How Starbucks Trained Us All To Use Its Lingo, And Why It Improved Customer Service

While some people balk at having to ask for a “tall” or a “venti” when they go to Starbucks, most people have learned that the fastest way to satisfy their caffeine cravings is to use the company’s particular lingo and keep the line moving. This, says one leadership expert, is not a coincidence.

“Starbucks had a problem when it first got started in that customers were coming up and using their own vocabulary and taking their own time to order a drink,” says Anne Morriss, author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business, in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. “Very quickly, this process was eroding the service experience because the lines were getting longer.”

So rather than train its employees into how to deal with customers using all sorts of vague terms for sizes and types of coffee drinks, Starbucks realized it was easier to train customers to use a single system of ordering.

“We all have been very well trained, it turns out,” says Morriss. “When we show up in line, if we order it incorrectly, then the correct version is shouted out for the whole store to hear… Really what’s motivating is that we don’t like to be corrected in public.”

In the end, that desire to not be corrected by the people making your coffee resulted in a net positive for both Starbucks and its customers. “It turns out that it had an enormous impact on the efficiency of the line and the quality of the service experience,” explains Morriss.

Thanks to not.gross for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Not in my case. Will forever ask for small, medium, or large.

    • Snape says:

      Wild thing.. you make my heart sing.

    • Portlandia says:

      I’m with you there! I refuse to use them. I also use the S M L monikers.

      • RevancheRM says:

        Me three.

        In hindsight, I guess they have ‘corrected’ me, but as I rarely care about anyone’s judgement of me (muchless someone I’m only exchanging credits for product with), I’ve neverfelt critized there.

        But, if others have and it’s improved the process, power to Starbucks for emplying mass psychology relatively effectively.

        • Southern says:

          I have had it happen once, and until I read this article, I had NO IDEA why they did that. Now I know.

          My wife and I were at a Starbucks in [redacted] .. uhh, I mean The Woodlands Mall in Houston. :p I occasionally have a craving for a caramel mocha, so while we were walking around we decided to grab a coffee. I went in and ordered a Large Caramel Mocha, and they said (rather loudly, didn’t know why), “You mean a VENTI?” I said (just as loudly) “If that’s the biggest one ya got, then yeah”.

          I thought maybe the guy was just hard of hearing or something. *Shrug*

          Nothing more was said, I got my large. lol :)

          Learn something every day. :)

    • rdclark says:

      Because, what, those are somehow universal? What if there’s a fourth size? What if this place’s 20oz cup is a Large and that one’s 20oz cup is an Extra Large? Do you mean “small” or “the smallest one you have?”

      These labels are all arbitrary. Most places have to explain them, just as Starbucks does. At those places, you say medium and they give you whatever they call medium, but they have no idea what you meant when you said it. Nor do they care, most likely.

      Starbucks at least defines its terms, and eliminates the whole issue of “what do you mean by “medium?” You order a Grande and both you and the server know you’re talking about a 16oz cup.

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        “What do you mean by ‘medium’?”

        I mean fucking medium. Give me my goddamn coffee.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        They kind of are universal.

        Small = smallest adult size

        medium = the size above small

        Large = the size above medium

        XL/XXL/etc. = Sometimes labeled as a unique name (Big Gulp, Trente, etc.) but is always the next biggest size after larger.

        Some places may have additional sizing choices, just as child or something massive, but it really and truly is universal.

        • AustinTXProgrammer says:

          But would the small be the tall or the off menu but available short?

          • curiositykt says:

            That’s like a stupid kiddie cone at the ice cream place. Why isn’t it ever on the menu, yet it almost always exists! I want the smallest ice cream you will sell me. It’s not about the price, it’s just that I can’t eat that much ice cream and I’d rather not waste it or have it melt all over me!

      • BurtReynolds says:

        Yes, at Dunkin Donuts I order an extra large coffee. The cup sizes are displayed as you walk up to the counter.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Um, why? McDonalds offers a cheeseburger, a quarter pounder with cheese, and a double quarter pounder with cheese. Do you order a “medium” when you want a quarter pounder with cheese?

      • Portlandia says:

        You can’t equate the drink sizes where the nomenclature is pretty standard across the country (in terms of relative portion size) with how burgers are prepared. Each of those burgers are prepared different therefore requiring different names.

