What’s in a Name?

If your barista asks for your name, does is strike you as the neighborly thing to do? A community thing? Or is it nobody’s business?

Janice O’Leary offers offers one point of view in the Boston Globe :

In September, as part of a new policy, my Starbucks began requiring that its baristas ask customers their names. ”We have found that customers are pleasantly surprised to be greeted by name,” said Jennifer Guebert, the regional marketing director of Starbucks New England.

Surprised, yes.

At 7 a.m., however, it’s hard for me to imagine anything less pleasant than a group of cranky, caffeine-depleted addicts waiting impatiently for their fix.

At the risk of soundy snarky… would this make a hill of beans if this happened anywhere but Starbucks?

More: coffee | starbucks | coffee+house


  1. I like being greeted by name. In particular in CBD cafes where soeed of service and high quality coffee is essential.

    There are few things cooler than walking into a cafe with a client and the barista is already making your coffee and asks your guest what they would like.

    There is a fine line though between professionalism and over familiarity. Thankfully most baristi that I have come to know have been smart enough to not ask you about your day, or worst still your drunken passing out in the coffee shop the previous morning in front of other people.

  2. I agree. (On all counts!)

    There was (is still, I presume) a little coffee shop on Pflumm Street in Overland Park, Kansas — the coffee was decent, but nothing to write home about — but the owner made a point to learn your name the first time you visited, and every time you would return he would greet you by name. Every time… no exceptions.

    And every morning there was a line out his door — no matter the weather — and I’m certain it was at least as much about people wanting to have somebody cheerfully call them by name first thing of a morning as it was anything else.

  3. I posted about this at my blog. I think it’s a little creepy at Starbucks. Other places, I don’t mind so much. I dunno. I just don’t like the fake feel of it.

  4. The problem isn’t that it’s Starbuck’s per se, but that it’s corporately enforced friendliness. It makes it sound like some head office VP was visiting a Starbucks where some naturally friendly barista was doing this and a lightbulb went on over his head: “that’s genius! be nice to people and ask them their names! Let’s make it company policy!”

    I would be made awkward and uncomfortable being greeted by someone in that fashion if I knew that they were being forced to care about my name. In a non-Starbucks setting, if they ask your name it’s because because they’re actually nice, thoughtful people, not because their manager might be listening. That’s icky.

  5. The first time I meet someone in this kind of setting I don’t want them asking my name. Local cafe, Starbucks, anywhere. After I’m there a few times and they recognize that, no problem. And if I knew they had to, I would be really bothered.



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