It had been a long day and a late night awaited so, at about five, I ventured into a Central London Starbucks.
“Tall, half-shot, wet latte,” I ordered, using the company’s recognised terminology with confidence. “For here.”
“What’s your name?”
The girl was holding a felt-tip pen over the label stuck to my mug.
She repeated, “Your name?”
My brain froze. This was a new one. Over the years, I have become fluent in coffee shop language. I can switch from Starbucks jargon to Prêt-à-Manger lingo, to Costa dialect, with ease, and even momentarily forget the fact that none of this terminology bears any authenticity to how coffee is described in Italy. To quote Mark Twain, sometimes, all you need in this life, is ignorance and confidence. The fact remained, that I did not have this particular access code. “Why do you need my name?”
“We need to write it down on the mug.”
I could not believe it. “I have to give you my name before I can have my coffee? Since when?”
It was politely explained to me that this policy has been in full swing in the U.S. for some time now (U.S. readers, please comment – is that true?) and is now being introduced in all U.K. Starbucks branches. “Is that a problem for you?” asked the girl, her pen still in mid-air.
“Yes, it is. I don’t want my name shouted across a crowded coffee shop! Why can’t you just shout ‘tall, half-shot, wet latte’, like you usually do?”
‘We’re trying to make it more personal...”
Surely, “personal” could only be achieved within the context of a privately owned – non-chain – café where, your being a regular customer, the staff get to know your preferences, and rush to make your coffee exactly as you like it, no sooner they see you come in through the door, before you have so much as the chance to voice your order – or am I wrong?
What will they require next – your passport? Your D.N.A.?
I wonder if the European Court of Human Rights has a provision which allows you to buy coffee and still maintain your privacy.
I did manage to get my tall, half-shot, wet latte, in the end, and had to divulge only the first letter of my name. They made a kind allowance for me. This time.
As for the future, who knows? Perhaps I could take on an interminable, unpronounceable name? It does seem unkind to make the job of staff members difficult. After all, this is not their decision. Any suggestions, anyone? I would love to hear them!