        Your example is like like asking, would you go to an Italian restaurant and just asking for pasta and expecting them to know what you want. If you go into just about any restaurant in america and ask for a large soda they’ll know exactly what you want.

        • DrBoomerNg says:

          I agree, but must throw in this pedantic addendum: without specifying what kind of soda, probably not.

        • JJFIII says:

          So tell me in every restaurant in America, what is the size of a large soda? What about an extra large? How about a small? What Starbucks has done is EXACTLY what 7/11 did. They have the BIG GULP. and then they had the SUPER BIG GULP. If I walked in and said how much for a large, there is no way to answer that question. If you walk in and ask for a BIG GULP, it is easy.

          • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

            This. Loias’ whole rhetoric is just anti-Starbucks nonsense. If you don’t like Starbucks, just say so and everyone can either agree or disagree or not give two fucks and move on. But pulling the “I refuse to acquiesce to their corporate mumbo-jumbo” card is silly unless you do that for ANY establishment that has a different naming convention for their sizes.

            • Portlandia says:

              Please offer another popular restaurant that has a naming convention other than SML or listing the actual ounces?

              • grebby says:

                Coldstone Creamery. Like It = Small. Love It = Medium. Gotta Have It = Large.

                • Rocket says:

                  Every time I go to Cold Stone, I just say “small”, “medium”, or “large” with no problems.

              • parv says:

                Jamba Juice has “original” size around 20 oz. There are also 12 oz, 16 oz, and one larger than 20 oz sizes; don’t know the names of the others.

                I ask for one of “small”, “medium”, “large” sizes (point out the cup or measurement if needed). At Starbucks, I tell the number of shots in an espresso.

              • varro says:

                Most every coffee shop in Portland has the cup sizes by ounces – 12, 16 or 20….

          • Portlandia says:

            It’s larger than their medium and small, that’s how big it is.

            If you actually read my comment I did mention the cues the standard nomenclature gives consumers is on RELATIVE size. If someone were to walk into a SBX for the first time and you ask them if they want the Fuaxtalian size Tall, Grande, or Venti vs S, M, L which would be more confusing? It’s not immediately apparent with the Fauxtalian sizes which is the smallest, the largest or the middle size.

            Yes, S, M, L while standard terms to describe RELATIVE size, they don’t specify actual volume. but seriously, since when was the last time you went into a restaurant and heard anyone ask can I have the 24 oz soda and my wife will have the 12 oz soda. This is very rare.

            By all means, keep drinking our SBX coffee, order it however you want to my point was this article is FULL OF SHIT. The whole “the long lines were caused by confusion” and later “solved by training customers” is a bunch of BS. The way I read this is stupid SBX naming convention caused confusion among customers causing long lines and after becoming very popular people remembered what the sizes mean. This is no Sh*t Sherlock kinda study.

            • drjayphd says:

              …the fuck is “Fuaxtalian”? I know what you mean, and you just transposed two letters, but if we’re going to go all pedantic and HOW DARE STARBUCKS ASK ME TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN WHAT I WANT TO DO, I get to flex my grammar Nazi muscles. :)

            • Trireme32 says:

              I’ll take a liter of cola.

          • Southern says:

            I don’t “order” a “Big Gulp” or “Super Big Gulp”.

            I walk over to the soda machine and grab my own cup, in whatever size I want, fill it, and then take it to the register to pay for it.

            Where is there a 7-11 that requires you to ORDER a soda? I’ve never seen one.

          • Boehme417 says:

            I have never been in a 7-Eleven in my life, but I know what a big gulp is. Good job, 7-Eleven. To top that off, when I want to order a trenta at Starbucks, I’ll ask for “the big gulp.”

      • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

        For things that have different arbitrary size, burgers are not one of them, you order small, medium, and large like with drinks or frys.

      • springboks says:

        No I don’t dine at McDonalds. I also don’t wear skinny, normal or fatty sized clothing. It’s Small Medium or Large. Speaking their language is ridiculous and a product of marketing.

    • imasqre says:

      I’m the same. There is no need to use their “special language” and it gives me a hipster headache.

    • El_Fez says:

      Amen. Of course I love making their eyes bug out when I order a medium coffee, like I just stepped off the Mothership or something.

