Posts Tagged 'Starbucks'

To tip, or not to tip….

StarbucksIn Starbucks today, a patron who had just finished paying for his sandwich looked distraught. “I don’t have any change for a tip!” he told me. He decided to wait until I paid for my scone so that the cashier could open the register and give him change.

In all of my many, many trip to Starbucks stores in London, I never encountered anyone with this problem. The art of tipping is not generally on the radar screen of most Brits.

When my (British) husband and I stayed in a Boston Marriott, the maid failed to clean the room. I suggested to my husband that we reduce her tip to five dollars (we had stayed for one night).

He was incredulous. “But she didn’t do anything!” he said. ” We shouldn’t leave anything!”

We compromised on two dollars.

The gentleman in Starbucks today left a dollar tip once the cashier gave him change. Of course, I then had to leave one, too.

I thought I was a generous tipper…but a dollar for someone who handed him a plastic wrapped sandwich takes the cake.

Starbucks Addiction

St. Paul's StarbucksI picked up an addiction to Starbucks Chai Tea Lattes while living in London. On my way to work, I passed three (yes three!) Starbucks shops in the five minute walk between the St. Paul’s tube station and my office.

There was a jarring juxtaposition between St. Paul’s Cathedral, the 300-year-old masterpiece, looming over the thoroughly modern Starbucks stores. Every day, Londoners and tourists would pile into a queue that wound through the store and out the door.

If I had the willpower to pass by that shop, I would be struggling by the second, then would usually cave by the third.

I took years to become a Starbucks fan. When the stores started descending on New York like locusts in the late 1990s, I thought they were overpriced and overrated.

But when my daughter was born in London in the winter of 2006, I needed to get out of the flat on those days when it started to get dark at 2:30 in the afternoon (i.e. almost every day from December to February).

Baby-friendly coffee joints are limited in London. What makes Starbucks unique is that most shops have doorways and aisles that are wide enough to allow strollers — even a double Maclaren. Also, there are usually changing tables in the bathrooms.

And of course, the drink of choice for all of the moms I know — the Chai Tea Latte — is the perfect blend of froth and spice. I’ve tried to order the same drink at other coffee shops, only to find it’s just too sweet.

At one place in Atlanta, the barista leaned on the spout of a syrup dispenser, releasing a gel-like substance that resembled dishwashing liquid. It reminded me of 7-11 slurpees, which included shaved ice and bright red syrup. The drink tasted like hot sugared milk. Which I suppose it was.

I’m under no illusion that Starbucks doesn’t also use syrup – in fact, I had to ask for extra in my order yesterday (perhaps because of the economic downturn, my local has been skimping lately). But it’s a bit less sweet, and a bit more spicey.

After I had resolved to cut my intake to every other day from my current daily fix, I was perplexed to see that they are rolling out the Pumpkin Spice Latte — which will be tougher to resist.

Cooling the Tube

Air conditioning on the Tube! I never thought the day would come. What a pity that it’s scheduled to happen nearly two years after I left.

I will have to regale future generations with tales of the summer heat waves that lasted up to five days. The mercury would rise beyond 32 degrees Celsius (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Articles would fill British newspapers about the heat on London’s public transport system: it was illegal to transport livestock at the temperature on the Tube.

The locals were outraged. But anyone who had lived or travelled during the summer in the Middle East, or even parts of the US, called the Brits heat wimps. 90 degrees may not be scorching, but it makes you appreciate air conditioning.

I’ll miss those signs outside most Tube station entrances, advising riders to carry a bottle of water to keep cool, putting the onus on the passengers, rather than on the station management.

Heat waves were unusual in London when I was living there, but we really felt them when they hit — nothing, from our flat to our local Starbucks, was air-conditioned. (Our closest cinema was, but not every theatre within it. That governed our movie choices).

So a temperature controlled Tube will open a whole new world of cool. But it will only debut on four lines — so we old-timers will still have somewhere to ride if we want to feel heat.

Flying Kids, Part II

We are revising our strategy for boarding a plane with our two kids, both under the age of three. While we used to stand poised by the gate, ready to be the first to leap onto the gangway as soon as boarding began — or even before boarding began (after all, we are “passengers who need extra assistance”) — we will now hang back a bit.

This is not just because we often find ourselves assisting our nearly three-year-old with lengthy potty trips in the run up to boarding time. Nor is it because we want one last Starbucks trip before getting onto the plane (although that has happened at least once).

We finally realized that as thrilling as it is to have first dibs on the overhead bins, the less time you can spend on a plane, the better. This is especially true on a Friday evening in August, when you’re flying from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport to New York’s LaGuardia. We are now veterans of this route, and it seems to be plagued by delays.

When our flight was pushed back by about an hour and a half this past weekend, we wished we had savored a few more minutes in the terminal, where our son was toddling between travelers’ suitcases and legs, and our daughter didn’t have to contend with illuminated seatbelt signs when she wanted to hit the potty.

So now, we will take our time walking to the gate. We will not panic when we hear the announcement that our flight is boarding. The hour-plus we spent stuck on the tarmac with two crying kids was a cruel reminder that kids do not like to be strapped into a seat. Next time, we’ll have to think about driving…

London On My Mind

I miss London.  Those photos of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament capped with snow made them look more lovely than they ever did while I was there.


And I wish I had been there for the big snowball fights and group snowman building that happened in parks across London last Monday, according to my friends there. Because no one could get into work (trains, buses, most of the tube shut down), everyone took a snow day.  

That I miss less — the creaky infrastructure.  But really, that’s part of the charm.  I miss emerging from an epic tube ride from Notting Hill Gate to St Paul’s, and seeing a nearly 400 year old Cathedral looming over a square full of pigeons.  

Which were gross.  But the winding cobblestone streets and pubs with thatched roofs made you feel like you had landed in Victorian London, with Jack the Ripper waiting to pop out to slash you.

And then, you turn a corner and see one of three Starbucks that you pass when you walk five blocks in any direction from St. Paul’s.  

Now that’s an experience we can replicate here in Atlanta.  It may not have the history, but it has the coffee chains.