How to Ruin a Good Thing

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Since I plan to rip them just a bit, I’ll use the brand name.  My wife and I have our rituals like most couples.  On Sunday morning, we always go to Starbucks for coffee and usually one of their breakfast items and then we just sit and have a pleasant little break before deciding what to do with the rest of the day.  Technically, I’ve already been up and walked the dogs because I’m a very early riser so it isn’t the first thing I do but it still gives us just a chance to chill for a bit.

The Starbucks we go to is one of the few that does not have a drive through.  It was built back when they were encouraging people to sit around all morning so there is lots of space.  Where it sits in the strip mall makes it impossible to put a drive through in so they are stuck with it.

Some time ago, Starbucks introduced mobile ordering which allows you to order on your way, jump to the head of the line and pick up your drink and be on your way without any human contact at all.  This certainly appeals to many people.  It is kind of like waiting outside a club in a long line when the bouncer with the earpiece and clip board sees you and says “you’re in” and you saunter by all the other poor schmucks who have to wait.  Don’t we all want to cut in line and feel like a VIP from time to time?  I suppose if you were really busy, it would be a help but if your Sunday morning is so booked that you can’t devote 15 minutes or so to come in and order coffee, then maybe your life is just too complicated.

I suppose it does also appeal to some really strong introverts because you are spared that awkward few moments of having to converse with another person.  Not trying to run introverts down since I am one but I’m more of a social introvert and the coffee shop becomes a safe space if you are a regular.  Yes, there is the chance for awkward small talk like this morning when the barista asked if I was going to be off work tomorrow.  No, President’s Day is a Holiday in Name Only for most big companies.

And I guess it also gives Starbucks a chance to pretend that they are some high tech company.  I mean they can roll this out to the shareholders and say “Oooh, Mobile Technology, Aren’t we COOL??”.  We are just so innovative and future thinking because everyone is really just living in their phones now.

But, if you don’t think out a change, there are often unintended consequences.  Here are just a few that have made Sunday morning a much less pleasant experience.

First, the counter spaces for holding drinks and/or food items for people with mobile orders is limited.  Plus, when you have one person doing drinks and the other doing food, it is hard to coordinate.  This store put stickers with numbers down to designate the various orders but it can still create quite the stack up because the people who do mobile orders can’t seem to time how long it will take them to get to the store.  On a good day, the barista will announce “Mobile order for Fred” when it is ready.  If Fred is in the store, it is all good.  But Fred is typically not in the store and when he gets there, his order is next to Jacks and Sallys and Fridas and he has to paw through them because once you put it in a coffee cup, there is no good way to tell a latte from a mocha.

Secondly, as a walk in customer, you have no concept of how many mobile orders are waiting in front of you.  Even if there is only one person in front of you, there could be five mobile orders (and they could all have multiple Frappacinos) so when your drink arrives is a completely random event.  Oh, and even after you’ve ordered, you are still at the mercy of another mobile order coming in before the barista starts on yours.  Then you go to the back of the line.  Since there are generally less food items, if you order drinks and food, the food may arrive long before you ever see your coffee.

Third, it seems to increase the general stress level.  First, there are us walk ins who are the ones watching others just waltz in and pick up their coffee while we wait like second class citizens.  It also has to be more stressful for the baristas.  Keeping track of the mobile orders and having to get them done quickly since they are supposed to be waiting when the customer arrives.  And, because the mobile orderers have no visibility to how busy the store is or how many mobile orders are in front of them, they can often show up before their drink is ready and some of them aren’t too happy about that.

But the worst part is the people who exploit the system.  There are people who come in to meet others in their party and then decide that they are too lazy or important to wait in line so they use mobile order.  Nothing prevents them from doing so except that is not the purpose of the mobile ordering system.  It is not to give you preferential treatment because you couldn’t make it on time to meet your friends.  If you are planning to stay in the store to drink your coffee or eat your breakfast, then stand in line and order like the rest of us!!!!

My wife tells me I should just use mobile ordering as well.  And that is probably what happens as people see the mess on Sunday and instead of sitting down, then just use mobile order but that just adds to the chaos and confusion.  Actually, for me, the answer would be to find some other place.  I mean there are plenty of places to get coffee.


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