“An unexpected trend emerged: baristas and staff at independent cafés were not as friendly as those at Starbucks,” the researchers wrote in the current issue of the International Journal of Social Science Studies.
They said Starbucks baristas greeted customers by name, knew their drink orders, chatted about news, and explained menu items.
“In contrast, the baristas at the independently-owned coffee houses were more aloof, and would just wait, or sometimes stare at a customer, offering minimal assistance,” researchers said.
They only looked at three indie stores and three Starbucks locations in the Boston area to come to these conclusions, and I wonder: Would the outcome change in different cities? And more importantly, do people enjoy that corporate-branded friendliness? I know Starbucks baristas are sweet to their regulars as a matter of policy, but that level of chipper can be a bit much for me (it reminds me of this). And given that they're selling a product that can be really addictive, sometimes it almost seems, well, predatory. I know, I know, I'm overanalyzing it, but when I was in high school, the closest coffee shop was a Starbucks, and watching the baristas learn the names and regular drinks of underslept 15-year-olds, offering them freebies every once in a while and constantly making jokes about how man, don't we all need coffee just to get through the day, ha-ha!—it always seemed like grooming kids for lifelong caffeine-and-caramel-syrup addictions. It always creeped me out. But I dunno, maybe people like that better than honest, straightforward coldness, boredom, and disdain?