SBX, Fair Trade Coffee & Me

Wherein it is learned that one can have one's coffee and write about it too. A blog-away-from-blog for coffee posts and the resulting "brew-haha."

My Photo
Location: Pasadena, California

Just a middle-aged guy from Pasadena, who woke up one morning to discover more and more sense in making green choices . . . and how easy it had become.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Spare-a-Dime, Lost: A Tale of Reusable Perfidy

It's been a long time -- nearly a year in fact -- since I have blogged anything about SBX, and their efforts to be green. Today I rise to gripe about the Personal Cup Overcharge.

Thanks to a work colleague's thoughtfulness over the winter holidays, I started using a reusable insulated mug for coffee from the mer-girl's place in 2007. I drink more of their coffee than I should, and the exhortations of Anna at Bring Your Own and the "Coffee Cup Waste Calculator" link on the temporarily defunct Noreen's Five Percent convinced me, when this windfall fell my way, that I should stop using paper for my coffee.

In addition to it being a good thing from an enviro perspective, there is a 10 cent discount for bringin' your own.

Except today I noticed that the register girl rang up my drink at the full price. And I realized, in retrospect, that this had been happening a lot.

Now, even if I drank two mocha's every single day (and I'm not quite that bad), still that amounts to a little over $70 a year. Not earth shattering, but I wouldn't toss $70 all at once in the trash if you handed it to me either.

Then it occurred to me that this may happen hundreds, or even thousands of times a year! And given the millions of cups o'joe-to-go that SBX sells -- well egad! -- that could be thousands of ill-gotten dimes falling negligently into the mermaid's coffers . . . and out of customers pockets.

Frankly, it screams class action to me. (Wicked grin.) And if there is a good, struggling lawyer out there looking for an interesting case, let's chat.

Meanwhile, I think I will have a chat with SBX brass and see if they are interested in earmarking those dimes for some worthy cause or something -- just to do the right thing.

Oh, and I will keep using the reusable cup: The cup calculator says that our mythical coffee addict would use 45 pounds of paper cups in a year. Yikes!

Amused by the Starbucks Challenge? Me too. Now come see my real mission in the blogosphere: Easy Green and its companion journal, Observations, and such: Notes on the Kitchen Calendar

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya: Darkness in the Heart of SBX?

Not too long ago, Siel of greenlagirl asked if I was still feelin' so positive after the meeting with SBX managers in LA; at the time she asked, I was still quite happy notwithstanding the nine-month-long time frame they set and my recent heavy run of challenge failures. So, am I happy today?

Today, not so much.

Oh certainly part of my discontent may stem from the fact that the Vice-President's chief of staff says he forgot he leaked classified information for political gain and that he was ordered by the vice-president to do it, now that he thinks about it for a minute -- and the mainstream media, even the blogs0sphere is hardly mentioning it.

I mean, really now -- this is the John Dean moment, when the Counsel to the President turned to the public and said "it's exactly as bad as you thought, the [vice]-president ordered these criminal acts, and ordered more crimes to cover them up."

Next is supposed to come the shock and outrage, and media frenzy to get all the details; and then Cheney resigns (for health reasons), to help save the foundering Bush administration, and then George W. resigns after the FISA court finds his warrant-less wiretaps were felony violations of FISA and a violation of the Constitution -- resigning before he can be impeached, mind you-- claiming he didn't know what he did was illegal. (And of course the the current Attorney General, Alberto "Brownie" Gonzalez and some others will go too, since the esteemed AG both (a) gave the bad advice and (b) doesn't really even understand why what W done did is illegal and immoral too boot.)

But it's not happening!

The media has given it a big yawn, perhaps because every one kind of knew in their gut that this was going to happen, that in the world of an Alpha-male like Cheney a toady like Libby doesn't sneeze without permission and a gruffly growled "Good job, Scooter" from the boss.

So I am not in a charitable mood: Or more to the point, my dusty old legal strategist used-to-be-a-lawyer hat got dusted off and I am in a disgruntled and paranoid mood.

Let's Play Paranoid "What If?"

