Order anything more complicated than a simple cup of coffee at Starbucks, and it happens.
They want a name.
For some of us, that’s when the trouble starts.
Recently, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had tired of being asked how to spell a name that people find difficult to handle, at least in the super-busy moment of a Starbucks line.
So, like other people, I came up with a “coffee name.” Something simple that a coffee jockey can scribble on a cup without thinking. And, after taking a survey of the local scene, it’s clear that many others have come up with a similar solution.
At the Starbucks on Eighth Avenue, a grande iced caramel macchiato for “Sean” was really meant for “Chan,” short for Chandani.
“I never, ever give out my name,” Chan says. “And they still don’t get it right, but, hey, it’s what everyone calls me.”
A venti green tea frappacino for Von was actually for Vahé. “It’s a nickname; otherwise, it takes forever,” he says.
“M” is the java code for Midwin (a grande sweetened ice coffee) who says that it’s mostly the spelling that baristas get hung up on. “See?” she says when we asked to spell her name. “Everyone asks how to spell it!”
Starbucks employees are well aware of the game. The only problem, says a barista at the 8th Street Starbucks, is when a customer loses track of his or her coffee alias.
“Yeah, people will forget what name they gave us,” she says. At that point, two frappucinos for Eric were sitting at the bar…and only one Eric showed up. Another employee at the 8th Street Starbucks says there is one customer who comes in everyday with a new name. “And it’s a foreign name, too,” she says. “Like ‘Sven,’ I mean you can tell that’s not his name.” She hears customers use their street name or last name.
The barista at the Union Square Starbucks says he never uses his own name. “I say something like ‘Cool Guy.’ But sometimes we hear the wrong name, or sometimes the customer just wants their freaking drink, so they just say a name.”
“I’ll tell them, this is your one chance to be whoever you want to be, so who are you going to be today?” said another Union Square Starbucks employee as he refilled the short green straws at the condiments table. “I hear ‘Spongebob’ a lot. Or one time someone said their name was ‘For my Love’.”
A hot chai tea latte says he normally tells the barista his name is Batman. “He’s the greatest hero of all time,” he says. “But today I was feeling uninspired because of the heat.”
We also inspired a few coffee fiends. Virginie, who was Virginia for her tall hot coffee, says that she added a middle name when she got her American citizenship after moving from France. “But an entirely new name? Wow, maybe something like Ginger?” Using her new middle name, Mathilde, would just cause even more confusion.
By the way, at Think Coffee on Fourth Avenue, we got a funny look when we asked about coffee names. They don’t “do” coffee names.