I have blogged a couple of times already about Starbucks and its use
(misuse) of language, about how it creates a sense of belonging that
customer pay for, and about "resistance" to this talk.
Columbia professor really didn't want to talk Starbucks, so she got mad
and railed against a worker. Eventually, she got tossed from an Upper
Westside store. I suppose this was bound to happen.
question is now what? Will she becomes this week's Steven Slater, the
Jet Blue flight attendant, who exited his plane after taking enough
flack from a passenger and becoming a momentary national celeb? Is
something else at work here? What is Professor Rosenthal really saying
and doing here? Is her anger -- against the worker -- warranted or
misplaced? (And why is there nothing about the workers in the coverage
of the incident?)
Is there also an element of elitism here? (Am I defending Starbucks?)
has always been a way to create insider and outsider groups, right?
Well then what is Rosenthal saying by not speaking Starbucks, by
insisting on the company and its employees speaking "correct" English
and correcting people who don't speak properly -- even when they are
paid -- not very much -- to do so?
Also there does seem to be
an element of the downmarketing of Starbucks in this story. In the
past the company's language stood for a kind of inflated sense of self
and one's class position, but now it isn't correct or proper enough.
And by the way, the story says that Rosenthal
had run into "trouble" before at Starbucks for not saying venti. Fair
enough, but why did she keep going back? It isn't like there aren't a
number of really good alternative coffee (or bagel) options in New York
where you can say tall or medium or no butter.
worker in this story -- who is at this point remain silent -- up to?
Was she trying to defend the company's language? Defend herself (or
himself)-- like Slater-- against an overbearing customer?
Here, by the way, is the full story about the incident from the New York Post: Starbucks' strange vernacular finally drove a customer nuts.
Lynne Rosenthal, a college English professor from Manhattan, said three
cops forcibly ejected her from an Upper West Side Starbucks yesterday
morning after she got into a dispute with a counterperson -- make that
barista -- for refusing to place her order by the coffee chain's rules.
Rosenthal, who is in her early 60s, asked for a toasted multigrain
bagel -- and became enraged when the barista at the franchise, on
Columbus Avenue at 86th Street, followed up by inquiring, "Do you want
butter or cheese?"
"I just wanted a multigrain bagel," Rosenthal told The Post. "I refused
to say 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you
don't have to list the six things you don't want.
"Linguistically, it's stupid, and I'm a stickler for correct English."
Rosenthal admitted she had run into trouble before for refusing to
employ the chain's stilted lexicon -- balking at ordering a "tall" or a
"venti" from the menu or specifying "no whip."
Instead, she insists on making a pest of herself by ordering a "small" or "large" cup of joe.
Yesterday's breakfast-bagel tussle heated up when the barista told the
prickly prof that he wouldn't serve her unless she specified whether
she wanted a schmear of butter or cheese -- or neither.
"I yelled, 'I want my multigrain bagel!' " Rosenthal said.
"The barista said, 'You're not going to get anything unless you say butter or cheese!' "
But Rosenthal, on principle, refused to back down.
"I didn't even want the bagel anymore," she said.
The bagel brouhaha escalated until the manager called cops, and
responding officers ordered her to leave, threatening to arrest her if
she went back inside, she said.
"It was very humiliating to be thrown out, and all I did was ask for a
bagel," recalled Rosenthal, who said she holds a Ph.D. from Columbia.
"If you don't use their language, they refuse to serve you. They don't understand what a plain multigrain bagel is."
A Starbucks employee who witnessed the incident blamed Rosenthal.
"She would not answer. It was a reasonable question," the worker said.
"She called [the barista] an a- -hole."
An NYPD spokesman confirmed that officers were called to the coffee shop but said he was unaware of anyone being tossed out.