HOME > Chowhound > Chains >
What's your latest food project?
TELL US

Starbucks "skinny": when did this happen? I'm poisoned!!

danna Jun 8, 2012 05:46 AM

When did "skinny" stop meaning "skim milk" and start meaning skim milk AND sugar-free ? I usually get drip coffee, but the grinder was broken, so I got a "skinny mocha". The damn thing was disgusting, and a bit of googling led me to the realization that saying skinny got me sugar free chocolate syrup.

To make matters worse, the starbucks website has a blank where the nutriton info is supposed to be, so I can't tell what kind of artificial sweetener I accidentally consumed. If it's aspartame, I'll be throwing up soon. ARRGGH!!!

Anybody know when this happened, and/or what kind of sweetener they use?
thanks.

  1. y
    yellowstone Jun 8, 2012 06:28 AM

    Can't answer your questions but I will say that as a non-Starbucks barista I find all the code words very confusing. I'm not sure what the point of them is. "Skinny" isn't any quicker to say than "nonfat" and it is evidently more ambiguous. I have another customer who insists on saying "schizo" rather than "half-caf," even though half the time she has to explain what "schizo" means. People ask for a tall -- I don't know whether they mean our taller size cup (16 oz) or a Starbucks tall size (12 oz).

    I suppose this might be my comeuppance for all the times I went into Starbucks and ordered a "medium."

    11 Replies
    1. re: yellowstone
      danna Jun 8, 2012 06:57 AM

      you are quite right! I pledge to say non-fat from now own, but I swear I had no idea there was any possible ambiguity with "skinny". Thinking back, I believe that at first real coffee bar in our town (which didn't get a Starbucks until YEARS later) they always said skinny back to me when I would say "skim milk" , so I guess that's how I got in the habit.

      1. re: danna
        rockandroller1 Jun 8, 2012 07:06 AM

        I've always ordered it nonfat, but most other coffee places just say "skim mocha."

        I would tweet them to ask what nasty chemical they use.

        1. re: rockandroller1
          danna Jun 8, 2012 07:17 AM

          thank you. Actually, I did tweet them...no reply. but it's been 2 hours and no puke, so i'm gonna bet it's not aspartame.

        2. re: danna
          f
          ferret Jun 8, 2012 12:46 PM

          To be fair, ordering a coffee "skinny" doesn't mean sweetened (artificial or otherwise). However, ordering a drink that is normally prepared sweetened as "skinny" implies non-fat with artificial sweetener. I don't think they did anything to mislead you, you just applied your conventional ordering terminology to a different beverage.

        3. re: yellowstone
          ttoommyy Jun 8, 2012 12:24 PM

          ...I will say that as a non-Starbucks barista I find all the code words very confusing. I'm not sure what the point of them is."Skinny" isn't any quicker to say than "nonfat"
          ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
          It's marketing psychology. The word "skinny" has a positive connotation while the word "nonfat" has a negative connotation since it includes the word "fat."

          1. re: ttoommyy
            cellophane_star Jun 8, 2012 03:35 PM

            At Starbucks, 'skinny' is meant as a shortcut instead of 'sugar free syrup and nonfat milk'

            1. re: cellophane_star
              ttoommyy Jun 9, 2012 02:22 PM

              Ok, but it's still a marketing ploy. Skinny is a positive word to many people, especially women of a certain age and demographic. Subconciously the mind associates drinking that particular drink with being thin.

              1. re: ttoommyy
                c
                cresyd Nov 1, 2012 12:26 AM

                Thinking a little about it - saying "skinny" also sounds less neurotic than "a latte with skim milk and sugar free vanilla syrup". So from a marketing standpoint, I get the point of giving a code term.

                1. re: cresyd
                  Boston_Otter Nov 1, 2012 08:56 AM

                  "Skinny" is a nice twist on diet/low-cal items, and makes complete sense to use.

                  In my personal opinion, given the widespread use of aspartame, if someone's so sensitive to it that it makes them vomit almost instantly, they should probably ask what sort of alternate sweetener's being used when ordering something obviously reduced-calorie / reduced-sugar.

                  1. re: Boston_Otter
                    danna Nov 1, 2012 11:29 AM

                    I absolutely DO ask about the sweetener if I think there's any possibility of confusion. That's my point. I never realized "skinny" had any connotation other than "skim milk". Of course, I do now.

                    It's funny, a month or so after I posted this, I had to take a different route to work and wound up at an indie coffee place for the Friday ritual. After carefully ordering non-fat, the owner/barista repeated the order back to me, substituting "skinny" for non-fat. When I said something along the lines of "but I don't want any sugar-substitute", he gave me a weird look and said not unless you order it that way. So...it's a minefield out there ;-)

          2. re: yellowstone
            globocity Jul 9, 2013 07:27 PM

            Saying "schizo" for a split-something is wholly ignorant but common. Your friend, like many others, misunderstands schizophrenia to mean split personality. Sorry for the non sequitur. My sister has schizophrenia and it is always bothersome to hear others make this mistake.

