Did I ever tell you about the time I went to the Starbucks down the street from my apartment, when I was still buying coffee at Starbucks, and asked for a short latte? It was like I had single-handedly increased the national security code from green to red. Why? Because the short size at Starbucks is so secret, so mysterious, that the sheer mention of it causes every barista’s heart to skip a beat.
I started going to Starbucks when I lived in Japan. Their sizes are short, tall, and grande. There is no venti. No super-sizing in that culture. So when I came back to the U.S. and went to my first American Starbucks, I was a little confused. What is this venti? Where’s my short? It wasn’t on the menu so I figured it was the typical American trait of making everything twice as big as it should be. And I never questioned it.
Until I read about a book on Starbucks being written by Temple University Professor Bryant Simon that a few years ago was getting a lot of press. The New Yorker did a piece on it, and then Slate came out with the article that changed my life forever. The short does exist! And you can actually ask for it and get it if you are willing to stand your ground and do a little mind manipulation (which, for the staff in American Starbucks, is easier than it sounds).
I eventually stopped going to Starbucks. In the city, there are so many independent coffee shops that are more fun, have more character, and frankly, serve much better coffee. I forgot about my indignation concerning the elusive short size and went on with my life.
This morning, though, I read that Starbucks is now marketing the short to compete with McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. Wait a minute, what? What is the world coming to? I have this secret fear that somehow this turn of events will influence Starbucks as we know it. It will no longer be the coffeehouse for clones. It will become a Regular Joe’s cup of joe. And then I might be forced to once more enter those golden gates and get my short without having to fight for it. And where’s the fun in that?