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Reading Practice: Starbucks

Average: 3.5 (19 votes)

The famous coffee chain, Starbucks, is starting a new scheme that they think will make their cafe a friendlier place to be. Starbucks employees want to know your first name and will call it when your drink is ready. This is already common practise in America, but very unusual in the UK. Personally, I don’t really want to chat when I go to a coffee shop, I usually go to work! I think I must be very British!

Read the article and answer the true or false questions below. Then let us know what you think about Starbucks' new scheme.
(Orginal article is here).

Lesson by Caroline


Coffee chain Starbucks has begun asking its UK customers their names in a bid to appear more friendly. But do people really want to be on first name terms with their barista?

Just got your head around waiting in line and remembering whether you ordered a grande flavoured latte, a tall caramel macchiato or a venti mocha light frappuccino? Scrap that. Starbucks wants to get back to basics.

"Have you noticed how everything seems a little impersonal nowadays?", its website asks wistfully. "We've all become user names, reference numbers and IP addresses. "From now on, we won't refer to you as a 'latte' or a 'mocha', but instead as your folks intended: by your name," the coffee chain claims.

From now, as well as taking orders from customers, baristas will also ask what they are called so this can be scribbled on cups and called out when coffees are ready for collection. All sounds very American? That is because it is. But across the Atlantic, where the policy has been in place for years, Starbucks' friendliness has not always been reciprocated. The temptation to try Bart Simpson's trick of making up fake rude names to raise a smile is well documented.

So will the British embrace Starbucks' new-found familiarity, find it funny, or should the coffee chain be bracing itself for a backlash? If comedian Arthur Smith, star of TV's Grumpy Old Men, is anything to go on, the brand might be in for a bumpy ride. "I am not looking to make friends when I go into a coffee shop, I just want a drink," he complains. "I want a pleasant but respectful distance between me and the person serving me coffee - I don't want to go clubbing with them."

Piers Guilar thinks customers will benefit from name-calling, not least because the system has practical benefits. "When a barista calls 'latte', sometimes 20 people might think 'is that mine?'," he says. "If they call my name, I'll know when my coffee is ready." He concedes Britain's multicultural population might prove a bit of a minefield for baristas - especially in London - but he thinks Starbucks fans will forgive misspellings and mispronunciations.

As for its comic potential to prompt people to adopt a flurry of fake names, he says anything that makes a service a more fun experience has got to be a plus point.

Decide if the following statements are true or false:

  • 1. Starbucks has started asking for people's surnames when they order their coffee.

  • 2. The writer considers being on first name terms with a Starbucks employee 'very American'.

  • 3. People don't always tell the employees their real names.

  • 4. Some people are against telling employees their names and don't want to make friends, they just want a cup of coffee.

  • 5. Piers Guilar thinks it will be easier to keep the old system, where the employee calls out the name of the drink that has been made.

  • 6. It will be easy for employees to pronounce people’s names in the UK, as they are all very similar.