Make it un-snappy.

I suppose Starbucks officially became a “mature” business when they started opening locations across the street from one another, but today’s story in the Wall Street Journal pretty much confirms it: They’re “improving” service by making the baristas work on no more than two drinks at a time, which will almost certainly mean longer lines. And you know customers will love this, because if there’s anything coffee drinkers are, it’s infinitely patient. Particularly at the morning rush.

I’d never heard the term “mature business” before my newspaper’s publisher used it during a meeting some years back. It refers to one that has reached the end of its growth curve — well-established, very likely fat and happy, but no longer growing in any significant way. The only way to increase profits in a mature business is to innovate or cut costs. In the newspaper business, which has been mature longer than Morley Safer, we innovated by larding the management level with assistant managing editors with more slashes in their title than there were discarded Starbucks cups in the trash cans, i.e. assistant managing editor/enterprise/trends/features/fashion. We were told there was an AME at the Philadelphia Inquirer whose job it was to read other publications all day, not to steal ideas but to just get that plugged-in feeling, so that s/he could be the newsroom oracle of the Zeitgeist. I never knew who this person was. Honk if you did.

We also cut costs. Relentlessly. One of my last acts as an employee was to steal a package of brass brads from the supply cubicle. It’s not like anyone used them, and there they were, the nice fat ones I couldn’t find at Office Depot. I figured it was the least I could do to thank them for all they’d done.

In other words, the A-team, the visionary bastards who built the newspaper industry, the Hearsts and Knights and the rest of them, had long since moved on, leaving the bean-counters in charge. I assume this is what’s happening at Starbucks, which probably, now that I think of it, has literal bean-counters on the payroll. The McDonald’s of dark-roast coffee needs to shoot itself in the foot, needs to move into its assistant-managing-editors-with-slashes period, evidently. This is how it does it. Good luck to you, Starbucks. This is why I order my triple espressos without any of that fancy shit, unless it’s a fourth shot of espresso. Because when I need my triple-e, I don’t want something with a pretty fern traced into the milk foam. Because I don’t want milk foam. I WANT COFFEE AND I WANT IT NOW.

Rescued Chilean miners: 11 down, 22 to go. I see a reality show spinoff in the future. “Survivor: Mineshaft,” maybe. One thing I don’t think I’ve seen in all the coverage: What sort of mine is this? Coal, ore, minerals? Does anyone know?

Coozledad’s bull, Llewd, was feeling poorly, seems better now. With pictures. Reading C’s accounts of treating the livestock at his vegetarian petting zoo always stirs the same reaction: 1) I miss my horse, followed by 2) I don’t miss my horse. What I miss: Riding him around and jumping fences. What I don’t miss: The staggering amount of work required to keep animals that size healthy, fed and confined. Llewd hurt his foot during his most recent escapade. Hurt foots require doctorin’, and you can’t put a bull in crossties and expect him to stand quietly, not with those horns. But such a cute face, and that poll just invites scratchin’. I send you a scratch from a long distance, Llewd.

This was yesterday’s talker, although most of the talking was me, asking questions: Dog returns to life after vet allegedly euthanizes it. Such as, where was the dog in the interim between the shot and the attempt at burial? Doesn’t this vet use a stethoscope? What, the guy walked out with a “dead” Rottweiler in his arms through the waiting room?

I bought a sweater late last summer at the Gap, and when I put it on this week I noticed it has the new logo on the label, now the old label. What am I bid for a knee-length white cotton coat-style cardigan, worn maybe three times? In true Gap fashion, it is already starting to fall apart at the seams. P.S. I liked the new label. Who are these people who have all fucking day to complain about a logo on their Facebook pages? I have some student copy I can subcontract to you to edit, if you’re interested.

Which is what I need to do now. So have a swell one, all, and thank your lucky stars you’re not a Chilean miner. Imagine being the last guy out.

