Starbucks hates Starbucks

Posted by brilokuloj on Jun 6, 2024

When’s the last time you could afford a Starbucks coffee in this economy?

Don’t answer that. I don’t want to think about money.

Anyway, I think we can all agree that Starbucks is overpriced hot water, but it does occupy a captivating role as one of the few remaining Third Places in America. This is the reason I found myself entranced by the Starbucks subreddit, a space where both customer and employee come to bitch about their coffee.


As I’ve mentioned before in my coverage of the Panera Bread subreddit, a subreddit is always a damning representation of the company it represents. At least per my observations over the years, the quality of posts seems to reflect how interesting or memorable the product is, whereas the employee-to-customer ratio reflects how decent the company is to work for.

The Starbucks subreddit is a very interesting one, because it’s a true middle ground. As far as I can tell, it’s almost a 50/50 split of one-sentence text posts to creative original content, unhappy customers to unhappy workers.

Let’s take a look at some of the recurring themes we can find:

Workers hate Starbucks

The top-rated post of all time on the subreddit, titled “THEY WON THE UNION VOTE”, is a live update thread from December 2021 discussing the successful unionization of the Elmwood Village Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York. I found this very illuminating, as this was my first time learning that this was the very first U.S. American Starbucks to unionize. Subsequently, over 360 stores have formed unions in the past 3 years. Pretty awesome!

It seems that union politics have a tremendous domination on this subreddit, as many threads come back to it, whether that’s sharing success stories, protests against promotions, or Starbucks pushing back against unions.

It’s hard to tell if some of these people even like Starbucks at all (not that I blame them). Some draw signs on the chalkboard suggesting to order plain water, or black coffee.

BicycleAppropriate30, meanwhile, offers their surprisingly touching whiteout poetry about how much they hate their job:

A whiteout poem, transcribed below.
Transcription be a partner
What does it mean to be a partner?
At Starbucks, being a partner means:
Not being accepted —
having co-workers —
lt means you're just making coffee —
And you start to realize that:
It’s just ‘work’ — it’s an opportunity to do
You're not learning — you're just doing something
Then it starts to mean:
You're not getting by — you're going
And it’s just a job
Your fellow partners aren't just colleagues — they're a company
And you’re just an employee

Workers hate the menu

Starbucks’ vast menu, almost as labyrinthine as the Cheesecake Factory, is one of the few things I can say it has going for it over any other chain coffee shop. The workers also fucking hate it.

For example, instead of making new items that utilize pre-existing syrups, they will inevitably make a new one which will linger longer than anyone will remember it exists. Maybe that’s why customers have the confidence to ask for things like Fizzios and Valencia Orange Refreshers, which haven’t existed since the mid-2010s.

And then there’s the alleged secret menu. Here’s a mere sampler of menu items that Redditors have been asked to make:

All of this is saying nothing of Starbucks’ abhorred olive oil drink, which exists solely as a money trap to get people to violently shit themselves. At least it doesn’t kill you.

Workers hate customers

Workers share their stories of being forced to work on Christmas, bullied by customers who shout commands for drinks that aren’t even theirs, and exorbitantly large drink orders, from 60 frappucinos with no tip to 50 travelers (to-go carriers with cups and condiments).

One thread discusses wages being cut because of a survey returning that only 41% of customers feel that baristas take an opportunity to get to know them. Excuse me? What kind of world is this? What is there to even say? “I notice that you’re wearing a shirt.” There’s a thread of people wishing they could bully back.

Reddit user krysmas_ dares to speak out about a worrying trend:

your child doesn’t need caffeine. especially if they’re 10. they don’t need the mocha cookie crumble, they don’t need a caramel ribbon crunch, and they don’t need that strawberry refresher, either.

Wow. What a world we live in.

Starbucks hates workers

Starbucks hates their workers. How else can you explain how they force their staff to listen to Let It Go? How about workers talking about having to buy milk from nearby grocery stores, potentially getting banned?

User FireBreathingCabbage at least took it upon themself to distribute some lovely and professionally-made training infographics for making various drinks. You know, training, the one thing employers can claim they do.

Customers hate workers

What is a worker supposed to do when they’re expected to make small talk, but customers will yell at them for doing so? That’s the question asked by CapableSlice3923, who got yelled at for writing “happy birthday” on a cup.

Workers hate workers

User FirmDoughnut7840 starts out with a reasonable-sounding shot against customers:

If your Starbucks drink order is so complex that it can not be communicated on the cup,and you have to WALK your barista through the steps, but aren’t good at explaining and word vomit your ridiculous requests then get irritated when I ask questions to clarify, you should make your own coffee.

This must have started a snowball in customer hate posting, because only a month later, user throwawayq9827371 follows up with an equally reasonable-sounding retort:

All of the coaching threads from baristas to customers on how to make every single interaction easier are ridiculous. Stop making people feel bad for wanting anything more complex than a latte, or for asking a question you think is stupid or the answer should be obvious. Blame our god-awful experiences on management and the real Karens who set out to make our lives miserable. Most people are pretty reasonable and just want a cup of coffee.

I feel like I’m stuck between my parents arguing.

Starbucks consumes itself

The coffee ouroboros descends upon itself. In the middle of the ever-rotating, never-shrinking circle is the subreddit.

What compels people to tear each other apart over mediocre coffee? Why can’t we agree to be kind to each other, just this once? When it all comes to an end, will any of this have been worth it? When the digital archaeologists of our future dig up these arguments, what will they think?

Also, can we add the King St. Bee Frappuccino to the secret menu? I think it should be 12 caffeine pills and a Nerf football crammed into a blender with milk and olive oil. Some pineapples to make it yellow and Dole Whip-themed. Yeah, I think they should make a drink that makes you shit yourself and die. AND it should taste bad. Just fucking awful. Well, that’s my idea.


If you give us $5 a month on Patreon, we still won’t be able to afford the King St. Bee frap for even one of us.

Categories: food

Tagged: starbucks fast food 2024 caffeine reddit