Barista Misspellings Marketing Ploy

Lexie Reinecke, Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered why the Starbucks baristas get your name wrong every … single … time?

Turns out the people making your coffee aren’t as dumb as you think. In fact, the company puts an emphasis on the importance of education. According to the Starbucks Employment website, 70% of their employees are students or aspiring students. So what is with their atrocious spellings?

Recently, a Starbucks employee revealed the media ploy surrounding the misspelling mystery. According to the employee, baristas intentionally write the names on drink cups incorrectly so that customers will post pictures of their “spelling fails” on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. 

An anonymous assistant manager, in an interview for Cosmopolitan said, “Most mornings I [misspell names] just to mess with people. I love to see their reactions.” She described a particular instance where she purposefully wrote “boob” on a drink cup for a customer named Bob. She said, “He didn’t really care for that. He made a little scene, and my manager gave him a free drink to calm him down. Now he has a sense of humor about it.”

In regard to the media ploy, the manager says she isn’t the only participant. “I don’t know if everyone does it, but when I asked my manager if she does, she admitted most Starbucks employees use it as a marketing tool. Most people aren’t going to post a photo to social media of a cup with their name spelled right. I just use it as a way to be funny, but now I get why people use it as a way to promote the business.”

The Starbucks misspellings have become somewhat of a cultural phenomena. A Red Alert Politics post on the issue explains, “#StarbucksFail is a popular social media hashtag that chronicles the ridiculous ways even the most common of names get spelled on these overpriced coffee cups.”

Websites such as Seventeen and BuzzFeed have even ranked some of the best (and worst) Starbucks mistakes. Among the front runners are Jerol/Jared, Color/Karla, Juelea/Julia, Lynn-Zee/Lindsey and Grethcet/Gretchen.

Comedian Paul Gale created a video parody of the coffee franchise’s strategy. In his video “Why Starbucks Spells Your Name Wrong” he comically examines the intent behind the widespread Sharpie’d mistakes. The video has been linked to Huffington Post and has scored over 9 million views on Youtube. Gale joked, “I didn’t mishear your name. I’m deliberately misspelling your name to confuse and annoy you.”

“Let me assure you, everyone in the world knows how to spell ‘Jessica.’ I decided to write ‘Gessicka’ on your cup to play with your emotions in a shrewd and calculating way. And it worked. You posted about in Instagram, Twitter, and Vine,” Gale said.

While I personally have experienced regular misspellings of my name, I haven’t seen my name particularly butchered by baristas. I usually get Lexi instead of Lexie, but this isn’t just an issue at the caffeine counter. It’d take an hour for me to list all the people I know who’ve made the same mistake, as well as dozens who’ve switched Alexandra to Alexandria or even the dreaded Alex. Thanks, substitute teacher, for that one.

It may be entertaining to poke fun at the Starbucks workers, but, besides one real interview and one parody video, the mistakes aren’t coming from a place of either hate or animosity toward you.

Canadian columnist Jonathan Naymark took a different stance with his 2014 article titled “So Starbucks Got Your Name Wrong? Get Over It, Princess.” In it, he attacks what he sees as the spoiled consumers, a stereotype not new to the Starbucks brand. Many millennials who frequent the coffee chain have become synonymous with spending exorbitantly on beverages and posting narcissistic pictures of themselves holding frappucinos on social media.

Naymark writes, “Baristas may get harassed for not remembering individual names of the thousands of people they pour drinks for; however, I think they are a noble profession. They are our frontline workers bringing sugar and caffeine to the masses, they are nurses for the proletariat.”

Maybe we shouldn’t blame the baristas for what can sometimes appear to be hilarious, and deliberate, slip-ups. I’ve had just about as many friends here at campus misspell my name as the people at the Starbuck’s Rheem location. The baristas are our energy savers, our grade helpers, our homework motivators.

Let’s not bite the hand that feeds us. Really. Where would you be without the venti coffee cups they fill?