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Starbuck's "Ghetto Latte" "Poor Man's Latte" "Fake Latte"?


hounds, what are your thoughts? i normally just get a venti drip and add half and half. i think this bucky's barista would be ok with that......

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  1. As a star-partner, I really don't care about those "create-your-own-lattes". People like to adjust their coffees, thats why the condiment bar is there. They aren't cheating me personally. What bothers me is rude, entilted customers, who think just because we wear a green apron, we are idiots and speak to us accordingly.
    We do have a "just say yes" policy so when someone orders something like that....guess what we say?

    3 Replies
    1. re: momof3

      I used to always order a Venti drip and then pour out about a third so that I can fit my milk. Then I overheard a lady one day order a grande in a venti cup, I never knew we were allowed to do that. I hope the baristas don't think I'm being cheap. It was the perfect fix to my problem, I don't waste coffee and have room for my milk.

      1. re: moymoy

        while i don't use that much half and half, i heard others ask the server to "leave room" for the half and half -- so no coffee will be dumped, then, one day the server suggested getting the grande in a venti cup,

        1. re: moymoy

          i used to do that all the time when i biked to work because that was the only way it would not spill off while i biked.

      2. I hardly think that Starbucks is hurting when a customer uses a dime's worth of half and half in their drink. If you apply the logic used in the article - that people should "pay" for extras like cream and sugar - shouldn't the people who drink their coffee black get some kind of refund?

        No restaurant I've even been to restricts the amount of condiments you can use - heck, I'd have gotten kicked out of Chick Fil A long before now if that was the case, since I'm a complete ketchup addict when it comes to their waffle fries. If the establishment can't afford heavy usage, and yes, in some cases a degree of abuse, then perhaps they shouldn't have a self-serve condiment bar available.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Suzy Q

          >>No restaurant I've even been to restricts the amount of condiments you can use <<

          The one that seems to restrict cream is Tim Horton's in Canada where they won't give you creamers but do it "for you".

          1. re: jlawrence01

            Tim's doesn't have creamers or sugar for the taking, but they don't restrict the amount you can get. However, knowing how much cream and sugar to ask for is tricky if you aren't a regular customer. They use 18% cream.

            1. re: embee

              But how do you describe how much you want. My l"a little bit of cream" may not equal yours ...

              1. re: jlawrence01

                There's a numeric code. It lacks the pretension and complexity of the Starbuck's language (for which they printed a dictionary a couple of years ago), but a code it is nonetheless:-) You state how many shots of cream and sugar you want.

                The base is called a "double double", which is (as you'd suspect) two shots of cream and two shots of sugar.

                The most common order is a "large double double" which, by US standards, is a small, light coffee with two heaping teaspoons of sugar.

                So you discover, through trial and error, how much cream and sugar you want in a given size cup. I might order a medium (very small by US standards), 3 cream (I'm not a Tim's fan and drink it only lacking an alternative), no sugar.

                Since, at least in Toronto, English is not spoken or understood well, at most Tim's locations, the concept of "a little bit of cream" definitely wouldn't work. I assume one could order milk (probably 2%), but I've never heard this done.

                1. re: embee

                  Geez, another code that I have to learn.

                  1. re: embee

                    What, no mention of how you all immediately thought of In-N-Out when you saw "double double" even though it's a thread about coffee? ;-)

                    1. re: embee

                      I don't see why you would say that the "base is called a double double". Base, it would seem, is black coffee and people then get what they want in it.

                      And at Tim Hortons, if you are buying several coffees to go, they will just give you a separate cup of cream and a bunch of sugar so people can add their own. And yes, they have milk, they have sweetener, etc. It's a real coffee shop... I get coffee there daily, and hear a wide variety of orders, not just the stupied "double double" steroetype that people who don't freqent the place think is the only way to drink TH coffee.

                      1. re: Dan G

                        I'm not being facetious, nor am I stereotyping. In my experience, almost everyone lined up at a Tim's (and the lines are often very long) who orders a hot coffee asks for a large double double. I suppose it depends on the specific location, but that has been my experience, at many locations, since forever.

                        While I don't love Tim's coffee, I'll risk my CH reputation to state that their food is much better than the food sold at Starbuck's.

                        1. re: embee

                          I've never set foot inside a Tim Horton's, but that's a sucker bet - ANYBODY'S food is better than the food at Starbucks!

                          1. re: Suzy Q

                            The Tim Horton's located in Canada are very good. The ones located in the US have terrible food - frozen bagels, donuts, etc.

