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Jonathan Naymark

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So Starbucks Got Your Name Wrong? Get Over It, Princess

Posted: 02/13/2014 4:05 pm

Alright peeps, we need to talk about some first world problem stuff going on right here and no, I'm not talking about the toilet situation in Sochi that has captivated journalists in the lead up to the Olympic games. For the record, next time someone sends you to a foreign country on an all expenses paid trip, don't whine about it.

So what's the biggest issue of the week? What has got everyone's knickers in a knot? Sit down and get ready for it my friends, because the people have spoken: in 2014 a barista incorrectly spelling your name has given us something to tweet about.

This may come as a surprise to those who order brewed coffee, but for more complicated drinks many Starbucks baristas will print your name on the cup along with ordering instructions. Presumably this is done so that upon completion of crafting your drink a barista can call out: "I have a half sweet, one Splenda, half soy, extra hot, no foam, no whip Venti Caramel Machiato for Beth." This is Starbucks's form of consumer protection ensuring Beth receives her handcrafted bevie.

Sometimes in the fray that is a Starbucks line, a lot can go wrong (frozen iPhones, empty Starbucks cards, anarchy) and names get confused, things get forgotten, and bad stuff happens. This is also knows as: Starbucks is Not Open Heart Surgery, No One Died.

Yet apparently not everyone shares my laissez-faire worldview because Wrong Names at Starbucks has become a cultural thing. It's become so much of a thing that it has multiple tumblrs and its own hashtag where people post amusing photos of Starbucks names gone wrong mocking their baristas for sheer stupidity. Once you get a hashtag you've crossed the rubicon and hit critical mass.

According to my research on Glassdoor, the average barista in the U.S. makes $8.79, per hour. Assuming a 40-hour work week that grosses to under $20,000 a year pre-tax, although I guess you wouldn't pay income tax because you are living below the poverty line. In Ontario, where the minimum wage is set to increase to $11, the current barista averages out at $10.55 an hour. An average barista is living slightly above the Ontario poverty line. Yay!

Baristas may get harassed for not remembering individual names of the thousands of people they pour drinks for, however, I think they are a noble profession. They are our frontline workers bringing sugar and caffeine to the masses, they are nurses for the proletariat.

Clearly, not everyone agrees. I mean, I'm sure it must be hard for the consumer, as you take that Starbucks drink to your desk, sit in a climate controlled office, and feel mocked by that green she-mermaid who sings out to you an incorrect version of your name, while that barista -- goddamn him or her, with their smug aprons -- has to stand hours after hours locked in a tiny space listening to entitled customers bark inane coffee orders at them in some pseudo language involving words like dopio, vente, short and grande.

So instead of laughing about being called Fibi or Vansa -- empathize (a word we don't really use anymore, we just "like" things on social networks) with your barista friends and think about why they may have misspelled your name.

1) Sound: It is loud at Starbucks and the barista, who probably works eight-hour shifts (see above), didn't hear your name correctly and since the cup she wrote on is disposable she didn't think that her entitled customer (a.k.a. you) would take offence at her inaccurate spelling and then Instagram their displeasure with the caption: "hahahah look at this dumb barista you guys she's never heard of the name Phoebe."

2) Speed: The barista who gets paid a pretty crap salary (see above), is trying to move AS MANY people through the Starbucks line as quickly as possible. Why is he trying to do this? Because behind you are 12 people who haven't had any coffee (or sugar) and are antsy to get their java fix. The Barista hopes that by quickly moving you all through the line quickly you will drop a quarter in the tip jar so as to increase their salary. The Barista also hopes that by being good at his job he will be promoted to a shift supervisor. Suffice to say when you say your name, the barista writes an approximation of your name as quickly as possible without wondering about the proper spelling of Katharine or Catherine.

"But wait Jonathan," you're about to protest: "I go to the same Starbucks every day and the barista never remembers my name or my order!"

Do you want a vente hug to go with those alligator tears? Grow up.

3) Culture: "But Jonathan," you complain, "my name is so simple -- it's Jane, how can the barista not be able to correctly write Jane?"

Well -- Jane -- since you're the worst person in the world who doesn't think reasons one or two matter, here's rationale number three. You, Jane, are a member of the white hegemony. Your barista, who perhaps is a recent immigrant to Canada (or from a culture where Jane isn't so common), does not think the name Jane is so simple. Your barista may not have gone to a private school with 4,000 other Janes or have gone to summer camp where they were known as Jane G. so as to not to be confused with Jane P. and not to be confused with Jane K.

So while you and all your besties are Janes (the Jane club!) this barista knows 4,000 people named Barwaqo (a popular name in Somalia and the name of a real, lovely woman who works at the Starbucks in Logan Airport and basically learned English while working at Starbucks). Imagine that? Do you know how to spell Barwaqo? Oh you don't? Maybe the barista should Instagram a photo of you trying to spell Barwaqo and laugh at you? How does that feel, Jane?

Do you really want to know why a barista not remembering their name offends people? Because people think they are special. Everyone thinks that his or her drink order is special and that his or her name is special. Everyone is too busy being offended about how they are special to realize that to an hourly employee trying to get by, you're just another non-fat, extra hot, no foam double latte.

Enjoy your Starbucks Gold Card, everybody.

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