This is the only bumper sticker I have ever placed on a car I own.
As far as I know, this was the “original” and came from a place called Deaf Dog Coffee in Petaluma, CA. I never actually visited the joint, a friend working in Petaluma and just knew my distaste for Starbucks was great enough that I would want to have one of these for my very own.
I was so driven to share my distate for Starbucks that I had Deaf Dog Coffee (RIP) send me a whole stack which I kept in the trunnk of that car (1995 Passat Sedan, best car I ever owned as well). I would give them to people who would routinely flag me down and say that had to know where I got that bumper sticker!
Since then I have come across a few incarnations of this phrase, and geez, now I wonder if I can find out how it all came about?
This is all pretty old news and I can assure you even before continuing the diatribe below, yes!, I do actually go to Starbucks sometimes because a bad coffee is better than no coffee at all.
A few weeks ago a complete stranger emailed me looking for a replacement to his bumper sticker and though I really had hoped I would find one in a box out in the garage, the best I could do was update this post and move it from my old tattered website, to this sparkly new blog.
The History of why Starbucks Sux
It all started when I worked on a small movie in Seattle called House of Games in 1987.
At that time Seattle was most certainly the coffee capitol of the USA. There were more great steamy, small, cozy, esoteric coffee joints there than McDonalds. It was a rainy, sleepy hang out heaven. And here is the part no one will believe. the was only ONE Starbucks in the entire planet earth. Even that Starbucks was great. Really cool. It was one of the better coffee joints in Seattle, had a gleaming, contemporary feel, steam pouring out onto the sidewalk, and I would go there just as much as I would to Counter Intelligence or Seattle’s best Coffee. Made awesome coffee and was one of the many options in the Seattle area, tended a little more towards the more yuppie, working class types than many of the other sludge pots.
I left Seattle with the fondest of memories and a better understanding of the importance of caffeine in my life.
Upon my return to LA, coffee consciousness was the bottom of the barrel. Getting a decent cup of joe was a sketchy adventure and rarely one worth repeating. Jonathan Gold recently stated in a coffee related review in the LA Weekly that LA may now be the best place in the US to find a multitude of exquisitely delivered coffee. And I might even agree. But in 1986 it was the most outstandingly piss poor coffee environment one could imagine. People would drive far and wide to find a decent crema.
Then, a magic thing happened. Starbucks came to town.
It was about this time that I first read about Starbucks beginning an immense project to put a decent cup of coffee in the hands of every single American every day of the calendar year without having to walk more than 15 feet from there home. (My words, not theirs). To say the least, I was delighted. That first STBX in Los Angeles became a beacon of hope, a place of worship, another tinsel-town attraction, a cultural oddity and I was right there with he rest of the lemmings lining up for my $4 joe. I was a true believer. I told people far and wide the greatness of Starbucks, I went WAY out of my way to give them my money. I even wrote them a concerned letter about there pains designing a responsible recycled cup material methodology for all those billions of paper coffee cups starting to show up everywhere.
It was all a bunch of hooey.
A few years and a few 100,000 lattes later The honeymoon period started to unravel, things started to get a little shaky. Longer lines, less knowledgeable baristas, luke warm coffee, zero foam lattes, milk stews. It just kept getting worse and worse. Finally after about a year of hearing things like 2000 by 2000 (Starbucks official plea to have 2000 operating coffee stations in the USA by the year 2000, which they surpassed. And the news that over 100 Starbucks had opened on Manhattan Island alone, I had had enough.
My first plan of discontent was to take the bull by the horns and do something about this mess. After just one too many awful cups of coffee I wrote another letter. It was a letter complaining about some really lousy coffee I was getting at the Starbucks I frequented. And that I had decided to give Starbucks the opportunity to explain themselves, make reparations, or I was going to jump ship and find my mud somewhere else.
The letter I got back confirmed it. They were admitting that they made bad coffee. Explaining that expansion is very difficult and quality control something they should be paying more attention to. On this note, I was off on a new campaign, Starbucks now SUX! they also sent me a handful of free coffee passes which I gladly stuffed into my wallet for emergency situations.
Around this time a few other inspired people started to realize how badly Starbucks was sucking as well. One was a grungy subterranean looking coffee place in the lower east side of Manhattan entitled alt.coffee. (no longer there) I happened to walk by there one day and noticed two things. Stickers and tee shirts that had the splayed coffee-mermaid-virgin with the words Fuck-Off in the slot that Starbucks used to fill. I bought both. Though they were a bit angrier than I like to purport myself, but I was respectful of their effort. I never wore the tee shirt and recently gave it away. I have one sticker in my Starbucks Sux collection.
