Aside from its strange cup size names and seemingly endless menu of frozen drinks, Starbucks is probably best known for its inability to get its customers’ names right. The chain is so notorious for it that it has become the basis of a number of comedy sketches theorizing that they do it on purpose.
For anyone with an uncommon name, ordering Starbucks coffee can feel a little like the first day of school. They're waiting and hoping the barista doesn't embarrass them by saying their name wrong when they call it out. It can also lead to total confusion when drinks are called out for a person that doesn’t actually exist.
That's why many people not named Dave or Jen avoid potential awkwardness by giving baristas a fake name that's super-easy for anyone to spell and say. "My name is Kun. Just like fun with a ‘K,’” said Kun Yang, a New York City resident. "That's how my friends introduce me. I use a fake name because I have a name that unfortunately sounds very much like the 'C' word.”
“Even when baristas get the spelling [of my name] right, no one can pronounce it correctly, or refuse to yell it out loud. Most of them read it however they like, and I always miss my order. It's frustrating." So Yang now gives her name as Superstar, which she says usually gives people a good laugh, and she never misses an order in the process.
Yang is not alone however: Even popular sports personalities with half a million Twitter followers face the same issue at the coffee chain.
So the real question is, do baristas do this on purpose? Is the chain just playing one long and large prank on coffee drinkers everywhere? Not exactly.
"We have never asked or directed any of our partners to misspell names of our customers for any reason,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. "Writing names on cups is a fun tradition born out of the relationship and interaction between our employees and customers. Our [baristas] aim to do their best when it comes to spelling the names of our customers, though at times it can be tricky."
Baristas are also not required to ask for the spelling of your name, which is why it can go so haywire when you order. "There's no real corporate policy other than that we ask for your name," said Tim*, a barista at a Starbucks in Nashville revealed [Editor's Note: The names of the baristas have been changed]. "We're not required to ask for a spelling. We often do, but it's hit or miss depending on the person working at the time."
But the main reason baristas get your name is wrong is that they are just insanely busy most of the time. "When I have 40 people in line, if I took the time to ask every single person on line how to spell their name, it's going to get even longer," Lisa*, barista in Dallas noted. So they resort to guessing.
"We're going to get complaints from customers that we're taking too long. It's a matter of expediency,” Lisa said. "It's often a time thing," Tim added. "Especially in the morning when we've got a line out the door."
So it's up to you -- do you want your coffee in a minute or two, or do you want your name spelled correctly?
There is one way Starbucks customers can avoid name butchery on their coffee orders. It’s as simple as downloading the Starbucks app. Once you put in your credit card info, you can order a drink and have it appear on the counter of the store closest to you, a place which will inevitably five minutes from anywhere in America. By the time you arrive, it'll be sitting on the counter with your name printed on the sticker exactly as you want it to be spelled because it pulls your name from the app, you dig?
So, for once, Katerina, you can be yourself, and not “Bob.”
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