Posted at 9:54 am in Current events, Popculch |

55 responses to “Make it un-snappy.”

  1. MarkH said on October 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Chilean mine: both gold and copper.

    35 chars

  2. Jenine said on October 13, 2010 at 10:29 am

    One of the miners handed out some souvenir rocks when he came up. Last night I heard a BBC newscaster say the following phrase, which rhymed according to his pronunciation, “millions of Chileans”. Ha! What a good feeling to hear they are getting out.

    250 chars

  3. Dorothy said on October 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I was glued to the screen last night from my bed at 11:11 when the first miner surfaced. Seeing his 7 year old son burst into tears did me in – I feel asleep sniffling and tear-stained and happy! What a happy day for them and the people of Chile!

    248 chars

  4. Jolene said on October 13, 2010 at 10:51 am

    It’s exciting to watch this. I live in a world of words and images–books, papers, magazines, movies, TV, the Internet. I’m always impressed to see what people who work with tools and machinery know how to do. Also impressive to see how fit the miners look after all this time underground. Whoever has been overseeing their diet and exercise regimes has done a good job.

    374 chars

  5. brian stouder said on October 13, 2010 at 10:53 am

    The miners’ story is compelling; they are emerging from their grave, with changed lives. What is their new normal? Presumeably the old-normal included concerns over what could happen, and now that they have lived through one of the possibilities on the darker side of the spectrum, what’s next? One suspects that moving forward will be no less a challenge, over time.

    Regarding the odd story about the vet who (allegedly) can’t shoot straight, as Florence and the Machine might say, it still appears that that dog’s days are nearly over

    543 chars

  6. Kevin said on October 13, 2010 at 10:56 am

    The best operational improvement Starbucks (and any other coffee chain) could introduce would be an express line for people who just want a damn cup of coffee.

    159 chars

  7. Bob (Not Greene) said on October 13, 2010 at 11:10 am

    By the way, all, on the heels of the recent NY Times article on what’s happening at the Tribune, there is now this.

    234 chars

  8. Hank Stuever said on October 13, 2010 at 11:20 am

    fwiw, I think the Gap logo thing was all an elaborate set-up to draw social network attention to the brand. (We listened to YOU, shoppers! etc.)

    In addition to the G A P logo on bags and signage, Gap has been using that Helvetica font with an upper G and lower a and p for a few years now on certain lines of clothes, which is probably what your sweater has, Nance. I always thought it was a way to keep up with American Apparel’s hipster-helvetica look.

    The _new_ thing was that they were going to go ahead with the “Gap” branding look and replace the ’90s-style G A P logo with the helvetica version and a modern (that word!) blue box off to the right.

    Or were they? I still think they just wanted viral attention.

    728 chars

  9. LAMary said on October 13, 2010 at 11:39 am

    It’s not just who has time to spend all day complainging about Gap logos on facebook. Who has time to write most of the inane crap on facebook? Example:

    PL:It’s not raining here yet.
    SS:It is here.
    PL:Maybe it will rain here later.
    SS:The weather guy said it might.

    Really. These two people I’m related to post this stuff ALL DAY.

    339 chars

  10. 4dbirds said on October 13, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Gap: Never shopped there so was unaware and surprised to learn that the quality was poor and seams didn’t last.

    Vet and Dog: Not sure I could go back and have the dog put to sleep again either.

    Miners: We kill ours and praise the owners as captains of industry. The miners then vote republican.

    306 chars

  11. beb said on October 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    LAMary, I don’t have a window where I work so I don’t know if its raining here or not; will keep you posted.

    There are days when comments here hover that this level of inanity.

    I think the bravest guy in the world is the medical evaluator who WENT DOWN to check the men out before they were hauled up. I’m not terribly claustrophobic but a twenty minute ride in a coffin size capsule would really stress me out. I am just so amazed — and happy — that they have been rescued and that it was well before the original prediction of Christmas time.

    552 chars

  12. Julie Robinson said on October 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Apparently some of the miners fought over who would have the honor of being the last one out. I couldn’t watch the coverage because I started hyperventilating every time I saw the cage they’d travel in. I’m rejoicing and wondering about their future lives at the same time. Could you imagine returning to mining?

    “Mature business” sounds like “vertical integration”, another one of those stupid business school terms. IMHO, America’s economy was healthier before business schools started churning out entitled idiots.

    Say what you will about the excesses at Knight Ridder, when my DH started working at FWN under Helene Foellinger, here’s how his day went: read the morning paper, take a coffee break, go out to sell some ads but be back in time for the morning deadline, eat lunch en masse at the company cafeteria, then rinse & repeat in the afternoon. There might have been three actual work-hours in there. Under KR he worked about 10 hrs/day, nerves jangling the whole time.

    995 chars

  13. ROgirl said on October 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    The poor dog had “spinal issues” and either couldn’t be helped or the owner couldn’t afford to pay for care. What’s going to happen now? The vet that botched the procedure should offer some services, although I would be dubious about using them.

    245 chars

  14. Kim said on October 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    That Tribune Co. memo was yet another classic in the Don’t Get It Dept. But maybe what they’re going for as they rebrand the morning news concept is more boobs, fewer dicks.

    173 chars

  15. Sue said on October 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    ‘mature business’, ‘vertical integration’…
    For some reason I’m irritated by the phrase-change to “grow your business”. What was wrong with “build your business”? It definitely sounds more dynamic; “grow your business” even sounds awkward to me.

    249 chars

  16. MichaelG said on October 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    It’s not raining here, Mary.

    You are, unfortunately, correct about miners in the US, 4dbirds.

    96 chars

  17. Mindy said on October 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Starbucks will forever remind me of Best in Show, which IMDb quotes exactly, “We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other.” Being a cornfed Hoosier, I thought that was just a joke until I visited Seattle and saw that Starbucks was indeed across the street from Starbucks and next door to Seattle’s Best. I never like the coffee at any Starbucks – it always tastes burned and bitter even when it was very fresh. And the cash outlay! Should be called Warbucks.

    I’ve heard “mature” assigned to a product, a must-have for me. And boy is it mature.

    678 chars

  18. Rana said on October 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I knew that I was ill-suited for understanding modern economic logic when I first encountered the idea that a “successful” (i.e. investment-worthy) business was not one that saw steady stable profits year after year, but one that saw not only increasing profits, but increasing profit margins.

    So let’s say we have three companies:

    Company A, which is in it for the long haul. They have a steady, reliable business base, and manage a steady profit of 5% a year. Since they are not growing, that 5% is about the same dollar amount every year.

    Company B, which is growing and while concerned about the short term, hopes at this point to become a long-term going concern. It also makes 5% profit a year, but since it’s growing, that 5% has a higher dollar value each year.

    Then there’s Company C. It’s not interested in the long term, nor establishing a lasting brand, or any of that. Instead, it’s looking to make as much money as soon as possible before flaming out in a blaze of glory and pink slips. It makes 5% profit the first year, 6% the next, 7% the next, and so on. It is unclear if the real dollar amount of that profit is also increasing, and it’s probable that the rate of profit margin increase is very unstable.

    Yet by the logic of today’s market, Company C is the success, and the one to invest in, while Company A is a stagnating failure. (Company B, meanwhile, could go either way, depending on whether it decides to go public with its stock or not.)

    (I won’t get started on what the environmentalist in me thinks of this “logic.”)

    1583 chars

  19. Julie Robinson said on October 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    After reading LAMary’s comment I checked Facebook and the first posting I read was about rain.

    94 chars

  20. brian stouder said on October 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Mindy – loved the video!

    Although to be honest, all I saw was the wonderful rack on the star of the commercial.

    114 chars

  21. Julie Robinson said on October 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    That was a “mature” response.

    29 chars

  22. brian stouder said on October 13, 2010 at 1:52 pm


    4 chars

  23. 4dbirds said on October 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    It is not raining here. I like Starbucks. I never drank coffee before discovering Starbucks. I managed to survive an army career without drinking coffee. I don’t even think it is that expensive, a buck and some change. I tried Caribou Coffee but it had a moldy taste to me.

    278 chars

  24. Dorothy said on October 13, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I respectfully disagree, Beb, with your statement that some days here at nn.c the comments hover that (sic) this level of inanity.

    I like to think if we are anywhere in the neighborhood of inanity, the comments are actually closer to being “sarcastic” or “flip”.

    from World English Dictionary
    inanity (ɪˈnænɪtɪ)

    — n , pl -ties
    1. lack of intelligence or imagination; senselessness; silliness
    2. a senseless action, remark, etc
    3. archaic emptiness

    509 chars

  25. Bob (Not Greene) said on October 13, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Brian Stouder

    148 chars

  26. moe99 said on October 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    No one has yet commented on the Chilean miner who has his wife and his girlfriend waiting for him to come up. I hope some news outlet covers that reunion.

    162 chars

  27. Dorothy said on October 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I read yesterday moe that there had been some in-fighting among the families and friends camped out awaiting the rescue of the miners. To settle the squabbles, it was decided that the miners themselves would pick the three people who could be there when they first surface. I’m kind of doubting that the scenario you referenced will actually occur. Not on camera anyway!

    372 chars

  28. brian stouder said on October 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Bob (Not Green) – Superb!

    25 chars

  29. Deborah said on October 13, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    A bit of inanity here, it’s actually supposed to rain in Abiquiu today which is a big deal, since this is high desert country. Since I’m on vacation I haven’t watched any TV so have missed the Chilean miners rescue coverage. Although vacation hasn’t stopped me from perusing the internet, you’ll notice.

    Business talk makes my head hurt.

    341 chars

  30. Peter said on October 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    That was some commercial, but did you see that golf shot ‘Nice Shot!” Gee, the ball dribbled about six feet!

    Moe, you read my mind – last night we heard that and my mom said “what do you mean, he has a wife and girlfriend” and we all assumed a sitcom pose.

    My question about the rescue is – they lock the cage from the outside, so who’s going to lock the door on the last guy going up?

    392 chars

  31. Julie Robinson said on October 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Totally off-topic: NPR will stream the entire new album from Elton John and Leon Russell, The Union, until Oct. 19. Listen tonight when you get home; the old guys still have it. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, at least take in Gone to Shiloh, which is haunting.

    368 chars

  32. alex said on October 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Not to trade in stereotypes, but in traditional Roman Catholic countries, and in Latin America, men don’t have a madonna/whore complex like they do in puritanical North America. They just have a madonna and a whore. Candace Bergen got used to it when she married Louis Malle.

    275 chars

  33. moe99 said on October 13, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Here it is.

    86 chars

  34. Dorothy said on October 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Oh heavens – Yonni Barrios actually DID request that both women be there to greet him! Oooh la la…well maybe they’ll schedule that particular rescue to coincide with prime time viewing tonight.

    195 chars

  35. Sue said on October 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Yonni’s probably safer in the mine.

    35 chars

  36. Dorothy said on October 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Red Alert: Yonni began his ascent about 9 minutes ago!!!

    57 chars

  37. coozledad said on October 13, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    You’ve got to wonder if the old saw about submarines going out with 120 crewmen and returning with 60 couples will be borne out with the Chilean miners. Could be why Yonni insisted both his wife and girlfriend be there.