            2. my niece works pt at starbuck's. she said:
              "Interesting. We do not have this at our store that I know of. I am sure it will catch on here soon enough....How cheap!!!! But hey, you gotta hand it to the frugal folks for paying what the price should be in the first place. I mean...come on...$10 for 5 shots of coffee and some milk. I will have to remember this when I no longer work there and get my drinks for free."

              2 Replies
              1. re: alkapal

                "Frugal." What a nice spin on it. Frugal, it seems to me, would be making one's own coffee at home where it's far far less expensive.

                Not sure who is to decide what the price "should" be in the first place. The price at Starbucks, just as with at any retail shop, is what they set the price. These folks have found a way to game the system as it's set up, so apparently more power to them.

                I don't know about the rest of you, but milk is pretty expensive these days where I buy it (the grocery store). It's certainly less per gallon for a large (huge) operation like Starbucks but lets not pretend its trivial. If you don't like the price Starbucks (or any other coffee shop charges), don't buy the product.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  From a brief experience in the high end coffee business, I believe it's fair to say that "condiments" cost much more than coffee. However, Starbuck's is selling an "environment" rather than just a straight product, and there is sufficient margin in their pricing to tolerate a very flexible attitude.

              2. I find that whole story annoying. It is entertaining, dont get me wrong, but I just feel bad for the baristas that have to deal with this.
                I am one of those people that get black coffees and when i have to stand in line behind millions of people ordering non fat extra whip no foam quad whatevers it drives me insane. God bless you guys with patience :)

                8 Replies
                1. re: jroxybabe19

                  While I do feel sympathetic to the people behind the counter, Starbuck's overtly - and strongly - encourages this kind of ordering. It's really annoying to me when the person taking my order "corrects" my terminology when repeating the order to the barista. It's undoubtedly also annoying to the employee who must deliver the compulsary correction.

                  I'd like a small dark brewed please will, likely as not, return a comment such as "sir, you mean a short bold". An order for a large tangerine is corrected to something like "a grande tangerine frappucino blended juiced tea beverage". Oy. When I saw their dictionary, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

                  1. re: embee

                    i got one a few years back -- thought it was hilarious!

                    1. re: embee

                      No one has ever corrected me directly and I'd be really annoyed if they did (along the lines of your "sir, you mean. . .") but it's obvious that they have a system for how drinks are described. Yes, it can sound silly and the more complex and customized the drink, the longer and fussier and more mockable the name. But I can see the point of the system. If you say things in the right order it helps to avoid missing something. I can absolutely see how the standardization helps with accuracy and specificity. I'm a regular customer with a regular drink. If you think about it, you can even see the logic in the order, to some extent. (Yes, I may be spending too much time in Starbucks.)

                      Now, if I could just get them to consistently make a latte with the proper proportions of steamed milk and foam, I'd be happy.

                      1. re: marcia2

                        I've never been corrected, either. That would chap me in a major way. We must have a severe lack of snooty baristas around here, because I've always found the Starbucks staff to be very pleasant.

                        1. re: Suzy Q

                          Most of the people working there are very nice. At the Starbuck's I find myself in most often, I can think of only two people (of many on various shifts) who aren't pleasant. I think "nice" may be a hiring criterion (no sarcasm intended). But I have been corrected directly - sometimes with a smile or even a laugh; sometimes very earnestly.

                      2. re: embee

                        No one should be 'correcting' you; however, they have to call the order out to the bar partner or confirm it back to you correctly; by using a standardized terminology, drinks will be made to standard (granted a low standard, perhaps) by any of tens of thousands of partners anywhere in the country.

                        1. re: xanadude

                          They really do correct, almost religiously at some stores. Perhaps there is some regional or local management influence here rather than an all abiding corporate policy.

                          In another vein, I recognize that Starbuck's is a much better employer than many other similar businesses. But do you REALLY feel you are a "partner" rather than a lowly employee? I've generally found that businesses in North America that emphasize their "partners" or "associates" or "team members" feel this small psychological trick somehow compensates for things such as poor salaries and benefits.

                          1. re: embee

                            I know a few Starbucks baristas and they really do love working for the company. Part-time employees get the same benefits as full-time, including stock options.

                    2. Thanks for this link... hours of mindless entertainment!!!

                      1. IMO, the self important snarky cappucino cop needs to take it down a notch a two. Glad to see a few of his/her fellow baristas didn't feel so entitled.

                        1. It shows a lack of class to consciously take exploit the system, like not tipping (because tipping is not legally required, of course). The condiment bar is intended to top off a drink, not to be the principal component thereof.

                          Starbucks could easily stop it by not giving out a X in an X+2 cup, but it's not worth it to them--most people are honorable.