What if one ore more of the folks at the meeting realized that over the summer, or at the start of fall, Starbucks would be making major changes that would affect the issue?

What if one of those changes was to eliminate FT coffee altogether, substituting its OWN certification that allowed coffee from plantations, say, or corporate growers, so long as certain barely green and barely socially-green requirements were met?

What if Starbucks is simply planning to stop selling FT all-together, and is just waiting for current contracts or stocks to run out?

What if the canny manager who came up with 9 months had a good laugh after the meeting about dodging a bullet and keeping us on hold indefinitely?

See what I mean?!?

In a world so cynical that direct, unambiguous, unimpeachable evidence that a top elected official casually broke the law for political gain is a yawn would it be any less shocking that the Mermaid's Manager Minions were in on the joke, and part of every conspiracy laid to SBX door?

In such a world, I am a real chump.

(Hey -- watch it! This is self-flagellation, you don't get to play.)

In such a world Cynical Siel's intuitions are validated, and I am going to go hide in my tree house drinking certified FT, Shade Grown, Organic, hand-ground, french-pressed coffee all by myself. I might even use a magnify glass to heat the water.

Silver Lining?

Or -- wait, ouch! Wait's that? Ooooh. It's Hope. Hope springing! Springing eternal, right here in this chair. What if -- what if -- no, it couldn't be true.

Ok, I'll say it and then you can hit me too: whatifstarbucksis (gasp) goingtochangetoallFTcoffee(furtive look over shoulder) oratleastdoubleortripletheFTintheirrotation??

Huh? Well?!?


You're right of course. The President has admitted to impeachable felonies and the Vice-President has been fingered by his long-time top aid for the same, and they still get their coffee served by the White House mess.

Do you suppose Dick Cheney drinks FT, organic coffee? If you need me, I'll be in the treehouse.


Amused by the Starbucks Challenge? Me too. Now come see my real mission in the blogosphere: Easy Green and its companion journal, Observations, and such: Notes on the Kitchen Calendar

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Nine (9) Failures in a Row! or Monrovia's Monster Mistake

This is so unbelievable its -- well its unbelievable. I have gone to nine Starbucks in a row since my last published Challenge with every single one an unmitigated FAILURE.


And this includes my favorite stores and stores I have terrorized before, and stores that have passed before and even baristas who've passed before!!!

* Sigh. *

About 10 days ago, when I'd had a "run" of three Challenge failures, I vowed to wait until I had a success to brag about even if disappointed with the lack of awareness in some stores. But the loses mounted, and store after store had no clue at all about Fair Trade, about Starbucks posted policy or worse: Tried to pass off ordinary coffee as Fair Trade.

I went to stores in Pasadena (several) Monrovia, LaVerne (several) and various LA County locations in between. No joy. Here is a typical experience for this month, from Monrovia on January 13, at 3:40 PM, written in the store and saved as a draft entry via WiFi, so the memory was fresh.


LOCATION: Monrovia

621 W. Huntington Drive
Monrovia CA, 91016 United States

It was nice day in the San Gabriel Valley, and, for me a rare event, I strode into the Starbucks without Miss Hannah, who was home with her mom. Thus unencumbered, I casually asked for my usual "Venti Fair Trade drip, please."

The tall Monrovia partner-boy looked puzzled, then scared. He rang up my sale, and poured me a cup of coffee.

"What's this?" I asked, knowing full well that FT Estima was on display out front but not on brew.

"Uh Guatemalan, uh mumble mumble, " said he.

"Is it Fair Trade?" asked I.

"Mumble mumble," said he. "Cough."

My inner Middle School Teacher took over.

"No. Its not," I said sharply. "Cafe Estima is your only certified Fair Trade blend. Please read the Scoop, ask your manager and your regional manager about the policy on fair trade."

I was curt, to say the least. The partner looked stunned.

"I'm sorry, but you are the fourth store in a row with this problem, and it is pretty discouraging. Just check out Fair Trade so you guys are up on it, ok? "

"Uhm, okay."