    • poco says:

      You go, you crazy rebel you! Stick it to the man! Your act of bold defiance is an inspiration to us all.

    • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

      So, when you go to other places with special names for their sizes/portions, do you also use your just-as-arbitrary size naming convention?

      • Tyanna says:

        I can honestly say I’ve never been to another establishment where small, medium, and large aren’t used. Sometimes there is a other sizes that equate to an extra large, or an extra small. Only Starbucks seems to need it’s own verbiage. Correct me if I’m wrong.

        • bluline says:

          “Extra small” is an oxymoron. It makes no sense. “Extra” means more, not less.

          • AwesomeJerkface says:

            No, an oxymoron is when one concept negates the next. “Extra” can be an adjective or an adverb so it modifies a noun or verb. For instance, “extra small” would mean: smaller than usual.

            It is not fixed to only mean increasing volume, but specifically modifying an emphasis its word association.


        • dangermike says:

          I am inordinately bothered when when establishments have three sizes called medium, large, and extra large. It just annoys the crap out of me. Or when they have two sizes with one being “medium”

          • Cream Of Meat says:

            Small is usually kid sized or just not advertised for whatever food industrial complex conspiracy theory you can think of.

        • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

          Somebody elsewhere used the example of 7-11 where they’ve adopted variations of the “Big Gulp”. If you told someone to go into 7-11 and get you a “large Pepsi”, what exactly would you be referring to? That’s why this whole rhetoric of being anti-Starbucks by refusing to use S’bucks’ “lingo” is just silly to me.

          • BurtReynolds says:

            What 7-11 do you go to where you order your drink and it is prepared by someone else?

            It doesn’t matter what they call them in that case. The cashier just needs to recongize what size cup you have.

    • EllenRose says:

      I’ve found an easier way to deal with it: I almost never buy Art Coffee or Art Food. While they may like having their own definitions, if every place I went had its own definitions, I’d go mad. The other night I was at the movies. They had four sizes of popcorn. More to the point, they had the containers for those sizes where they could easily be seen, each labeled with its size. That’s how it’s done.

      • Jawaka says:

        What exactly is art coffee or art food?

        Sounds like you’re creating you’re just as guilty of creating lingo as Starbucks is.

        • EllenRose says:

          Quite true, but it’s personal – I’m not asking you to use it. I coined the term after being served about five square inches of thin meat, one small red potato, and a few beans that’d had some kind of sauce artfully poured over them in a squiggle. And charged quite a few dollars for it. (I didn’t choose the restaurant.)

          Art food is, to me, food in which the presentation, pretentiousness, and price vastly overpower the nutrition.

    • kataisa says:

      Same here. And they can’t force me to use their stupid lingo either unless they want to lose a sale. :-)

      • drjayphd says:

        I’m fairly certain they’re okay with that.

      • Jawaka says:

        I’m just curious but who do you think would be inconvenienced (or even care) more if they lost the sale because this reason; Starbucks or the customer?

        • RevancheRM says:

          The answer is obvious to me: Starbucks.

          They’re obviously trying to sell me something over its actual value, meaning they earn a profit from it. If I don’t buy it, it’s because I don’t want it, and I’ll still have $5.50 in my pocket/in my bank account. But they’ll be out their $3.30 profit.

    • portwineboy says:

      Agree with Loias. Round eye seems like he’s had too much caffeine today. Don’t really care for Starbucks either way, their coffee is generally garbage, but when I do go there I certainly don’t use fake Italian to order. You can go ahead and spout whatever babble you want, but I’ll stick to language.

      • FredKlein says:

        Do you also ask for a “Double hamburger with special sauce, lettuce cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun” at McDonalds, or do you just say “Big Mac”??

        • MPD01605 says:

          I don’t ask for a venti number 1.

        • Cream Of Meat says:

          No, I wouldn’t get a big mac because it would be missing the middle bun.

          Stop trying to be a smart ass.

        • Rocket says:
        • Kensuke Nakamura says:

          Big mac is the name of a particular sandwich, like whopper, reuben, mufaletta, etc. On the other hand, I ask for chicken nuggets at McDonalds because “mcnuggets” describes a food item that already has a common name. If there were a common name for a 3 bun, 2 beef, cheese and thousand island sandwich, I would use that name in place of Big Mac, but Big Mac is the name that comes to mind. Tall is trying to replace a small as the word for a concept that already has a universal name.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Yup. Pretentious douchebags can be pretentious and douchebaggy as much as they want…but I’m not playing their reindeer games.

