Dear Starbucks
(On Drive-Thru Small Talk)

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Dear Starbucks,

I generally hold your company in good regard. You may not be perfect, as the recent unfortunate incident in Philadelphia showed, but in your response to it, and in most of your other dealings, I feel that you try your best. I feel that you try to be progressive, and you try to leave the world better than when you found it, in spite of the loads and loads of money you make off of it.

And I get that this approach affects your policies, and how you want your employees to treat their customers. I further get that you want your customers to be happy, and that one way to do that (in theory) is to have your employees be happy at them as well. For the most part, this approach is better than Tim Horton's, which has taken the attitude of quickest prepared, quickest served, quickest buck, damn the quality torpedoes.

But recently I have encountered a policy -- and I'm pretty sure that it is a company policy, given the number of times this has happened to me -- where while I am stuck beside your drive-through window waiting for my Venti flat white, the person manning the window leans out with a smile and says, "So... What have you got planned for this weekend? Anything interesting?"

How many times has that backfired? Seriously? How many people have responded by saying, "Well, I'm off to a funeral tomorrow. They're burying my (sniff!) grandfather, who (sniff! choke!) died after a long battle with cancer, and--"

More often, I suspect the answer that most drivers want to give is "No." and leave it at that. However, such an answer seems to surprise said cashier or barista, saying "No?" and then they struggle to try and keep the conversattion going. "You just going to relax by yourself, or go visit somebody?"

This is why in improv you're told to always answer "Yes, and..." in order to build something. Except, I didn't ask to play this improv game, as my answer of "No" should have told them. Really, to paraphrase Alannis Morrisette, why are they so petrified of silence?

As nice as these individual baristas and cashiers are -- and they are nice and professional and polite -- I know that they don't really want to know what I'm planning for my weekend. I don't want to know what they're planning or their weekend. I don't care what any stranger wants to do this weekend, so long as it's (a) legal and (b) between consenting adults. I don't need to know anything more. These questions strike me as intrusive, and sometimes a little frustrating because, quite often, I don't know what I have planned for my weekend, either.

To sum up, Starbucks, you really need to rethink this drive-through small talk policy, because you should be asking yourself, if I wanted small talk, why the heck would I be pulling up to the drive-through window?

Just Get Me My Coffee, Please.

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