"Thanks. " Then, more, "Can I have a triple Grande Mocha, then? "

"Uh, okay."

"Whole milk, extra whip," I added sullenly, feeling suddenly depressed by the whole episode. Serve 'em right if I dropped dead of clogged arteries on the spot.

Amused by the Starbucks Challenge? Me too. Now come see my real mission in the blogosphere: Easy Green and its companion journal, Observations, and such: Notes on the Kitchen Calendar

Friday, January 06, 2006

Estima Mystery Solved, But Make Mine A Cup of FAILED Trade

LOCATION: Colorado & Bonnie, Pasadena
1687 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena CA, 91106
United States 626-578-7244

Oh my. One big win, but now one bigger-than-big booboo, and utter SBX failure. Sigh.

"May I have a venti fair trade coffee please?"

"Sure," said the Barista and turned to pour the cup.

"Whoooo Hooo ... oops," I thought, as he pulled the tap on a cup of Christmas Blend.

"What's this?" I asked.

"Your coffee?"

"Uh, no. That looks like, uhm, Christmas Blend."


"That's not a Fair Trade blend."

"Oh." Blank stare.

The completely blank stare left even me unable to bring myself to educamate the completely clueless partner on his own product.

Mark: FAIL

To be charitible the partner -- tall male (about 6'4"), mid-20's dark hair, dark eyes, on shift about 7:15 am) took the "Say Yes" training a shade too far, saying "Yes" without a clue as to what he had agreed to do.

And as an aside, I think the Mystery of the Missing Estima is solved: The other partner on told me, when I asked, that she thought Cafe Estima as Coffee of the Week was optional with local managers, and that they had a ton of the Christmas Blend left over that had to be moved first (thus it was the COW). Now I don't know about what is optional and what is not, but maybe they would have sold more Christmas Blend if it had been Fair Trade . . .

And oh yeah, Starbucks -- why stop at Christmas? Why not have a Bodhi Blend available only on December 8; or a Kwanzaa Pack, with eight FT African coffees; etc, etc. Just kidding. Well, maybe.

Amused by the Starbucks Challenge? Me too. Now come see my real mission in the blogosphere: Easy Green and its companion journal, Observations, and such: Notes on the Kitchen Calendar

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Challenge #9: Winner #2!

Location: Sierra Madre Villa & Foothill
3429 East Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena CA, 91107 United States

When a store passes the challenge it is much less interesting for blogging purposes, but it needs to be reported . . . and this store was a winner!

I asked for a venti fair trade drip; two beats passed and then the girl on the register said "No problem, That's not brewing right now so I'll have to make it for you and it will take just a minute." No pause, no redirect; no fumbling over which was the FT coffee. Yay!

Mark: Pass

Guess this was a 4.0 beta challenge. (Grin.)

Amused by the Starbucks Challenge? Me too. Now come see my real mission in the blogosphere: Easy Green and its companion journal, Observations, and such: Notes on the Kitchen Calendar

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

No Challenge: SBX Confab, Diaper Update & A Monkey at the Door

Last week greenlagirl, Anna C. of and I met with Starbucks local and regional managers for SoCal in a big Fair Trade chat. The meeting went well, and while I had intended to blog extensively about the outcome, I pretty much had my say as a comment to greenlagirl's blog entry. SO, if you care to you may read my longish comment on the meeting, right here.

Suffice to say that, as an old trial lawyer, I was far more gleeful that there had been a commitment to a time certain, and an easy-to-calculate metric agreed to than I was dismayed by the longish time-frame. But that was my take, and it is informed by many many years of impatiently waiting for what should be an obvious and easy change by one company or agency or another. The metric leaves no wiggle room, which means when the newspapers start to pick up the challenge -- say over the spring or summer -- it will be clear if Starbucks passed or failed their own challenge.

Diaper Update or, This Man and A Baby

Starbucks La Verne (@ D St. & Foothill), and BigBoss Paula have proved true to their word and installed a diaper changing table in -- ta da -- the men's room! So far as I can tell, there is no changing table in the ladies room, yet.

Well knock me over with a feather, they did it! Huzzah!