            Back to the topic, I agree with others below that the use of "skinny" to describe the nonfat option is a marketing tactic to make one think s/he is guilt-free (calorie-wise) in drinking.

          3. c
            Cathy Jun 8, 2012 07:20 AM

            A Skinny Latte means low fat or nonfat steamed milk and espresso.

            Mocha means chocolate. Did you think "skinny mocha" meant that it would be low fat but still have sugar in the flavoring? That seems to defeat the meaning of 'skinny'.

            The store should have offered you an Americano for the same price as a drip until they got their grinder up and running.

            You must have only taken one sip to realize the 'disgusting' flavor but were not able to walk back to the store ask and still were able to get to their website, this website and were able to tweet. Can't you get to a phone and call any Starbucks store to ask what is the sweetener?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cathy
              danna Jun 8, 2012 08:00 AM

              since you're intersted, I did not take a sip until I arrived at work, by car, several miles away.

              further, I didn't want to harrass the folks at the store...as you might imagine, they didn't seem to be having a great day..what with being a Starbucks with no coffee and all...

              mocha means coffee and chocolate. yes, I most certainly DID think skinny meant no-fat and nothing whatsoever to do with sugar or lack there of. No, I don't think it defeats the meaning of skinny.

              Honestly, i'm not usually so hysterical about food ingredients. But I have been on a tearing rant about artifical sugar for years, ever since I hurled at work, called up the lunch place to ask if their lemonade had artificial sugar in it , and got major attitude the advice that I should always ask whether a drink had nutrasweet (this was the 90s) or not, that it was not her responsibility to lable it.

              1. re: Cathy
                Jetgirly Nov 12, 2012 08:08 PM

                I count calories because I like BEING skinny. Low-fat coffee drinks that still have sugar in the flavoring definitely don't defeat anything for me. They allow me to get a sweet treat, stay in my preferred calorie range and avoid artificial sweeteners.

              2. j
                jujuthomas Jun 8, 2012 07:40 AM

                AFIK, their "skinny" beverages have always been skim milk and sugar free syrup.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jujuthomas
                  danna Jun 8, 2012 08:03 AM

                  based on this press release, it apparently happened in 2008. I'm behind.

                  http://news.starbucks.com/article_dis...

                2. f
                  ferret Jun 8, 2012 08:02 AM

                  The Starbucks "Sugar Free" syrups use Splenda (same with Torani and DaVinci)

                  1. cellophane_star Jun 8, 2012 03:32 PM

                    When I emailed them a few years ago, they said their syrups contained Splenda and acesulfame K.

                    Skinny always include sugar free syrup and skim milk.

                    1. iluvcookies Jun 9, 2012 03:30 PM

                      I recently ordered a "skim vanilla latte" and got sugar free syrup. It was vile. The barista was nice enough to remake it for me, but now I always specify that I do not want the sugar free syrup.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: iluvcookies
                        d
                        dougpy Oct 30, 2012 03:47 PM

                        Happend to me today: ordered a non-fat decaf mocha, and I heard her mumble something like skinny when ringing it up.

                        Extremely yucky.

                        1. re: dougpy
                          ttoommyy Nov 1, 2012 10:56 AM

                          "...and I heard her mumble something like skinny when ringing it up.

                          Extremely yucky."

                          Right. Because as a cashier she has to hit the button on the computerized cash register that is marked "skinny" and as an ex cashier in many retail establishments, sometimes it helps to talk to oneself when ringing up items in a certain order. Please do not chastise the cashier for adhering to megaBucks store policy.

                          1. re: ttoommyy
                            danna Nov 1, 2012 11:31 AM

                            I don't think it's "bucks" policy to give someone the wrong drink. doug ordered non-fat and got non-fat + fake sugar.

                            1. re: danna
                              iluvcookies Nov 1, 2012 12:53 PM

                              Exactly---if "skinny" means non fat AND sugar free, then skinny is not what I want.

                              1. re: iluvcookies
                                ttoommyy Nov 1, 2012 01:00 PM

                                Absolutely correct and I am sorry. I misread the post. Again, sorry for speaking out of turn. Apologies to dougpy.

                                1. re: ttoommyy
                                  iluvcookies Nov 2, 2012 09:18 AM

                                  Ah, that's OK as far as I'm concerned :)

                      2. l
                        liza219 Jun 26, 2013 10:16 PM

                        I remember quite well that anywhere else in the world if you explicitly say nonfat, it means nonfat milk/"skinny" can mean different to each server. It is never implied anything else. Sugars/sweeteners, you add. I'd rather do it myself, I feel, if I'm that particular. I'll do it myself. No?

                        Show Hidden Posts