Coffee Shop Capitalism, or, Overthinking Your Drinking
Election’s over, my little ponies, and that means it’s time to get back to the real bread and butter of MA101 — overthinking the minutia of This Writing Life (TM).
Take, for instance, coffee.
I am (as this blog may have occasionally mentioned) a writer by trade, ergo, I consume both coffee and alcohol in staggering quantities, occasionally mixed together, so that I ping-pong violently back and forth between two altered states, escaping only in my dreams, which are horrific.
(Note: the above paragraph may or may not have been exaggerated for romantic effect, which should only be expected; “writer” is just another word for “liar.”)
So recently, as I sat sipping my coffee, it occurred to me that the “special order” of comedic fame — you know, the “half-whip no-caff dry latte with a shot of macadamia nut” sort of thing that no one admits to ordering, but someone must, because we have jokes about them — is really a sort of microcosm of capitalism at its purest and most direct.
I mean, think about it. Say you really do want a latte or whatever made a very specific way. You basically have two options:
- The Invisible Hand: Find a coffee shop that makes it just the way you like it without being asked. Everyone’s beans, milk, froth, etc. is a little different — there’s one out there that’ll work for you. You silently punish the coffee shops that got it wrong, and reward the one that gets it right. Market forces in action!
- The Squeaky Wheel: Alternatively, you memorize your very specific order and demand it of every barista. In theory, this teaches owners over time what their customer wants, leading to better-made drinks and an improved product for everyone. Everybody wins!
Of course, not everyone’s a specialty-drink customer. Most of us are happy to shove any brown sludge in our face as long as it keeps the wakey-juice flowing. There’s a reason the half-whatever no-whatever something-chino is a comic strip gag.
But for those of us that spend (I don’t even want to think about this) maybe a thousand bucks a year or something absurd like that on daily cups of coffee, there’s enough of an investment that it’s maybe worth getting exactly what you want.
I’m an Invisible Hander, myself, probably out of the same latent Iowan politeness that resists asking for holds or substitutions when I order at restaurants. If I don’t like the menu items I can just eat somewhere else, you know? Don’t have to be rude about it.
But it’s nice to know that either way we’re doing our part to move those market forces around. Isn’t it?