Starbucks Hacks : Frugal

Now, I know as a rule frugal people don't buy Starbucks drinks. But say you're in a hurry and you need a caffeine fix, or you're a tea junkie like me and couldn't wait for your kettle to boil some water before your class/work/whatever. Or maybe your with some friends who all want to go to Starbucks (Because, say what you will about Starbucks, but if you want a place to hang out with your friends other than your house, Starbucks is much cheaper than a restaurant or bar), how can you save money?

If you and a friend are out and want a Frappuccino, ask for a Venti split into two tall cups. Iced venti cups are 24 oz. Tall are 12. Viola. Two talls would cost you about 6 bucks, a venti, 4.

I know coffee snobs hate Starbucks but no one can deny its ubiquity. It is that familiar place where you can get coffee be it an airport or a busy downtown of a new city. But it can add up quick especially for not so great coffee so hopefully these tips by a Starbucks employee should save a penny.

Although recently, I haven't frequently Starbucks much but having done so in the past, I can vouch for their relaxed ambiance [1] and friendly staff. They'll never ask you to leave even if you have been nursing that empty cup of plain coffee you bought several hours ago. Make friends with the barista. And don't feel bad for accepting a free drink once in a while because they'll throw it out anyway. And don't forget to pick up the free coffee grounds for your vegetable garden.

[Link to Starbucks Hacks : Frugal]

  1. unless it is a Times Sq location []

Kappi at Starbucks

Are things for Starbucks so bad that they are going the kaapi way? Next up, a Starbucks vending machine at the airport.

Coffee with Milk

Yup! I like my coffee with a dash of cream. Now now, don’t get any dirty thoughts when you take a second look at the image. More  awesome coffee-milk images.

Northgate Starbucks

I guess a Starbucks outlet opening in close vicinity of my home deserves to make news on this blog considering my first post ever was about Starbucks. Starbucks was my daily haunt for two and half years when I lived in Atlanta. I missed the mom-n-pop ambiance of the neighborhood coffee shop that was Java Monkey although it was hardly ‘mom-n-pop’ in nature. It catered to an eclectic crowds of artists and musicians. The Starbucks near my second home was more corporate but its location next to a Regal multiplex gave it a friendly and personalized appearance. During the day, it served business folk and in the evenings especially during the weekends or summer, school kids hung out in the opposite plaza. Sometimes the kids made too much of a noise but were never too threatening. Probably the location in the upscale neighborhood of Dunwoody helped otherwise we would have seen guns being drawn [notice the lack of any racial stereotyping].

Now in the college town neighborhood of Northgate, Starbucks may be a wee bit out of place. Night clubs, bars, and eateries border the store but this district always lacked a good coffee shop. The campus coffee shop, [above Underground and adjacent to Sbisa] was okay but always presented a take-n-go environment as opposed to sit-a-while ambience. Plus, you always want to go away from the campus where you spend most of your waking hours.

Ash and I had always thought that the current location would be perfect for a Starbucks but was occupied with a staid bookstore for the past year. Perhaps someone else willing to get a Starbucks franchise had a similar thought and cashed in. Although college towns like the ones I live in prefer mom-n-pop coffee shops, Starbucks is the only coffee shop in walking distance of the campus. It opens at 5:30am and has a drive through which indicates that probably plenty of people will be picking up their dose of java to kickoff their mornings. Texas A&M not only has hordes of students but also plenty of professors and research personnel that would prefer the familar ambience of Starbucks. On the downside, strangely they do not seem to offer wireless; not even the expensively priced T-Mobile Hot Spot connections. The staff is a bit raw and amateurish (college kids after all) with couple of exceptions that I recognize from the older store up on University. Hopefully as time passes, things will improve.

We have already spent a couple of evenings here and its location next to the busy University Drive makes it apt for whiling away time. And it is only a five minute walk from home. But for serious studying and good coffee, I’ll always head back to Sweet Eugenes.

Creating Demand through Corporatization

Hate corporate culture as much as you wish to, but sometimes there exists certain benefits that earlier was simply not available. For e.g. Starbucks Coffee is targeted for corporatizing coffee culture and commercializing it but in fact, it has been shown that it has encouraged and even helped flourish the creation of local individual coffee shops [via Dan Drezner]. Dan notes that, “Bellisimo Coffee Infogroup, a consulting company for coffee shops, notes that Starbucks plays an important role in giving people their first gourmet coffee experience, after which they can and often do branch out to try out other sources.”

I can personally attest to that fact. While in Atlanta, my coffee café habit started out by frequenting the Starbucks in Decatur downtown but it wasn’t long before I walked around the block to sample coffee (and ambience) at the local favorite Java Monkey. After I moved away from Decatur, I returned to the local Starbucks but I would have loved if there was a local inde-café, which usually is cosier. In College Station, I mix it up by frequenting Starbucks, the Starbucks café in Barnes and Nobles, and Sweet Eugenes, a local café. Of course, Sweet Eugenes has a pleasant and eclectic ambience but the personal and often friendly service at Starbucks stores isn’t bad either. I wouldn’t call it the perversion of corporate culture.

