How Starbucks Made Me Their Bitch

May 2012: Starbucks has really got me over a barrel.

Me and DJ Initial P, flaunting our shit-Photo by Evan Ballinger

how it began

My usual method of coffeeshop patronage was to choose an independent local business, and they would know my drink, and I would have a little punchcard and get free coffees with every tenth one. I’d make jokes to the employees and they would pretend to think the jokes were funny.

It was First Cup on Woodstock, and then Stumptown on Belmont. I would default to Starbucks when away from home, especially in podunk towns, because it was the best way to ensure that they would have soy milk. Also, they would use my special cup (here’s an art template for your own Starbucks art-your-own 16 oz tumbler! )

how I was seduced

Since moving to Long Beach, I have not found a walking-distance local coffeeshop, so I have been going to Starbucks.  One day, an employee pointed out that if I would just register a coffee card with them, they would give me soymilk (.60) for free.

This is annoying, because Baby Jebus knows that soymilk does not cost sixty cents more than cow’s milk, but I was paying it. I am addicted to the sweet latte goodness.

And now I can get it for “free”.   Because I’m in the “club”.  The “coffee club”.  They’ve tricked me. Like the airlines who now offer the “perk” of “checking a bag”, which used to be free and now is not.

So I got a card.  I kept it full.  Liquid assets.

Then, I found out that you can buy coffee on your phone if you get the app. You can wave your phone in front of the scanner like you live in Gattaca. So I did that. And that’s when they really got me.  You can do things like put money on your card, and send coffee money to friends, and find out what Starbucks food items are vegan, and blargity blarg blarg.  But the best part is, I got a star every time I drank coffee. I got a gold star, like I was in school.


  13 stars.  Look how happy they are.  They’re dancing.

winning all the time

 I win a game by drinking coffee, which is something that I would do anyway, so now instead of going to Starbucks with some amount of shame, I am actively seeking them out. I CAN GET A GOLD STAR FOR DRINKING COFFEE, SOMETHING I WANTED TO DO ANYWAY.  People like getting gold stars.  They like being rewarded for stuff. 

Then they give you a special gold coffee card, just to let them know that I’m not a regular people, that they might toil and sweat for their half-caff sweet double chai frappucino, but that I am one of the chosen ones, and that I will have free soymilk-

the betrayal

  FURIOUS POSTSCRIPT, 9/18:  I got an email thanking me for my continued patronage, letting me know my coffee benefits are New and Improved. New and improved means that as of October 16th, MY FREE F*CKING SOYMILK IS GOING AWAY!

As a spoiled and privileged vegan, I AM FURIOUS ABOUT THIS, CORPORATE OVERLORDS!  I am reacting like a RABID WILDEBEEST!  I hope you enjoy the view of me leaving, because I’m not coming back after the 16th!  Unless, you know.  It’s an emergency.

Postpostpostcript 10/11: And lo, the end is nigh.  I have commented about soymilk on, and I have “liked” other comments about free soymilk, and now the board hates us for complaining about the same thing every day for a month.

I’m sorry, other people.  This is how the capitalist internet system works.

the final solution

And so, it has happened: if you feel a slight shiver, the sense that everything was picked up, rotated five degrees, and then dropped back into place, it’s because I have ordered an espresso machine and some coffee, and I am free.

And let’s be clear: I purchased an expensive, heavy, large machine to live in my kitchen because Starbucks wanted to charge me sixty cents for soy milk, which I used to get for free when I was special- and lest we forget, another group of people got pretty mad when their tea was getting taxed, and they started a little something called THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, and that’s a little more intense than my latte boycott!

Hell hath no fury like a vegan scorned.

The Math: As of this month, I have broken even on my espresso machine vs. the $60 a week I was spending at Starbucks, so the next 9 months of espressos are pure profit.  I’m sorry, corporate overlords!  I’m still an addict!  Just not a slave!

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