The other incidence was a friend who was making a movie in Petaluma, Ca where they local coffee place called Deaf Dog Coffee currently in the sites of a Starbucks buyout had a bumper sticker that read: “Friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks”. This is the one and only bumper sticker I have ever put in a vehicle I owned and I still have three of them in a secret hiding place. In the following years I was pulled over numerous times and asked where I got the sticker form. I got Deaf Dog to send me a bunch and started carrying them in my trunk so that when people started asking, I started delivering.
Then everything went kalbooey. Starbuck was starting to suck everywhere. Two Starbucks on opposing corners in downtown Vancouver. Oh, and another one three blocks down the same street. wait a minute, there is yet another freakin’ Starbucks two blocks more. Yes that would make four Starbucks in about a seven block stretch. Even I cannot drink that much coffee. Other coffee chains start opening up, some failing miserably, others straggle on. Starbucks makes a defining effort to rub out locally owned coffee shops. This straw breaks the slave labor coffee bean pickers back is when Starbucks buys out Coffee Connection in Cambridge. A cherished local coffee habitat. They promise to change nothing. there are protests, a friend of mine who lives in Cambridge sent me a flyer that asked people to walk into the Starbucks in Central Square and tell the manager, “We don’t want you here”. But all is for naught. That’s it, the fight is over, they won.
I didn’t really urinate into a coffee bin, it is a trick. But if you think for a minute that it hasn’t happened…
That was pretty much the end.
As with most everyone else, i acquiesced as well. Peet’s came to LA, and are still making the best coffee from a chain location in LA, but that may change as well. Starbucks was right, it is hard to have quality control when you goal is to take over the world, there are going to be dreadful, luke warm, bitter lattes roaming the streets when the idea is to make ice crema and liquor and not coffee, and the most horrific part of it all is that I go there once in awhile. If I need a coffee and Starbucks is the most convenient place to get one, I go for it and love every minute of it.
I make my coffee at home, back into a drip thing, you can read all about THAT adventure here. It is better than going out to a coffee joint anyway, and a lot less expensive.
Oh ironies of ironies, my Sept. 2006 update to this diatribe goes like this.
I like starbucks acerbic barista, oh yes I do.
And I would drink them in a car and I will drink them near and far.
I will drink them in the rain and I will drink them on a train
I would drink them here or there, hey, guess what? I will drink them most anywhere!
I do so like starbucks it is true
Oh thank you, thank you, acerbic barista in new york city, I indeed owe you.
Just a few months back in the spring of 2006 while in NYC where I believe I mentioned earlier that was once appalled by the announcement that Starbucks once made of having the goal of opening 100 locations on the island of Manhattan. They did, and more. There are now multiple areas that have kitty-kornered Starbucks like the infamous Vancouver stores. And guess what. There is not much choice in good old NYC, for some reason. So, when in Rome…
Yes, that right, Starbucks in the morning, Starbucks in the evening, Starbucks any time of day, that was my motto while in the Big Apple. And then a funny thing happened. I had an awakening, an epiphany, a coffee moment of some nature that I cannot really describe. But I’ll try.
You see, when I go to a Starbucks in the past out of sheer necessity, I order the same thing. “Medium sized latte with not too much milk” I refuse to use there words, there nomenclature. I got a lot of feedback on it, but in general it tended to work out pretty well.
So, there I am in NYC on my lunch break in the wall street area. There were two Starbucks within eye shot of where we were shooting. At lunch a dived into a barber shop, got a trim and then on the way back to the set I stopped into one of the Starbckses and ordered my favored beverage. The barista was no more than four feet from both me and the cashier when I ordered. I said my words and the cashier said the words to the barista. The barista said nothing. He was a greasy haired, tattooed youngin’ all full of guff, steaming away his hours, if they made a male version of the barista action figure I found, it would look like him. After about five seconds and without looking up all he says is: “there is no such thing, what he wants is a grande dry cappuccino”. The cashier turned her head back to me and waited for my response. I didn’t know what to do, I was perplexed. I said to her, “You know, what I really want is what I ordered, a small latte with not too much milk in it”. She immediately saw that some sort of a fracas was brewing between me and the gangly stud ridden barista monkey. She paused for a moment and then leaned in a little and said, “Have you ever tried a “wet doppio macchiato?”. She said it in such a nice way I had to be truthful, I had not. So I did, and what did I find out, hold on to your hats folks, I found out that a wet doppio macchiato is pretty much all I ever wanted from Starbucks, that is was a pretty darn respectable jolt of joe, that it is fairly hard to screw up in the push button cappuccino age and that it cost a friggin’ $2.19!!!
If I had been drinking wet doppio macchiatos from Starbucks all these years, even when I hated them, I would have saved at least $1000.
So that’s it, it’s all good
Thanks for listening.