    • dangermike says:

      This is one of those rare instances I agree 100% with Loias. Cool.

      If they have 3 sizes and it causes any discernible hiccup in service if I ask for a small, medium, or large, they will not receive much of my business. Plus, if they’re going to call the small tall, my loathing toward them will grow that much faster.

      • GMFish says:

        Anyone who calls a “small coffee” a “tall” should be violently murdered over a very long period of time. I’m thinking, stripping him down naked, pouring honey all over his body, and then tying him to a tree in the amazon rain forest.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Yeah, I have a hard time believing that they decided on tall instead of small to help speed up customer’s ordering, as opposed to making people forget that they are paying $4 for a small coffee

      • kokathy says:

        that used to happen when I waitressed. people would order the “golden brown griddle pancakes” and I would repeat back “pancakes” and the customer would repeat back “golden brown griddle pancakes” and gave me a nasty look. Another time a customer complained to the manager because she could tell the pancakes weren’t made in a griddle.

      • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

        Thing is, the tall’s not the small — it’s just the smallest on the menu. You *can* order a short.

    • rmorin says:

      Reminds me of the opposite that used to happen when I worked in an ice cream place 10-12 years ago. We had a flavor called “Hunka Chunka Peanut Butter Fudge”. When I would read the order back to the customer I’d say “Peanut Butter Fudge” as it was written in or register. At least half a dozen times I got a stern look from the customer and they said “No, I want the HUNKA CHUNKA Peanut Butter Fudge”

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Same here. When I do go to Starbucks, I order a large coffee…just like I do anywhere else I go to buy coffee. Save your “venti” for saying 20 in Italian.

      Depending on where I go, they will “correct” what I say.
      Me: “Large coffee with no room please”
      Starbucks cashier: “Venti drip?”
      Me: “Yes, a large coffee”.

    • sherrietee says:

      Exactly. Then again, I have no shame so I don’t care if they shout out “tall” when I say “small”.

    • FilthyHarry says:

      Same here. And I never get corrected. Very smart on their part.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Wow, 32 comments plus sub-comments. I did not imagine it would go this far!

    • dush says:

      You mean big, bigger and biggest?

  2. Sarek says:

    I have never purchased anything in a Starbucks store. I buy my coffee where I buy my breakfast. And even that’s rare.

  3. "I Like Potatoes" says:

    But…according to this old consumerist article, my barista hates me for using the “lingo”. What a dilemma.

    • nishioka says:

      One “barista” who probably quit their job there after six months anonymously mouthing off, or someone who did research and has numbers to back up the complete opposite. Hmmm, who do I listen to…

    • veronykah says:

      If you are not at Starbucks then their stupid “tall, short etc” lingo doesn’t apply.
      Don’t order a “tall” soda at Burger King or a “short” latte at your local coffee shop.
      No dilemma.

  4. Portlandia says:

    “So rather than train its employees into how to deal with customers using all sorts of vague terms for sizes and types of coffee drinks, Starbucks realized it was easier to train customers to use a single system of ordering.”

    Yes because Small medium and large are infinitely more vague than Fauxtalian Tall Grande Venti???

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      Actually, yes. Small, medium and large vary from company to company. Some don’t even have a small. When I go to a restaurant and order a large soda, I don’t actually know what I’m going to get, and I don’t remember it the next time. Because of this I sometimes just ask for a 20 oz soda, and hopefully the employee knows which size that is.

      On the other hand if I’m in a Starbucks I’d know what I’m going to get if I order a tall, grande or venti because they’re the only store that uses those names. I’ve never even bought coffee at Starbucks (or anywhere), and I know their sizes.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        do you know how much coffee is in each size? I don’t. Generally with drinks (soda, coffee, juice) medium is what I get. Some places have a medium that is larger than others or smaller than others, but I never specify an amount of liquid that i want. Beer, yeah you may want a pint but most drinks (unless somebody else is getting sodas at a place without a fountain) I don’t say “20 oz. coke please”

      • veronykah says:

        So how much liquid is in each size respectively?