    219 chars

  38. Sue said on October 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    From CNN:
    Yonni Barrios becomes the 21st miner to be brought to the surface.
    Barrios assumed the role of chief paramedic for the group due to his previous nursing experience. As a child, Barrios was tasked with caring for his diabetic mother. Fellow miners are calling him “Dr. House” after the American TV show, which is popular in Chile. He has been in the mine since 1985 and is married with no children.
    Many wondered who would be waiting for Barrios on the surface, after his wife of 28 years reportedly met a woman described as his mistress at a candelight vigil for the miners in September.
    In the end, wife Marta Salinas was there to greet him. After he steps out of the capsule and shakes hands with rescue crew, she approaches him with open arms, buries her face in his shoulder and cries as the two share a long embrace. Words pass between then and they share a kiss before Barrios is loaded onto the stretcher and taken to the triage center.

    958 chars

  39. Dexter said on October 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I heard a segment from a news report that said the big fight down underground was for the right to be last. Brian Williams said it was the “captain of the ship” storyline.
    The first man up and out had high blood pressure, so he came first, and I guess it was a complicated matter deciding who went in order. The nineteen year old kid was suffering pretty bad anxiety and it took a lot of talking-to to even get his ass into the capsule, but he was really glad to be out at last. The second or third guy, whose name was Mario Sepulveda , was really pumped up, leading cheers, singing loudly, high-fiving, passing out mine rocks to dignitaries…what a hoot that guy is!
    Some of the men look like robots, too, for whatever reasons.
    None of them will ever have to work again…will any of them? Some miners just have mining in their blood, ya know?
    Let the bidding begin! These rescuees are about to become wealthy.

    1013 chars

  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Bob, this dates me, I know, but I listened to people complain about what a jerk Lee Abrams was in 1981. Almost 30 years, and he still manages to have a well-paying job. Clearly jerkiness is a career option I should have investigated more thoroughly.

    I never worked for him, but I worked with a number of radio people who had both worked for him and quit and also some who had been peremptorily fired by him (who would not be expected to think well of him, but the manner of termination was classless even for the late 70s).

    What I didn’t realize was just *how* young he was back then. He’s not that much older than I am, darn it.

    638 chars

  41. Deborah said on October 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Off topic: I just read an interesting article in the NYT about cognitive ability and retirement. This all seems pretty self evident but now there’s research to back it up, if you put two and two together, the Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi about the Tea Party and this NYT’s article you come up with why things are way off in the TP. Taibbi described the Tea Party meetings he attended to be populated with lots of codgers in motorized wheel chairs. They’re old retired farts who have impaired cognitive abilities because they watch TV (Fox) all day instead of participating in an active life. Here’s the link to the NYT piece

    738 chars

  42. Jolene said on October 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I heard that Barrios had actually been separated from his wife for some time–that other members of the family knew about the mistress and supported the relationship. He has been with her for 10 years. All of which makes it a little odd that, supposedly, the wife didn’t learn about the other woman until they met at the camp at the mine.

    By the way, if you’re curious, it’s worth googling “Atacama desert” to learn a bit about the area where this mine is locsted. It’s described as the driest place on earth. In some parts of it, no rainfall has ever been recorded. Pretty amazing.

    590 chars

  43. Jolene said on October 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    And here’s a bit more geographic entertainment for you. Came across this on some blog or other last night. Just one click will likely give you a new perspective on the world (although it’s certainly possible that you’re already more knowledgeable on this topic than I was.

    384 chars

  44. moe99 said on October 13, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    radio reports identified the woman greeting Barrios as his mistress…..Need to get the story straight here…

    234 chars

  45. Scout said on October 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Starbucks… meh. Tastes like burnt rubber smells. If I’m going to pay way too much for a cup of coffee I’d rather support an independent. The best in Phoenix is Lola Coffee. Expensive, but worth it.

    201 chars

  46. Deborah said on October 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Wow Jolene, I Googled Atacama desert as you suggested and it’s fascinating. And the other link for the geography lesson about africa was equally informative. Makes me realize what I dunce I am when it comes to geography.

