Written to the song: Needed me — Rihanna
“Coffee is a language in itself.” — Jackie Chan
“ Hi, can I please have an extra-hot hot chocolate with coconut milk and no whip cream?”
“Yup. Sorry, is that non-fat milk?”
“No, the opposite. Coconut milk — full fat milk.”
“Great! Can I have a name for the cup?”
“Have a great day Hannah!”
Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Schultz reveals in his autobiography that his goal with Starbucks was to change the way America experiences coffee (Schultz, 1997). Inspired by coffee shops in Milan, he appreciated the quality of coffee, the café atmosphere, and Italian “coffee culture”. One of the ways that Starbucks changed the coffee experience first in Seattle, was through personalizing coffee cups by asking for and writing your name on the cup.
Names have so much power to them and are seen as a rite of passage within society. When a baby is born it is given a name, becoming a person. You give your dog a name to personalize it. Names also dictate popular social culture, where names like “Emma” significantly increased in popularity after Jennifer Aniston’s character (Rachel) in the show “Friends” names her daughter Emma.
In my course titled “Mafia Culture and the Power of Symbols, Rituals & Myth” we learned about the significance of a Mafioso’s name. A name in Mafia culture is linked to power, where you are truly accepted when you are given a Mafia nickname depicting a physical characteristic, biographical quality or moment, or characteristic trait. The professor of the course Antonio Nicaso is a Mafia expert and genius. He told my class that he wrote an article revealing information about a mobster, where Antonio misspelled the mafioso’s name.
The police notified Antonio revealing that he was mentioned in a tapped conversation of the mobster threatening to kill Nicaso for misspelling his name. In the mafia, names are powerful.
In Judaism, names have valence as well. In Ashkenazi tradition an infant is named after a family member that has passed away. Sephardic Jews on the other hand traditionally name their child after a living relative. This naming ceremony is significant to remember the essence of that family member. Moreover, Kabbalists believe that a name reveals information on an infant’s destiny. The Hebrew name is given at a naming ceremony where the newborn and the parents are given a blessing.
I believe that Starbucks baristas misspell our names as a marketing campaign (I’m sorry, I love you guys but how is it possible to spell my name as “Amah?” — true story). Let me explain.
I love social media. Though, now there is the social expectation and reality that our lives will be public and published via Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. As a new-Instagram user I have to admit that I absolutely adore the app. Unfortunately, now at parties most people are texting or Snapchatting the scene instead of enjoying the party itself. People travel to post photos on social media and film concerts instead of dancing their faces off. Nowadays we share everything with everyone — which is both good and bad (mom, I promise someone will hire me one day).
The thing is, we often tend to share funny or strange experiences with friends. For example, Starbucks incorrectly spelling our names. Even the hashtag or slang word “basic” no longer has one definition referring to a chemical component which neutralizes an acid, but (typically) a girl that upholds to her gender stereotype specifically featuring a grande non-fat Starbucks and the manicured girl emoji. When our name is misspelled, we are initially confused and then we snap a photo to send to our friends. For some people a name has significance behind it. For everyone, a name is a big part of who they are. This is the exact reason why we correct people when they misspell or call us by the wrong name. Maybe my name is super exotic or I slur my words, but I truly believe that either the baristas purposefully misspell our names, or that Starbucks has a genius social media marketing campaign.
Check out this hilarious parody from a perspective of a Starbucks barista: