Trending: Get in line for a cup of Joe, Dave

Starbucks wants to label your coffee by name, in a bid to get friendly. It's all rather, well, American for Tim Walker, who foresees problems far worse than getting a decaf latte in error

Starbucks, the international cheese-and-Marmite-panini chain, has a new company-wide customer service policy. From this week, when you place an order for a coffee-themed beverage, your barista will also ask for your name, and then scribble it in black felt-tip on the relevant Tall, Grande or Venti cup.

This seems eminently sensible, particularly in the firm's more crowded branches. Plenty of busy cafés and take-aways have always done it, so as to deliver food and/or drinks to the correct customer. And if your Americano fails to arrive, you'll also be able to identify the negligent Starbucks employee by name, since he or she will now be wearing a larger, more easily readable name-badge, with extra space for emoticons.

Objections arose online, however, after Starbucks tried to explain the policy as something other than mere efficiency improvement. In a mass email to holders of the Starbucks loyalty card, under the subject line, "We'd love to get to know you over coffee", the company mused: "Have you noticed how everything seems a little impersonal nowadays? We've all become user names, reference numbers and IP addresses. That's why, from tomorrow, we'd love to call you by your name when you order your coffee." It gets worse: the chain's latest television advertisement compounds the insult, claiming: "From now on, we won't refer to you as a 'latte' or a 'mocha', but instead as your folks intended: by your name." My "folks"?!

This would be all very well if it weren't coming from Starbucks, the world's largest coffeehouse company, which owns around 20,000 stores worldwide, nearly 1,000 in this country. The email, incidentally, bore the signature not of a named Starbucks executive, but of the generic loyalty scheme, "My Starbucks Rewards". In the US, where the policy has been in place for years, entire blogs are devoted to the miswritten names on Starbucks cups. ("Starbucks," begins one, "Where nobody knows your name".) A practice designed to foster brand loyalty presumably has the opposite effect whenever Margaret becomes "Margit" and Hilary becomes "Hairily". Dispatched to patronise a local Starbucks yesterday, to test out the new system, I had the choice of five outlets within five minutes' walk of the office. The notion that, by imparting my first name, I would somehow develop a lasting relationship with a barista seemed, frankly, preposterous.

Still, Aga and Magda – the friendly baristas – were doing their best. Luckily for Aga, my name is dishearteningly common and contains only three letters. There did seem to be some teething problems: the gentleman ahead of me was bemused to be asked to identify himself. When he eventually muttered his name, it turned out to be something foreign, doubtless with a non-phonetic spelling. And when Magda delivered his cup of chai, it was adorned with a four-letter word, scrawled in felt-tip: "Name."

*Comedian Jimmy Carr takes a turn as a Starbucks barista in the video (above, left)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before