        • gerald.saul says:

          Short (hot) = 8oz
          Tall = 12oz
          Grande = 16oz
          Venti (hot) = 20oz
          Venti (cold) = 24oz
          Trenta (cold) = 31oz

  5. John says:

    Makes me think back to ROLE MODELS where Paul Rudd REFUSES to call it a Venti, noting all the things wrong with that word. Elizabeth Banks has to point out that Venti means 20 for 20 ounces. Funny scene.

  6. wjmorris3 says:

    My mouth can’t form these words,
    my mind can’t find these words.
    Is it French, or is it Italian?
    Perhaps FrItalian?

  7. The Brad says:

    Or if Starbucks would have changed its sizes to small medium and large it wouldn’t have had the line problem in the first palce.

    • Rachacha says:

      But is small really small, or is small your medium, or is medium your small. That was the problem at many Fast food restaurants where they had the following size drinks:
      Kids – Medium – Large – SuperSize/KingSize

      So if you wanted a small, you had to order a medium etc.

    • Weakly says:

      Kudos to Starbucks for solving the very problem it created!

  8. Portlandia says:

    Sorry one more….
    “When we show up in line, if we order it incorrectly, then the correct version is shouted out for the whole store to hear… Really what’s motivating is that we don’t like to be corrected in public.”

    I dislike SBX coffee, but their iced tea is good in a pinch, I still order using S, M L and have never been ‘shamed’ when they yell out their sizes in Fuaxtalian. I could give a fuck what a bunch of burn coffee drinking strangers think.

  9. Floobtronics says:

    Fabulous. I don’t say grande, I say medium. I don’t say non-fat, I say skim. I really don’t care about their made up language (, nor do I care if they correct me, as I will continue ordering in English.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      If you want to be pedantic about “medium” vs. “grande,” fine, but why the hatred for “non-fat?” It’s just as valid a term as skim…

      • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

        That’s what I thought, too. Skim and non-fat tend to be coast-based. I’m from CA and Californians say non-fat. When I lived in DC, it was skim. But, both are understood everywhere. This is all just anti-S’bucks bait for idiots.

        • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

          non-fat is for food and maybe some non milk drinks.
          skim is what you say for mil or drinks with milk in it.

          • Charmander says:


            I live on the west coast and I buy non-fat milk, marked right on the carton and gallon jug.

          • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

            I’ve usually seen “non-fat” food labeled as “fat free”, unless it’s a milk byproduct like yogurt or cheese. Just my anecdotal evidence, though.

      • gerald.saul says:

        For what it’s worth, the most convincing reason I can think of why we use the term ‘nonfat’ as opposed to ‘skim’ is because we offer soymilk as an option. When your barista is marking the recipe on the cup, they’ll usually put a single letter to indicate milk and ‘N’ is used for nonfat/skim because ‘S’ is already taken.

  10. Buckus says:

    I’m still going to ask for a small. And if the restaurant only has two drink sizes, there is no medium.

  11. emyaeak says:

    You know why I hate Starbucks? Because I suck at ordering coffee anywhere else. Seriously, I feel like an idiot. Went to Panera one morning for breakfast and ordered an iced coffee, expecting something sweet and Starbucks-esque for some reason. It tasted like… coffee. So I went over to this little counter and tried to add something to it to make it taste better, but I couldn’t figure out how the darn cream dispenser worked. Another customer took pity on me and showed me how. It never did taste good, though. I can get by at McDonald’s by ordering something with a syrup in it, but I am never sure I will get what I really want. So invariably I end back up at Starbucks, confident I can order something without sounding stupid and get exactly what I want. Curses! (I blame my parents… they are Mormon, so I got to college not knowing a thing about coffee or tea or alcohol.)

    • drjayphd says:

      BREAKING: your parents have just violated BYU’s Honor Code because you were once in the presence of coffee. No word on how this will affect their eligibility for football next year…

  12. EdnasEdibles says:

    I can see where this worked.

