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a pumkin spice latte served with...well...a lot of happiness

liz lamoreux

living out here in the pacific northwest, next door to the hometown of the flagship store, my husband and i sometimes comment on the fact we feel surrounded by starbucks. when we first moved here in 2004, we would count them when we spent a day up in seattle. there are several places where there are two a block away from one another. it is, simply, unbelievable. jon and i crack ourselves up sometimes, “there’s one!” “wait, there’s one!”

recently, someone told me that people call starbucks, “six bucks.” (who told me that?) it is true. it is hard to leave starbucks without spending more money than one should ever need to for a cup of coffee. this morning, i ordered a grande pumpkin latte with soy and an apple fritter (they were out of pumpkin doughnuts…sad, sad). it was over $6. not kidding.

i believe in the idea that it is important to support the locally owned places. and we do. when you come to visit, we will spend a few hours in the cozy mandolin café, drinking coffe or tea (or wine) and eating scrumptious pieces of cake or huge cookies or even a delicious salad. we will solve the problems of the world because that is simply what one does there. the ambiance is incredible. there is free wi-fi. i spend an afternoon working there every few weeks and i know i should go there to write. it is a good place to get lost in your own words…or the words of someone else. they support local artists and musicians play almost nightly. it really is an incredible neighborhood café. but it is expensive too. the prices are about the same as starbucks. and if you eat a panini or one of their salads or a piece of quiche…the total quickly increases. that is okay by me because i appreciate paying a little extra for ambiance and the “free” wi-fi. but you aren’t saving any money by going there. still, supporting the local places like this one is an easy choice.

so here is my question. since moving here, one thing jon and i notice every time we go to starbucks is that the employees there are just about the happiest people we have ever met. have you noticed this too? they look you right in the eye and say welcome or how are you or great to see you today – every. single. time. they are lauging and making jokes with one another. they know the names of their customers. i have not doubt that if i went to the same starbucks weekly they would learn my name. they are always smiling. it is kind of weird. i can’t believe how happy they seem. every single time at every single starbucks. from the one in the mall to the one in the stadium at the university of washington to the one in the airport to the ones with the super nice couches and fireplace near alki beach. it is bizarre. i can be kind of grumpy, under the weather, haven’t showered, starving, and on and on (like this morning) and within seconds i am smiling. and i am not treated any differently whether i have my dirty hair in a Notre Dame baseball cap and am not wearing any make-up or if jon and i stop in after eating out and are dressed up.

i saw the ceo/owner/whoever that guy was of starbucks on 60 minutes earlier this year. he talked about the employee benefits and how good they are etc. hmmm…could something as simple as employee benefits make these people this happy?

i am currently editing a project about ethics in law enforcement and there is this section about using the image of being videotaped to help you decide how you should react to a situation. meaning, even though you feel alone in the moment you are faced with a decision, would your decision be any different if you knew you were going to be caught on film and others would see your actions? this makes me wonder: are the employees of starbucks being videotaped by the happy police?

i don’t know what it is, but i have to admit that i like it. i enjoy being greeted by the smiling faces of people who act like they genuinely want to make my day. it makes me feel, dare i admit it, special. i like that the young man who took my order this morning took the time to look at my name on my debit card so that he could tell me to have a nice day while using my first name. i like that, even though there was a short line of people, he still took the five extra seconds to do this.

i will still go to my favorite local spots and support the “little guy.” but when i am out and about, i admit that going to starbucks can be a good thing. for me. they serve up slight shifts in attitude and smiles with their lattes.