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February 2019
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Starbucks “Taking It To The Streets”

Recession’s Victims: Underemployed Geniuses Struggle To Be Heard

This story from Jake M is part of an ongoing PFM series on the emotional toll underemployment has taken on our recession stricken workforce

By Jake M

Ava Campos readies herself before a full size mirror in her bedroom. At 5:00 a.m. she is not sure if she can handle the day.

“I’m too good for this,” Ava reminds herself. “God I hate stupid people.”

Miss Campos is part of a new pilot program coffee retailing giant Starbucks dubs “Educating the Masses.”

Just after 6 a.m. Campos, 24, takes her place on the sidewalk in the Financial District of Manhattan. She has already worked two days this week. Exhausted, she jokes with a co-worker, “Look at those losers coming out of Dunkin’ Donuts. They don’t even know what a Macchiato is. I bet they didn’t even finish high school.”

Ava was promoted 2 weeks ago from her Barista position at the Cortlandt St. Starbucks where she now stands on the street corner peppering passersby with condescending quips and none too subtle allusions to her Ivy League education.

“Some people call it passive aggression, but I like to call it aggressive passion.”

As the recession has worsened, Starbucks sales have suffered. But Starbucks employees like Campos are front and center in the battle to correct potential customers; or as Ava says, “Fixing stupid.”

Condescension and arrogance are only some of the customer service tools Starbucks has used to build up their brand. But with dwindling business inside, Starbucks has decided to take the fight outside.

Starbucks management believes the primary cause of their dwindling coffee sales is the ignorance of customers who don’t know how to order correctly and are too embarrassed to come in. The “Educating the Masses” program seeks to remedy that.

As CEO Howard Schultz puts it, “If you can’t order properly, you’re going to end up with the wrong drink. Or worse, the help behind the counter will ignore the order entirely. That’s bound to drive away customers.”

Ava appeals to a well-dressed man making his way through the already bustling crowd, “You’re not even in the right line. We can’t help you if you don’t stand in the right line. Do you even know what you want?”

The man looks confused, shakes his head, and moves on. Ava snickers under her breath. “What an animal. And they just keep coming.”

As much as Ava hates having to work for a living, she loves her job. “Where else can I belittle people and make them feel worthless? Where else can I humiliate the uninformed?”

“One fool had the nerve to ask for a cup ‘o joe. Ugh, I showed him the restroom and handed him a mop.”

“Some people call it passive aggression, but I like to call it aggressive passion. I know how to order a drink and I know where to pick it up. Half the idiots out here on the sidewalk don’t know how to order a Vente Double-shot Iced Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte. I’ve heard it called everything in the book. You’d be surprised what kind of brain-dead misfits wander into the store. I don’t use offensive words like ‘retard’ but you know what I mean.”

Campos chides a woman in office attire as she leaves the store, “Uhm, is that an Apricot Blueberry Muffin and a Berry Chai Infusion? Don’t you know those clash? Two berry flavors together? Eww. Go back to your cubicle and get some taste.”

No one is safe from the petty corrections and mean-spirited contempt. Ava hurls the insults at passersby one after the other.

“If you want them to come in, you have to speak to them like children. Have I mentioned how much I hate stupid people?”

She calls the customers who go into the store “mouth breathers.” But she saves her best epithets for the people passing by. Freakshow. Detritivore. Street Urchin. Bush Lover.

A sharply dressed man who has just exited the store approaches Ava “Uhm, can’t you do something about the service in there?” he asks, jerking his thumb back to point to the store. “I just spent 20 minutes waiting for a simple black coffee. Then I found out it was never prepared. I was told it was my fault because I didn’t wait for it at the cashier counter. How was I supposed to know?”

Ava rolls her eyes and walks away. Another job well done.

She sees a man in a hardhat approaching. “Do you even know a Tall from a Grande?” He just smiles and walks on. He hears it every morning. He appreciates the attention.

She turns her gaze to a pair of passing stock traders, “Gentlemen, if you want to buy a CD you have to go to the back of the line. This isn’t a latrine.”

Starbucks makes an effort to keep the customers on their toes. Their inconsistent policies demand it. “You want soy in that coffee? You have to add it yourself at the Union Square store. At Penn station we do it for you. At the SoHo stores, you have to pay extra. If the customer doesn’t know this, they’re uncultured newbies. We treat them as such.” said Regional Manager Amory Blaine. “Sometimes it’s like training Rottweilers. Big fat Rottweilers.”

“I had a woman the other day, some Middle-American tourist just off the Hickville bus from Podunk, she thought she was going to order a medium coffee,” Campos rages “Medium? I told her don’t even bother. We don’t serve trash.”

Ava’s co-worker, William Havenhurst, was up late last night writing material. He has to compose his gibes off the clock just to keep up with Campos. “She studied the art for years. I was born elite and never really mastered my genetically superior talents.”

He’s been practicing. “Ava and I talk to each other a lot and ignore the people walking by so they know what to expect inside. Some of them don’t even notice,” he remarks.

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) expects huge year-on-year increases with this new program.

Since this story was written, Campos has left her job with Starbucks, accepting an internship at the White House. She plans to use her caustic wit to enlighten ignorant voters.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about them,” Campos observes. “It’s about perfection.”

This story from Jake M is part of an ongoing PFM series on the emotional toll underemployment has taken on our recession stricken workforce

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