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Logic Rules: Why I Like My Local Starbucks

My local Starbucks in Cyprus is something of a mixed bag. I go there because it makes sense. This is the third instalment in the Urban Times ‘Logic Rules’ Series – examining the many logical behaviours we eschew for illogical reasons.

I went to my local Starbucks the other day to meet a friend. I like Starbucks. It may be the epitome of corporatism, but it’s one of the few places in Cyprus where smoking is strictly prohibited. To be more precise, it’s one of the few places in Cyprus where the smoking ban is actually enforced.

It’s one of the few places in Cyprus where the smoking ban is actually enforced.

There are more upsides. Starbucks has free wifi with no passord. Just find the network and shazam, you’re in. It also has high ceilings and plays soft music. No dingy, converted building with a hobbit ceiling to crack your head on, with no pop extravaganzas blaring through the speakers, or, worse yet, traditional tunes that make you think you’re at a wedding in the countryside. Just good, chillout music in a climate-controlled environment.

But there are drawbacks. One of them are the loud kids, dozens of them, coming in all shapes and sizes, ages and decibel levels. I am not a troll – I in fact like kids, they make any venue come alive – but when assembled in a cafe like that, where their parents have come to meet friends (with more kids), who haven’t met for a while, and whose inclination is to let their rugrats roam around while they enjoy a little quality adult time, these kids turn into a small army of goblins. Screams, cries, yelling, things smashing, toys clunking, items being tossed everywhere, and people glancing around, trying to keep their drinks safe from the staggering little people… it can be very un-chill-out.

So I choose my time carefully and make sure I go there before the armies of mischief arrive.

Then of course there’s the marketeers. A cadre of online travel agents, whose main mission is to recruit more sellers (who recruit more sellers in turn etc). They have made the place their professional hangout, occupying the electrical-socket area in order to power their laptops and make their pitches to prospective recruits, whom they bring over in droves. They are not loud – they are in fact very respectful – but they seem to have driven away the students that used to hang out there.

A euro a day keeps the Troika away

They have also driven me away, to the other side of the cafe, where things are less regimented and more relaxed.

Then there’s the bill. Cyprus Starbucks prices are high by comparison. The tiny island nation is in a deep economic crisis, trudging on via a combination of EU-sanctioned bailout and bail-in (see theft) policies, but the specialty drinks (Latte, Caramel Macchiato, Frapuccino etc) remain well north of the 3 euro mark. Ouch.

Not that it matters to me. I rarely go out for coffee. People who frequent cafes every day (there is a serious coffee culture on the island) may prefer to save up, because a euro a day keeps the Troika away, but my scant coffee intake barely makes a difference to my expenses.

Plus, I price my health above that. A euro extra for each drink, plus the screaming kids and the ladder-scheming traveler agents, are all worth the smoke-free environment.

But there’s something more to the bill than just high prices. Take a look at the picture to the right. See that? It’s the receipt for a large, freshly squeezed orange juice. All that paper for a single item! 35 odd lines of information, including the address, the HQ adress, VAT info, the Tax ID, the employee’s name, the time of order, wifi info, an outdated password scheme, various codes, the actual price of the item, the total sum, a Facebook page, more codes…

Let’s put this in context. The lines dedicated to the item in question are six i.e. roughly 16% of the entire paper area. The rest of the information are technicalities and trivia.

In other words, more than 80% of the receipt is devoted to bureaucracy.

Now isn’t that a horrible waste of paper?

IN AN ARABICA VENTI NUTSHELL

My local Starbucks in Cyprus has its pros and cons. It is a wifi-friendly, smoke-free environment in an EU country where the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces is barely enforced. A thousand thumbs up for its strict, common-sense policy against tobacco. Unfortunately this also attracts parents with out-of-control children and mysterious travel agents, who make the venue a little harder to handle. But they are a small price to pay for clean air.

As for the item prices, they could go down a notch or two, at least until the crisis abates.

And regarding the receipts, they could be trimmed down in size. Starbucks pride themselves for their environmentally-friendly policies. They can make their case stronger by reducing their bill paper use by at least 50%. Surely an orange juice doesn’t need a receipt the size of a manifesto. Think about it. It’s a helluva lot of trees wasted, enough to keep you up at night. That’s a Venti we could all do without.

The original article first appeared in Urban Times.

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