                            1. re: WCchopper

                              Your link is an article from February 2006.

                              1. re: WCchopper

                                They've been having issues recently.

                                1. re: xanadude

                                  Their issues come from reckless expansion, diluting the value of their brand, and losing their focus. NOT from losses due to petty customer acts that some posters seem to feel amount to swindles.

                                  Starbuck's has gone into the music business. In Toronto (I gather this isn't true everywhere), their "go-withs" mainly don't taste good. Their forays into food have all been overpriced and mediocre. Their coffee now comes in sealed bags, which dilutes the experience. They have invested big time in automation that likely does improve efficiency and reduce waste, but also eliminates any aroma of coffee from their stores. Over the past couple of years, they have systematically removed from their systems and procedures much of what made them unique.

                                  One of the things that differentiated Starbuck's from competitors was an obvious policy of customer satisfaction, seemingly at any cost. These policies, and the whole "third place" idea, made paying the high prices palatable. Some locations have actively encouraged customers to bring outside food, to hold staff meetings, or to work on their computers for hours on end. I've never seen a "washrooms for customers only" policy, even at locations where washrooms must be kept locked. Starbucks exchanged defective merchandise over the counter with no hassle. These policies have been disappearing.

                                  If they do decide to compete directly with Mickey D's, they surely won't go under, but they will be finished symbolically and will lose what made them so incredibly successful in the past.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    I love it when people think they know the answers as to why a company isn't doing as well.

                                    1. re: Boychucker

                                      That's my opinion - no more, no less. But it's a pretty rational opinion. We'll see, from what Schultz (sic) does in the near future, whether I'm right or wrong. But I believe that the pace of expansion has already been cut back.

                              2. The customer figured out what was in the drink, and then figured out a way to get it for less than half price. Is she swindling Starbux? Or is Starbux swindling the rest of their customers when they charge five and a half bucks for a few ounces of half-and-half, as the original barista calculated? To me the answer is obvious. Is $4.82 for two coffees cheap, exactly? Is Starbux losing money? No and no.

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: Bat Guano

                                  A quad is 4 shots = 4 oz.
                                  A venti is 24 oz.
                                  So she's actually getting 20 ounces of half-n-half. That's more than a few.

                                  Also, it really sucks being the person behind her who only wants a 1/2 oz. to add to their coffee.

                                  1. re: sebetti

                                    OK, so more than 5 bucks for 20 ounces of half and half. Last time I bought it, it was 1.49 a quart. Still quite a markup. My point stands.

                                    1. re: Bat Guano

                                      I knew someone would try this math. Where are you getting half and half? 16 ounces costs at least $1.89 around here in San Francisco. Starbucks is a retail outlet with markups like other retail outlets.

                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                        First of all, I don't think she's really getting 20 oz. in the first place, since much of the cup is filled with ice. Second, I'm more sympathetic to the point about the customer behind her in line, if she drains the cream pitcher.

                                        But my main point still stands: she ordered what she wanted, and used the free condiments - which Starbux has NO policy against. Starbux sold her a coffee drink on which it makes profit. Just because they make a different drink that's the same as what she created, doesn't mean she needs to pay the difference if she's figured out how to get it for less. I mean, WTF? Are we mindless automatons doing Starbux' bidding now???

                                        1. re: Bat Guano

                                          Yes, that is what it means. The beverage is a certain price. If you are drinking that beverage, you pay the stated price. If you don't want to pay the stated price of the beverage, go somewhere else.

                                          1. re: Boychucker

                                            But she DID pay the stated price for the beverage she ordered. And if she chooses to add some of the other stuff that STARBUCKS puts out for the express purpose of customers putting them into their drink, she's within her rights to do so. Where's the problem? Think outside the box!

                                            1. re: Bat Guano

                                              Well, we just disagree. She's drinking a latte. Just order a latte instead of "trying to beat the system."

                                          2. re: Bat Guano

                                            The example in the link in the OP specifies she asks for less ice in her cup....but we're picking nits on that one and it's not really the most relevant thing.

                                            Second and more importantly, how hard is it to type "Starbucks" instead of "Starbux?"

                                            Third, a fine point....if Starbucks doesn't have a problem with it, then there's no problem.

                                        2. re: Bat Guano

                                          But isn't that like saying a piece of meat costs a restaurant $8 ( or whatever) and they charge customers $24?

                                            1. re: Boychucker

                                              Nope, not the same thing at all. Now, if a restaurant had an item on the menu for 5 dollars, and then the same item with the addition of a certain sauce, for 10 dollars; and if, furthermore, the same sauce was available for free on the side, for people to add as they wish; then, if somebody ordered the 5 dollar item and put the sauce on themselves, THAT would be the same thing. Wouldn't you do it?

