Stop It, Starbucks.

Why mobile ordering is the worst Read more

starbucks gripe

In the era of #MeToo and Fire & Fury and North Korean missiles and mudslides and refugee crises, this is going to sound very spoiled and petty, but friends, I’m going to say it anyway: I really hate mobile ordering at Starbucks.

(And as for my spoiled pettiness, I feel like you’ll all understand. We can worry about the big things and also still have passionate opinions about things like ordering coffee, and whether parking savesies are okay, and Dorit’s accent on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, right?) But I digress.

I suspect my dislike of mobile ordering is not a popular opinion. So many people do it, they must love it. Me, though, I prefer to order the old-fashioned way — with no advance planning. I just pop in for my overpriced coffee if and when I have the time and the funds. But for me and my fellow Luddites, the problem now is that we can’t eyeball a shop and know if we’re looking at a five- or 25-minute wait. I might be the only one in line, but 14 people still on a train on the way into the city are getting their coffee before me. And while in most circumstances I’m happy to wait my turn, there’s something galling — at very least in a customer-service sense — about standing in an empty coffee shop for 17 minutes while virtual customers are being served lattes that just sit there, getting cold, waiting for their owners to show up.  

I know what you’re thinking about this very yuppie, First World complaint:

But honestly, it’s not just the way mobile ordering throws off the line or the crappy customer-service implications that bug me. It’s also this: I spend approximately half my waking hours telling my preschooler to be patient, to please wait, to understand that part of life is waiting for things you want. Except: Is it? Is it really? Does anyone wait for anything anymore unless we’re absolutely forced? A friend recently texted me: “The world is making me feel like I need an Instant Pot. Pulled pork in an hour?!”

Look, I’m just as obsessed with instant gratification as the next guy, what with the Amazon Priming (I need that sweater de-piller in 48 hours, obviously!) and On Demand/Netflix, which means I don’t even have to wait through a commercial break. (Also, I do really want an Instant Pot. I want pulled pork in an hour!) And I’m sorry to tell you that about once a week, my little backseat companion, who is four, will grow tired of waiting at a red light or sitting in traffic, and yell from his car seat to other cars: “GO, cars! GO.”  (Parenting win.)

The odd thing about the coffee line is that I am usually very much in favor of anything that makes life easier, especially for parents. (You get your coffee on the go, mamas!) But the old Amish woman in me simultaneously wonders if we’re getting to the point where we never do anything that requires a modicum of the sort of pre-technology patience we once had. So we save 10 minutes we might have waited for the chai. What about the nice neighborly chit-chat we might’ve had in line? The face-to-face interaction with the world around us? The ideas we might have standing there, waiting, or even an extra 10 minutes on a podcast that makes us happy? Not to be overly dramatic here, but some actual non-work-related life happens while we’re standing somewhere, waiting. (Especially the coffee shop. There’s a reason so many rom-coms feature scenes in coffee shops!) 

But no matter. That particular ship has sailed, and no amount of grumbling is going to change anything. Well, except my own Starbucks consumption, which is way, way down these days. Not because I’m so principled, but because the only thing more irritating than watching 20 orders be filled for people who will wander in sometime in the next 20 minutes while I just stand there is watching that happen before I have coffee. I’m just not patient enough for that.