    I never worked in a coffee shop but I worked in a frozen custard stand and it was very annoying how many people would use the term “regular” as a size. “i’d like a regular chocolate shake” “What size shake would you like – small, medium or large” and I’d point to the cups as I said the sizes. The guy would be like “Oh you know, the regular.” And you’d have to repeat “The medium?” and point to that and he’d say “That’s the medium? Um, no, the bigger one. Or he’d just repeat “You know the regular one”

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      I worked in a coffee show in Connecticut. The majority of our customers ordered a “regular” coffee, which is caffinated, with cream and sugar. Every once in a while we’d get someone who wanted a regular coffee, but they really wanted it black, with nothing in it.

      We also had the people who would come up with their own names, like jumbo java, or medium mud; but at least they were regulars so after serving them once or twice, you knew what they wanted.

      • BurtReynolds says:

        My problem is communicating that I want the coffee black, or black with sugar in places like Dunkin Donuts that put it in for you. I think they all hear “cream and sugar” so many times, that when I say “black with sugar” or “with only sugar”, they always hear “cream and sugar” anyway.

    • Zer0.MediA says:

      “Regular” would be the medium. Problem solved.

      • lettucefactory says:

        You’d think. But it is amazing how many people are visualizing a smaller or larger size when they say “regular.” You learn quickly that assuming and just giving them a medium means you’ll be re-making the order.

    • akiri423 says:

      Your example using the term “regular” reminds me of the Howard Stern phony phone call in which the caller asks a pizzeria employee for one plain, one regular, and one cheese pizza… then gets frustrated when the employee thinks they want only one pizza, sans toppings. ;)

  13. SteveHolt says:

    I don’t understand why people have such a hard time calling things what their called. This company calls it X, and you’re in their store wanting X, so just say X. Why does this have to be a thing? God forbid you learn words in a language other than your own.

    • SteveHolt says:

      *they’re. Was going to write, “..what their names are”.

    • Portlandia says:

      I think you give the average person far too much credit.

    • daemonaquila says:

      Because it’s idiotic. Drinks come in small, medium, large, and (sometimes) huge. Get over it. I have no respect for a store that makes up names, or calls their small size a “medium” to make it sound more impressive, etc. If a person says “give me a small,” they mean the store’s smallest size. If they say “give me a medium,” they mean the next size up, and so on. I don’t care to know exactly how many ounces are in each, and I don’t care what fake terms they create for basic sizes – it’s not my problem. I could, but won’t, memorize the pretentious terms that store A’s marketing department came up with, versus store B’s… and store C’s… and store D’s. It’s not about making ordering easier, but about getting brand recognition not only via the store name and logo and packaging, but even the name they make up for a drink that everyone has been making for years, or a basic size. Every time someone mentions one of those words, even to mock it, it’s free advertising for Starbuck’s or other stores that use the same techniques. I don’t wear logos on my clothes, and I don’t play that game.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        And I say drinks come in tiny (sometimes), small, medium, and large.

        See the problem yet?

        • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

          No, because he’s an idiot. He’ll never see why he’s an idiot, either.

          • Talmonis says:

            You may love being a Starbucks hipster, but it doesn’t make you intellegent. People don’t like being snidely corrected by friggin counter-jockeys*. Using widely accepted terms, instead of obnoxious little corporate terms, does not make you an idiot. Oh, and the term “Barista” is obnoxious.

            *I am a former counter-jockey.

      • phobos512 says:

        I’ld like 6250 picoliters of cofea arabica if you please.


    • binkleyz says:

      Plus, their “foreign” language just doesn’t jive with the REAL foreign language they’re parroting..

      Grande means “Large”, where “Grande” means medium, for some reason.

      Venti means “Twenty”, so by that logic, they should be perfectly happy responding for a request for a dodici or sedici coffee as well, but good luck with that.

    • red says:

      I don’t understand why companies have a problem calling things what they are called, like the smallest size “small”, the one the middle/most commonly ordered serving “medium”, the larger size “large” and the even bigger one “extra large”

  14. daemonaquila says:

    Of course, people like me have REFUSED to get “trained.” We use our own lingo, and they can go hang with their special silly names. The lines are as long as ever, due to too many people buying overpriced, burned coffee, and the time it takes to make the drinks – which takes much longer than anyone ordering. Of course, when you live in a part of the country where they’re the only game in town in some areas, you buy from them… unfortunately. Customer service? Crappy as ever in some stores, great in others. It’s all about who’s managing and working there, not about stupid terms. This is a bunch of business school chest beating for free publicity, and it all means about as much as “frappucino.”