There might have been talk of Starbucks shutting down local cafes and causing much anguish among local residents. But honestly, they serve different clienteles while keeping some overlapping clients happy as well. “According to the Portland Yellow Pages, before Starbucks came to Portland in 1989, there were 28 coffee shops in the city. Today, there are 91 non-Starbucks coffeehouses in Portland proper, compared with the chain’s 48 stores within city limits” [source: Willamette Weekly]. Starbucks thus may have reinvented or even introduced the coffee culture in the United States [on a mass scale].

Coffee cafes became popular in India only in the past few years and now are considered epitomes of cool. Barista, Café Coffee Day, and Mocha are just few of the numerous coffee cafes that have suddenly sprung up in the Indian metros. Tea and coffee has always been part of Indian culture and there have always existed the chai-ki-tapri but never before was it associated with a cool factor that these outlets lent to it; quite similar to the way Starbucks expanded the American market. The lesson is clear — find a market demand and fulfill that demand by carving your unique niche so even if others follow suit, you still reap rewards of being first off the block. Creating a market and thus opening avenues of individual entrepreneurs to customize their coffee ideas is definitely a good thing, and thanks to Starbucks, it might even be financial viable. I bet there are thousand other ideas staring right at you and just waiting to be exploited. We just have to take a step back and look at things with a fresh perspective.

What does such entrepreneurship hold for cityscapes? Well, urbanscapes are continually reshaped by changing trends and unless we end up with the ugly monstrosity that is the strip mall, new trends are always assimilated into a city’s fabric and identity. Seattle is one city that can be easily a coffee connoisseur’s delight. But to say that this affinity is restricted only on the surface would be untrue. Cities adopt corporatization if done well and aesthetically. Heck, it can even be a primary attraction. Remember Times Square?

Lounging Around

Several years ago, as I was waiting for my mom to surface from her shopping binge, I sauntered into a local bookstore near 14th Road, Khar. I picked up a mythological comic and was browsing through it. Soon, I was engrossed in the tale only to be rudely interrupted by the book keeper who snatched it right out of my hands and said, “poori Ramayan yahan padnee hai kya?“. I was furious and taken aback by his rudeness. But I thought that I was wrong and slowly walked out, but swore to myself that I would never come back.

Flash forward more than ten years. A month back, I walked into the nearby Barnes and Nobles near Perimeter Mall and picked up few new releases books. I made myself comfortable on a comfortable arm chair with a cup of coffee (from the store café) and browsed them at leisure. I spent a fruitful three hours and not one book keeper disturbed me. I come often and occasionally buy a book.

In the second instance, everyone wins. The bookstore has a regular flow of customers — not all buy books and some even conduct business meetings without glancing at a book. The customers feel welcome and remember the store when they want to buy a book. You are under no pressure to buy a book, just as your mom is under no pressure to buy a sari after making the poor shopkeeper unfold a thousand odd saris. Some of my friends make the argument that it is not morally right to read a book in the store without buying one because they wouldn’t want to buy one which has been read. Apart from not purchasing a book which is obviously dog-eared and bent at the edges, no one really can tell whether a book has been read or not. Of course, books are priced higher in America than in India but if I am treated respectfully and the store goes all out to make my return possible, I will subconsciously pay extra for that service. Of course, I have spent hours browsing in Danai, Khar — a bookstore with the right attitude. But they are a rarity.

Starbucks is another example. They will let you lounge around, even if you do not order a coffee. You can order a $1.61 coffee and spend several hours to go about your business. No one will disturb you and occasionally you will be even treated to a free sample or a refill. I write the bulk of my posts in a local Starbucks, who sometimes go extra lengths to make my visit comfortable. Starbucks Gossip writes:

Vivek Sharma works on his social network software program at a Manhattan Starbucks (precious real estate) says that, “”It sometimes amazes me that they are not bothered by how much time or money you spend here. Melinda Lee doesn’t even order coffee, but spends up to seven hours a day at Starbucks. “I am a starving artist,” she says. “I bring my own teabags and get them to give me hot water. They don’t seem to mind.” [Source: New York Post].

They don’t seem to mind, so why do we?

The world of Starbucks

Sunday brings another round of dilemma – whether to take my weekly off or to push ahead with my dreary immense reading backlog. Starbucks is truly a microcosm of urban elite American life, especially if its located near a theatre. People of all walks of life will hover around – the teenager “just chilling”, the omnipresent business type who spreads his or her stuff over two tables and blocking us all or just the idler ordering a latte before attempting to find Nemo. The off-and-on rain is typical of the Atlantan yo-yo weather but the unbearable heat today made the confines of Starbucks quite pleasant.