    220 chars

  47. Rana said on October 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I’m at Starbucks fairly regularly, because it happens to be one of the few places in town that stays open late and allows you to hang out with your laptop or other work. I’m not a huge coffee drinker, though, so that colors my experience. I’m addicted to their green tea lattes, and, when it’s warm enough, an iced mocha is a fine thing. Plus they have these little breakfast sandwiches with egg and bacon that are quite good.

    429 chars

  48. Jolene said on October 13, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Wow! Those Chileans know something about expectation-setting. At first, they said they thought it might take until Christmas to get them out. Then, gradually, that prediction was pulled back. When they began taking them out, the prediction was that they’d finish sometime late on Thursday. Now they’re pulling out Numero 31. I think there are four rescue people down there, so that’s only six more trips. At this rate, they’ll be done by midnight or nearly so. Pretty impressive, assuming, of course, that things continue to go so smoothly.

    548 chars

  49. Tom M said on October 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Rana, believe it or not, but it’s likely someone like Warren Buffet would buy stock in Company B.You think most people would pick C and that may be most attractive. That steady growth of B is a value investor’s delight.
    Mature businesses are also known as cash cows.

    268 chars

  50. basset said on October 13, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Mrs. B. and I got home just as Miner 31 was coming out. Went to CNN first to see it live… no, Delaware candidates’ debate. MSNBC, politics. CNBC, more politics. (expletive deleted) FOX had the only live coverage.

    So… we go to A few minutes later, whatever political talk show they were running ends and they start Spitzer and whoever. We watch the last few come up, then we’re at the top of the hour and CNN cuts away from Chile to Larry (worse expletive deleted) King, apparently it’s more important to hear him ask Michael Moore what he thinks about the rescue than to actually see it.

    Now, I don’t give a rusty (another expletive deleted, would abbreviate it to ED but I am a male over fifty) what Michael Moore thinks about anything at all, ever, or Larry King either, and I don’t know how there could be a worse possible time to hear from either of them.

    I cannot believe I voluntarily allowed Fox News to play on the tv in my home.

    967 chars

  51. joodyb said on October 14, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Love the mugshots of Llewd, Cooz. He’s wearing my dad’s expression. Dad was proud of his succession of enormous and wily Hereford then Angus then X’d with Charolais and the eventually resultant Belgian Blues. He was their criminal defense attorney to their literal deaths, and nearly to his, in one case.

    304 chars

  52. Cathie from Canada said on October 14, 2010 at 12:43 am

    I think it was Ben Bradlee who used to say something about how American business was doomed when companies like General Motors stopped thinking they were in business to make cars and started thinking they were in business to make money.

    236 chars

  53. Dexter said on October 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Well, I heard it was “Super Mario” Sepulveda who said he will “die a miner”. I just wonder if any will ever go down into the ground again.
    But truly, truly, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !!

    182 chars

  54. alex said on October 14, 2010 at 7:03 am

    I actually grew accustomed to the Starbucks “burnt rubber” taste and consumed it for a number of years, but noted that quality went down as the chain grew and things became more automated. Instead of barristas brewing shots themselves, machines began dispensing them directly and I had to take it on faith that the extra shot I requested and paid for was in my drink.

    These days I prefer a small locally owned place where the beans taste more raw and less roasted, which took some getting used to, but the drinks are worth the premium price because someone actually has to go to some trouble to make them.

    McDonald’s has added coffeehouse items to its menu, but I haven’t set foot in one of their outlets in years. (Speaking of which, it’s disconcerting when you can feel the rubber soles of your shoes skidding on a film of grease as I recall so often happening in the past.) But I give them kudos even if I haven’t tried their new drinks, because surely it takes something stronger than their watery Cokes to wash down food like this:

    1117 chars

  55. Julie Robinson said on October 14, 2010 at 8:29 am

    The hubs buys his coffee beans at a local place that also roasts them. The ritual at home includes grinding before brewing. And to think that when we were first married he used generic instant.

    195 chars