What Grinds My Gears: Everything about Starbucks at UCI

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I love coffee. That’s almost cliché to say at this point, because really, who doesn’t like coffee? It tastes good, it gives you a little zip to get yourself going and it just imbues you with that home-y feeling. The warm, peaceful kind of feeling you can only get from drinking a  good cup o’ Joe.

Most coffee shops do a pretty good job at handling themselves: friendly baristas, tasty snacks, quick service, relatively cheap coffee and above all: good coffee.

However, the Student Center Starbucks manages to screw this up in almost every way. The Student Center Starbucks is often touted as the second most visited college campus Starbucks in America next to NYU’s, which would make you think that it’s exceptionally good. In fact, it’s actually one of the worst. The fact that it gets so much business is less a testament to its quality, and more a testament to the desperation of UCI students.  

I would honestly suggest going out of your way to the Paul Merage Starbucks or even Cyber A Café. Hell, you may as well go all the way to Java City given the wait times at the Student Center Starbucks. Every single time I go in there I spend at the very least 20 minutes waiting.

The line usually ends right about where the door is. So as soon as you approach the store, you know you’re in for a really exciting welcome of grumbling students combined with whatever unnecessary guttural acoustic neo-jazz-soul-indie-folk-rock music that Starbucks plays over the speakers.

After you have finally shuffled to the front like a zombie and placed your order,  you’re forced to stand smashed between 30 other coffee-deprived customers in the smallest waiting area of all time.

After bargaining with Satan to finally get your drink, you hear the barista call out your name wrong, and when you finally pick up your grande iced vanilla latte, well, there’s no fucking vanilla. It’s a petty thing to complain about, I know. I mean, it takes literally two seconds to rectify, but the anguish of going through that waiting period only to get the wrong drink—it’s heartbreaking.

But then there are those times where you can’t get whatever you originally wanted because Starbucks, for whatever reason, is consistently out of multiple ingredients. Seriously, what kind of Starbucks — or any food place for that matter — runs out of ice? I can’t even fathom how that is possible; you have fridges, you have ice machines and you have water, there you freaking go. Making ice is not rocket science.

You’re probably thinking that at some point I’m going to complain about the coffee, but you’re wrong. When I go to Starbucks, I know what I’m getting into. I know that they used burned coffee beans, which basically means that I’m going to be drinking something that tastes like ass unless I order a drink with an inordinate amount of milk and sugar.

I don’t want fancy coffee from Starbucks and I don’t think anyone else does either; I mean, why would Frappuccinos be a thing if the people going to Starbucks wanted fancy espresso shots? Frappuccinos are essentially glorified milkshakes with a bit of coffee and ice. If you go to Starbucks expecting them to do art in your latte foam or any other fancy barista bullshit then that’s your problem.

If there’s anything else I don’t want you to get from this article, it’s that I’m blaming the baristas at Starbucks for how shitty the Student Center one is. Starbucks baristas are good folks. When I see their dejected looks or their stressful scurrying from counter to counter I can’t help but feel for them — working at the Student Center Starbucks has to be the only thing worse than getting served by it.

I think when you consider how poor a place it is to work and how high the turnover must be then it all starts to make some sick sort of sense. The place is run by Aramark (aka prison food inc.), so employees get paid like $9 an hour, which is a lot less than most Starbucks stores pay. To top it off, you can’t even make more money through tips since that’s not allowed.

When you treat your employees like indentured servants, it’s no fucking wonder why they’d be shit employees. I know I’d be a shit employee.

I hate the Student Center Starbucks, but I don’t hate Starbucks in general. I love the Starbucks down on California by Albertsons. I’ve never had a problem there. What I think is that the Student Center Starbucks needs to get its act together; it’s been this bad for years from older students I’ve talked to.

If the Student Center wants to actually be a good business, then they need to start caring about their employees for once. It seems to me that giving employees what they need to be better workers (better pay and better hours) would probably fix a lot of the overarching problems with the Student Center Starbucks. I know that I won’t be going back to the Student Center Starbucks until the quality of it noticeably improves. So until then, au revoir Student Center Starbucks! It really wasn’t a pleasure going to you, at all.

Roy Lyle is a second-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at rlyle@uci.edu

 

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