Ms. Hannah will be getting a clean rear-end with dignity and style today. I am kind of bummed (haha pun!) that I can no longer show off my six-second, one handed, on the lap diaper wrangling style. I really enjoyed the part where I threw both hands in the air and the crowd roared it's approval of my . . . oh wait. That last didn't happen.


But the fold-down changing table did! And again I say huzzah!

Monkey at the Door

In this holiday season it is not unusual to see a package or two show up on the door step, but IClick Here For Monkey & Son Coffee didn't order anything recently, so I was a little surprised to find a box addressed to me from no one I immediately recognized on the door yesterday. I opened it up and Oh Yes! I had almost forgotten that glg and cityhippy had awarded me a cool prize for, er, something Starbucks challenge-y, and here it was -- a big package of certified, Fair Trade, Organic coffee from Monkey & Son . . . cool.

Since it was beans, I ate a couple, and they were quite nice; a little dry, but nice. They should make fine coffee . . . now, how to grind them? Should I dig out the old electric spice and alleged coffee grinder, or use the wedding-gift Magic Bullet (and in JUST 6 SECONDS have FRESH GROUND COFFEE)? They both work, but they both really chop the beans, and I have had gourmet types sniff deprecatingly at "chopped coffee."

We have a hand turned grain mill, that grinds wheat between two little mill-stones. No, really, we do. But I think it would be wrecked for flour-milling if I ground coffee in it.

We also have a hand cranked coffee grinder, which I think uses a more traditional grinding technique, but it is not currently mounted (it clamps to the the counter or bolts to the wall), so I can drag it out this afternoon for a cup.

Although I DO have a mortar and pestle -- but I try to reserve that for crushing eggshells for the worms and compost. (Grin; confused? Tune into my Easy Green blog next weekend (URL below) for the low down on bein' a worm farmer in the city.)

I think its the hand-cranked, wall-mounted coffee grinder after all.

Meanwhile -- Thank you greenlagirl, cityhippy, and, of course Monkey & Son! (Ironic that I am sitting here in LaVerne, blogging live from Starbucks no less, mere blocks away from Monkey & Son's operation. Ah technology!)

[UPDATE: See how the Coffee got ground, read Clean Coffee, Extreme]

Amused by the Starbucks Challenge? Me too. Now come see my real mission in the blogosphere: Easy Green and its companion journal, Observations, and such: Notes on the Kitchen Calendar

Friday, December 16, 2005

Challange # 8: You Can What?!? Laaaaadies and Gentlemen, We Have a Winner!

Location: Fair Oaks & State Street
454 North Fair Oaks Ave
South Pasadena CA, 91030

I walked into the store in the middle of morning rush -- but as I was on the way to meet with greenlagirl, Anna C. of and the Starbucks regional Big Bosses and some local store managers, I was in a heartless mood.

"Venti Fair Trade Drip, please," I asked, despite the 12 people in line behind me.

The Barista paused, looked over her shoulder. I could see the wheels working: Hmm. No FT on brew.

"We can press it for you; it will take about four minutes."

DING DING DING -- Weeeoooooo WeeeeeeOOOOOO WeeeeeOOOOOO -- Flashing lights: JACKPOT!

The first store, ever, to offer the FT coffee, pressed, without the redirect!

There's not much else to say; when I declined, because I was suddenly struck by the urge for chocolate, and I asked for a mocha instead, the barista looked stricken, and tried to convince me to have the FT. ROFL!

I assured her that I was not unhappy, just interested in Chocolate. She asked why I asked for the FT drip then. "Because I am going to chat with the regional bosses this morning in LA and want to tell them that you gave the right answer!"

She looked really relieved; and yes, I told Big Bos Marisol, of South Pasadena, specifically of this store's excellent response! In fact, she is sitting right here next to me at Pico & Robertson as I finish and publish this post via WiFi.

Thanks State Street So. Pas!

Amused by the Starbucks Challenge? Me too. Now come see my real mission in the blogosphere: Easy Green and its companion journal, Observations, and such: Notes on the Kitchen Calendar