Has “having it your way” gotten out of hand? Most every coffee bar sports its own bewildering array of options on its menu… and with a growing number of those menu items trademarked and branded, it can be tough keeping track of which code words to use where.

When Dena Goetz stopped in at a Starbucks recently, it took her 14 words to order her ‘venti latte with two Sweet’N Lows, nonfat milk and a triple shot of espresso.’

Got all that? It could have been longer. Goetz didn’t specify whether her drink was ‘for here’ or ‘with legs,’ and she avoided the syrup issue altogether.

It’s no wonder the Starbucks folks thought we coffee drinkers needed a little help with our coffee ordering, or the science of ‘customology,’ as they prefer to call it.”

Customology isn’t the answer… and I have to believe that Starbucks is doing more harm than good to its consumers, and everybody else’s. This “Starbucks Effect” has a penalty…

Often, when faced with an unknown phenomenon, we react by approximation: we seek that scrap of content, already present in our encyclopedia, which for better or worse seems to account for the new fact.”
— Umberto Eco, Kant & The Platypus

By their very pervasiveness, Starbucks has a unique opportunity to plant those first scraps of content in the minds of coffee consumers. But it’s content — labels, terms, even a language of sizes –can’t be reused at other coffee bars…

How long before consumers get fed up with it all and just say, “Gimme a cup of Joe?” How many already do?

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