Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Starbucks Thing Is Even Dumber Than You Think

If you're at least semi-literate and have an internet connection, you've heard the accusations about Starbucks joining a huge list of other companies in the "War on Christmas." When I first saw the stories in my news feed, I mostly ignored them, assuming this was a case of one Fox News fan complaining, one blogger realizing the clickbait potential and writing about it, and every horrible site on the internet picking up the story like a South Park gnome who just found a pile of underpants. Then last night @midnight played the original Youtube video that supposedly started the whole thing and I realized it was just too dumb to ignore.

I'm not going to link the video (because screw that guy), but after the expected rant about how Starbucks doesn't love Jesus because they didn't put any snowmen on their coffee cups this year, he shares his brilliant plan for punishing Starbucks' blasphemy: everyone should go to Starbucks, buy a cup of coffee, and tell them your name is "Merry Christmas," effectively forcing Starbucks to acknowledge the holiday at dumbpoint.

The idea of threatening a company with what amounts to the opposite of a boycott is so seemingly counterproductive that I have to wonder whether the whole thing is a joke or a well-planned marketing campaign by a company cynical enough to suspect that support of the--"buycott," I guess?--from Bill O'Reilly or Sarah Palin or some other wingnut would mean tons of Chick-Fil-A diners and Hobby Lobby shoppers who've never even been to Starbucks suddenly showing up to demand that the barista sell them some overpriced coffee with "Merry Christmas" written on the cup.

I think it's even more fascinating if the real-life Paul Blart who made the video is completely sincere. If he's serious about this, there are some really odd assumptions that he's got to be making. For starters, he's got to believe that the Starbucks cup is a deliberate attempt at Grinchery. The "War on Christmas" meme is so steeped in the dumb that that one's kind of a gimme, so let's move on to his plan to get back at Starbucks by buying coffee under the name "Merry Christmas." This part of the scheme seems to suggest that forcing some Starbucks employee to write "Merry Christmas" on a cup and then maybe say it out loud when the coffee's ready in some way harms or humiliates the corporation. Well, these are people who seem to honestly believe that bacon affects Muslims like holy water affects vampires, so maybe he's under the impression that making Starbucks say "Merry Christmas" enough times will send them back to the Fifth Dimension or something.

Of course, even if you accept that the words "Merry Christmas" in some way hurt or annoy the Starbuck's company, it's kind of a stretch to assume that the probably minimum wage employee behind the counter is going to give much of a shit what name they write on the cup. The only thing about it that might bother them is the fact that the whole "name on the cup" thing is so everyone knows which cup goes to which customer, and having 15 idiots calling themselves "Merry Christmas" could cause confusion. Hey, maybe that's it! He's going to disrupt Starbucks' business with the confusion caused by a lot of of customers using the same name! Eat it, Starbucks!

Unfortunately, that plan's pretty dumb, too. Let's face it, people who work in the service industry spend most of their time adapting to new forms of customer stupidity, so it's not going to take them long to come up with a way of dealing with multiple customers named "Merry Christmas." Maybe they'll add a number, maybe they'll add your actual name after the greeting, but they'll come up with something. Even if you don't give them that much credit, there's still the problem that, based on my (admittedly limited) experience with Starbucks, any bottleneck the confusion might create would be in the wrong place to hurt business. Any store that's busy enough for the plan to affect will probably have a dedicated register jockey, and the bottleneck would form where people are waiting for their coffee, not the line. Unless the confusion locks up the process so badly that people don't have anywhere to go after paying for their coffee, the register line's going to keep moving and few people will leave. The slowdown only affects people who have already given Starbucks money. And for that matter, it's the customers who mostly have to deal with any confusion caused by a restaurant full of "Merry Christmases." All the baristas have to do is call the name and stand there until somebody figures out that "Merry Christmas 37" is them.

Long story short, the whole "make Starbucks call you 'Merry Christmas'" scheme is a way to give money to a company that's doing something you don't support and to mildly annoy some poor son of a bitch who's already stuck working at the mall during the holidays. That seems like kind of a petty, dickish way to celebrate a holiday that's at least theoretically dedicated to a guy who was all about peace, love, and forgiveness.


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