Creatures of Habit

WHAT IF Starbucks decided to close its stores for a whole day? Imagine, you’re driving to work with early-morning brain fog, you pass by the most convenient Starbucks, and from the street you see a big “CLOSED” sign behind the glass.  Not to be denied, you head for the drive-thru, but your access is blocked by green cones (everything matches at Starbucks).  You’re still in denial, so you pull into a parking space, get out of the car, and peer through the darkened windows. Horrors. Your 7×24 caffeine-addiction fixer-upper (well, almost 7×24, but who craves coffee at 3am?) has taken the day off.  Are you getting a case of the jitters just reading this paragraph? Is this a Catch-22, because you can’t think up another coffee option until you’ve actually had your morning coffee?

We had a little “sip” of this scenario earlier this week, didn’t we?  For reasons that were relevant-today gone-tomorrow (maybe), Starbucks took the high road and delivered several hours of anti-bias training to its employees, closing 8,000 locations in the process.  For one interminably-long afternoon and evening on Tuesday, you had to search a lot harder to find your grande no-whip Caramel Macchiato.  When Starbucks’ announcement lit up the front-page headlines last week, my first thought wasn’t, “the lines are about to get longer at the bathrooms” (though admittedly, it’s a legitimate concern since I’m a man of frequent visits), nor was my first thought, “we’re about to see a lot of, uh, interesting people at Starbucks now” (because we already do, don’t we?)  Rather, my thought was, “how the heck are we gonna cope with several hours of no-Starbucks, when 100 million patrons – you read that right – frequent their stores every week?”

In a related headline, an economist claimed this one-time Starbucks shutdown would cost the company $12 million and be a boon for “coffee competitors” like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.  Laughable.  I know those restaurants have their fair share of coffee allegiance these days – if you consider “fair share” less than 1%.  No, the world didn’t rotate off its axis on Tuesday, but I also won’t promise patrons didn’t line up at the Starbucks drive-thru hours before the open on Wednesday morning.  Our Starbucks habit was ingrained at an early age, well before the competition stepped up.  Howard Schultz is a genius.

More likely, the impact of Tuesday’s shutdown is what I refer to as the “Chick-fil-A effect”.  If you’re a fan of CFA, you’ve known from the get-go their stores close on Sundays.  It’s a simple building block of the founder’s philosophy: CFA employees should spend their Sundays resting and at worship, with family and friends.  Now, you might pass Chick-fil-A on a Sunday and think, “Closed.  What a nice gesture – more companies should do that.” But I’m pretty sure you’re actually thinking, “Damn – I was really craving a #1 meal, hold the pickle, w/ lemonade”.  And that thought will stay with you until Monday. And Tuesday, And Wednesday, or whatever day you next pass by Chick-fil-A.  Maybe their alt-slogan should be, “Closure Makes the Heart Grow Fonder” or something like that.  It’s as much a business strategy as a thoughtful benefit for CFA employees.  On that note – trust me – Starbucks will make up Tuesday’s lost business by the time I hit the “publish” button on this post.

Nothing Bundt Cakes (“Home of the Most Delicious Bundt Cakes Ever!”) is kinda sorta the same animal as Chick-fil-A.  For reasons suspiciously vague, NBC allows its franchisees the option to close on Sundays.  Google your NBC’s hours before you head over for a white chocolate raspberry bundt or a lemon bundtlet.  The next time you find their doors unexpectedly locked, I predict your dreams will be relentlessly invaded by dozens of little flying bundtinis – at least until you satisfy your craving with a purchase.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Here’s the irony about today’s musing: I’m typing my post from a Starbucks.  I’m sitting quietly at a table, enjoying a grande cold brew with a touch of cream.  The baristas are unusually perky (surely a side effect of their recent training).  The restaurant feels quiet and “inclusive”.  In other words, I didn’t cry over spilt coffee on Tuesday. Instead, I just proved my theory.  a) Tuesday afternoon I couldn’t go to Starbucks.  b) I wasn’t even planning to go.  c) The store closures were in the headlines, which inserted “caffeine denial” into my brain.  d) Here I am, just two days later, getting my Starbucks on again.

Touché, Mr. Schultz.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to "Life In A Word".

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