class, suburban roots die, he frequently can be found drinking over-priced coffee and musing about how collar popping is an influence from the Victorian era. One time, he thought there was a bumble-bee in his yogurt. Turns out it was a strawberry.

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