personal details to go

I’ve already had a moan about Starbucks and their grammatical inadequacies, but now I’ve found further reason to complain.

At the weekend, I had to meet a fellow writer who lives in the centre of Madrid; she suggested we meet in Starbucks. Not my first choice, perhaps, but no problem. When I got there, there were two customers at one of the tables, and no one else in the whole place. The camarero – I bet he’d have called himself a barista – took my order.

It annoys me that the smallest measure in Starbucks is “tall”. It annoyed me more that the waiter wanted to know my name.

I asked him why, and he said that it was to place the order. Yes, I know he had to tell his fellow barkeep what sort of coffeee to make. But since, in the near empty establishment, there was absolutely no chance of her giving it to the wrong customer, it seemed a little excessive.

Apparently it’s standard practice here in Spain, though it’s certainly never happened to me in Starbucks in the UK. I explained, politely, that it was nothing personal against him, but that I found it ridiculous and felt he could manage without my name. So he passed on the order: “un tall latte para No” – which I found pretty offensive.

This blasé tossing around of personal information all seems very American to me. I remember a meal in California years ago when the waiter greeted us with, “Good evening, my name’s Saul, and I’ll be your waiter tonight.” My (British) ex proceeded to introduce everyone round the table “…and we’ll be your customers for the evening.”

I suppose it’s all part of trying to make the big chains seem more personal, but it’s sad that it’s reached so far as to infiltrate even into non-English speaking cultures.

A Madrid-based friend tells me that when he called into the local Telepizza for a takeaway order the other night he was asked for his phone number. There he was, placing the order in person, with ready cash in hand, but the staff were obliged to ask for a phone number.

At least there, when he queried it, the guy said, “Yes, it’s a stupid regulation. No problem, I’ll put down the dummy number we use.”

There’s power in names; there’s power in phone numbers. I think we should be allowed to keep our privacy. And, no, I have nothing to hide.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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