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The Anti-Starbucks Effect.

The Anti-Starbucks Effect.

When I lived in Austin, Texas, I had my first exposure to Starbucks. And I must say, I was an elitist. If I couldn’t get my cup of coffee from some kid with a nose ring, I wasn’t drinking coffee.

I was the epitome of the “anti-Starbucks” movement.

To understand how difficult this is, you have to understand a little about Austin. On every corner, from Round Rock to William Cannon Drive, you’ll find three things: a convenience store, a gas station, and a Starbucks. This isn’t because people need a lot of gas and spill their Starbucks on their suit while pumping it. Instead, it is the inevitable necessity of traffic. And lots of it.

If it isn’t on your way, you don’t do it. That’s how Austin can support so many Starbucks Coffee Houses. (For the record, there are 776 listings for “Starbucks” in the Austin area.)

What surprised me was my return to Monroe. When I got back, we had two coffee houses. Mylo’s on 18th Street and Cottonport in West Monroe. And that was about it. Four years after I came back, the clouds parted, the seas went calm and the rain stopped.

The first Starbucks opened.

And the one existing coffee shop in Monroe decided they would be the Anti-Starbucks. How does one become the anti-Starbucks? Well, there are two answers.

First, you assume that all things coffee and coffee-related were Starbucks originations. And you rebel. Tall, Grande and Venti are no longer traditional coffee designations. Instead, they are the ugly face of corporate America, the sounds of your dollars flying by wire to some secretive bank vault high atop the Space Needle in Seattle. This form of the Anti-Starbucks leads, inevitably and without deviation, to the second of the Anti-Starbucks.

You argue with your customers.

That’s right. When someone orders a tall americano, you argue with them. You tell them “We don’t speak Starbucks here,” when, in point of fact, tall, grande and venti have nothing to do with Starbucks and have everything to do with a century of coffee tradition. (Grande, is after all, Italian.)

I’ve managed a non-Starbucks coffee shop. We used tall and grande and our own permutation of venti that folded in our corporate name. We used words like “macchiato” and “Frappe.” These aren’t brand names, they’re descriptions of the preparation of the type of coffee. Even if they weren’t, to *argue* with your customer about such a thing, to become angry about it, to be indignant. These are emotions that have no place in customer service.

These are exactly the types of reactions that have made Starbucks such a success in our fair Monroe — and incidentally, exactly why I simply cannot wait for the new Starbucks to open in my neighborhood.

When did the rule of “customer is always right” get replaced with “We have too much business, anyway?”

Of course, as I sit here drinking my burned Americano, fighting with their wireless internet and the incessant rumble of a pop-rock station, I understand why Starbucks came. And now, I’m glad.