                                              1. re: Bat Guano

                                                You said "OK, so more than 5 bucks for 20 ounces of half and half. Last time I bought it, it was 1.49 a quart. Still quite a markup. My point stands." I'm sorry, I don't think that's the same thing as what you said just above about free sauce. I thought you were talking about the markup price.

                                                1. re: Boychucker

                                                  You're right, that's a different argument, which is irrelevant, since Starbucks gives out the half and half for free regardless. My real point is that you or anyone else should not be constrained by the lexical and price categories created by the store; if you want coffee, ice and half and half in a cup and you can order it a la carte, as it were, then why pay more for the same thing made behind the counter? If it's a flaw in Starbucks' pricing structure, then why not order it in the way you want? I would expect the store's baristas to be indoctrinated in the 'right' way to categorize the stuff they make, but not a Chowhound.

                                                2. re: Bat Guano

                                                  But she's not getting the topping for free; she's getting the major component of the drink for free. I agree that it is completely within the letter of the law; I also think it's totally tacky and rude, just like ordering water and tons of lemon slices and using the sugar on the table to make your own lemonade.

                                                  If you don't want to pay for it. Don't go.

                                                  1. re: lulubelle

                                                    Agreed lulu. It's simply gaming the system and that's just not cool, regardless how one might want to rationalize it. *$ can afford it to a certain extent (the "say yes" thing is a HUGE competitive advantage because nobody else can afford it), but the behaviors *$ encourages (perhaps purposefully) bleed down to mom & pops where the hits on profit margin actually do hurt.

                                        3. Simple, it's not a latte, just coffee milk. A latte would be steamed milk plus espresso shots which tastes MUCH different than a cup of drip coffee with lots of cold milk. The added cost is the espresso and the hot milk.

                                          On a customer service note, Starbucks probably does not care if people make "Poor Man's Lattes" since they served their purpose of getting the person in the store. Any money is better than zero money, plus that "Poor Man" may decide to upgrade after a while when they are not poor. Very few things happen by chance.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                            The only point I'd make in response to your post is that the customer in question is ordering shots of espresso in the large cup with a bit of ice and adding the milk for an "iced latte." As Bat Guano (and others I'm sure) wrote above, if Starbucks doesn't have a problem with it, then there's no problem.

                                            1. re: ccbweb

                                              You mean I have to read stuff before I comment on them? :) I agree if Starbucks is willing to sell someone espresso shots in a big glass with ice, they are agreeing to the "Poor Man's Latte" in concept. I always liked the economic concept of allowing people to pay more for the same product if they want.

                                          2. While I have never worked at a Starbucks, I worked short-order counter service for years at a place with inflated prices. Working behind the till, if I could figure out a way to save someone money by changing the way I punched it in, you can be sure that I would do it. If customers can figure it out for themselves, more power to them. My friends never order lattes. They all order americano mistos. You get about two ounces of water, and save 30%+.

                                            That said, I do not like coffee, and I also am not a fan of Starbucks in general.

                                            I have to wonder, though, if the woman would order a ghetto (iced) latte in a mom & pop joint.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: miss_bennet

                                              Who decides what constitutes an inflated price?

                                              I'm curious, why are you not a fan of Starbucks (I'm not arguing that you should be, only curious about the reasons that lead you not to be)?

                                              To your last question, I expect the answer is that yes, she would order it just the same but she'd be vilified for taking advantage of a small business/mom and pop operation.

                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                I don't like coffee, period. I find it very bitter and I don't want to acquire the taste. I find the Tazo teas to be too flowery in taste. (They taste the way flowers smell, most of which I am allergic to.) These could easily be swayed by the fact that I do not liek to drink hot liquids in general. I do not like their frozen drinks because I find them too sweet, almost curdled in texture and frankly, too high-calorie for their mediocre taste. The only product I can tolerate is steamed milk. And I'll be damned if I'm going to pay $3 for a quarter of the milk I can buy at the grocery store.

                                                Also, I could get most Starbucks for free from barista friends, and at my work (which brews Starbucks coffee and has Tazo teas) I get drinks for free. But I never drink them, because I just don't like them.

                                                As to who decides what constitutes an inflated price? I would say that that is the consumer, who can choose whether or not to consume. It is apparent that many disagree, however, as the business is very successful. But the only reason I've been there in the past 3 years is because I got gift card as a birthday present from a friend. I didn't want to patronize them as I do not liek their prices and/or products, but I figured that I ougth to get something for the money that was already spent.