Posts Tagged ‘Starbucks’

The Starbucks Experience

I’ve had my share of grumpy Starbucks baristas who bark orders across the store, refuse to translate the foreign language they call a menu, and God forbid, I ask for extra whipped cream with whole milk, and they look at me like I’ve committed blasphemy.

So when my classmate blogged about their poor customer service, I was tempted to agree. Except a friendly barista at the Starbucks cafe on the corner of 15th & K proved otherwise. starbucks_logo_01

After having a particularly awful day last December, I entered the Starbucks cafe opposite the Washington Post office, hoping to seek refuge in a mocha and a chocolate marble cake. I placed my order and reached for my wallet — only to find that I had left it at home. Embarrassed, I slowly whispered to the barista across the counter, asking him to cancel my order, half expecting him to reprimand me for wasting his time.

So I was completely taken aback when, instead of admonishing me in front of the serpentine queue of restless, caffeine-deprived customers, he smiled and handed me the mocha — insisting I take it.

“It’s alright,” he said. “You make sure you have a good day.”

A hot beverage and a random act of kindness? He just made sure I did.

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From Hits to Niches

“Route 7. Gas station near Baron Cameron. Stashed behind auto supplies. Released 10 minutes ago.”

I glance, gleefully, at the e-mail revealing the location of the hideout, making sure I had all the details before rushing out the door – and into my car.

Thirty minutes later, I have my very own copy of Harper Lee‘sTo Kill a Mockingbird,’ and I return home – a happy bookcrosser.

Thanks to the Internet, a group of about 750,000-odd people across 130 countries has found a way to combine their passion for books and the need for adventure in a unique way.

Bookcrossing.com is a book-sharing Web site that encourages readers to leave their finished books in a public place, log it as a release on the Web Site and track its journey around the block — or across the globe.

As I read Chris Anderson explain in The Long Tail how our economy and culture is shifting from mass markets to million of niches, I think about Bookcrossing and its small, niche community. It is a virtual lending library that would probably not exist in the the pre-web era. It got me thinking about some of my other hobbies and how much I depend on the Internet to feed my interests.

1087620_49949613Listen to a forgotten melody? ITunes

Give away an old sofa? Freecycle

Scavenge books? Bookcrossing

Rent an obscure international film? Netflix

My choices were not always mainstream. They didn’t always hold mass appeal. And they were certainly not limited to the tight confines of a retail shelf.

It was then that I realized that without knowing it, I had been spending most of my time out on the Long Tail. In fact, I was the Long Tail.

Anderson was right.

“Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service… People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what’s available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture.”

Perhaps this is why Starbucks has 19,000 variations of coffee, ITunes offers nearly forty times as much selection as Wal-Mart and Amazon has forty times as many books as Borders.

Because I am uniquely me. I want alternatives. And I know where to find them.

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