    • drjayphd says:

      Ladies and gentlemen, the Starbucks Tough Guy in his natural habitat: bitching about words on the Internet.

  15. Sad Sam says:

    I’m not a frequent SB customer which is probably why I have not been brainwashed, they call it trained, into using their made up language. But now when they correct me, I correct them, and I find it hilariously funny. Do you mean a “insert SB term for large”? No, I mean a large, thanks and I say it with a smile.

    • Snowblind says:

      Yesterday, I went into McDonald’s and ordered a hamburger two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – all on a sesame seed bun.

      Arrogant bastards gave me a Big-Mac.

      They are trying to brain wash me.

      • dks64 says:

        Exactly. How is different than going to Burger King and ordering a “Whopper,” a “Big Mac” at McDonald’s, a “Jumbo Jack” at Jack in the Box, etc. Almost all chain places have their own language.

  16. PhilFR says:

    Forget the ambiguous lingo, which can always be hit by a shrink ray. When I go into a Starbucks (which is rarely indeed) I ask for a 12 or 16 ounce.

  17. crispyduck13 says:

    I’ve been drinking Starbucks products fairly regularly for at least the last 8 years. I have never ordered with anything other than a “small,” “medium,” or “large.” I have never been corrected by the barista in all those hundreds of encounters. I don’t know why I have to be so contrary, but the idea of ordering in their stupid pseudo Italian bothers me.

    • Zer0.MediA says:

      Yet you use the word “barista” without thinking twice about it.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Simpler always wins for me. Like the Big Mac example above. What the hell else am I supposed to call those people who make the coffee? The “person making the coffee?” I suppose I could have called them a “cashier.” Is that better?

      • Rocket says:

        Because “Barista” is an actual word, and the correct term?

  18. daemonaquila says:

    Because it’s idiotic. Drinks come in small, medium, large, and (sometimes) huge. Get over it. I have no respect for a store that makes up names, or calls their small size a “medium” to make it sound more impressive, etc. If a person says “give me a small,” they mean the store’s smallest size. If they say “give me a medium,” they mean the next size up, and so on. I don’t care to know exactly how many ounces are in each, and I don’t care what fake terms they create for basic sizes – it’s not my problem. I could, but won’t, memorize the pretentious terms that store A’s marketing department came up with, versus store B’s… and store C’s… and store D’s. It’s not about making ordering easier, but about getting brand recognition not only via the store name and logo and packaging, but even the name they make up for a drink that everyone has been making for years, or a basic size. Every time someone mentions one of those words, even to mock it, it’s free advertising for Starbuck’s or other stores that use the same techniques. I don’t wear logos on my clothes, and I don’t play that game.

    • VintageLydia says:

      But SB does have a size smaller than “Tall” It’s called a “Short” (creative, I know) it’s just not ordered very often except for maybe kids’ drinks and IIRC it’s 6oz. So yes a “Grande” is actually their large. So when you order a medium, do you mean tall or grande?

    • JJFIII says:

      ” I don’t care to know exactly how many ounces are in each”

      Ok, so when you order a small the next time and they hand you a 2 ounce cup of soda, I hope you are happy. Intelligent people DO care about the size AND ounces. The rest of your rant is stupid whining. Either order it right, or don’t come. I go to many restaurants, and when I order beer on draft I do not say large or small, because some places have a 22 ounce beer as their large, others it may be 16 ounce, and others still may be 12. If I want 16 ounces of beer at one place, medium would be appropriate while at others would not be. Of course it wouldnt matter to you, because ounces don’t matter, only size.

      • dks64 says:

        I work at a restaurant and that’s an issue with people ordering beer. So many people say “Can I have a large beer?” I have to specify because 19 times out of 20, they meant pint. Me: “So you wanted the half yard?” *points to hanging glasses* Oh no, what’s the next size down? Me: “Pint.” “Okay, I’ll take a pint.” We do have a size smaller than the pint, but when people say small, 19 times out of 20 they want a pint. I actually think renaming the sizes (and posting their ounces) was a smart move for Starbucks. Any idiot who thinks “Small, Medium, and Large” works everywhere is fooling themselves. As another poster said, the small would be a short, a tall would be a medium, a grande would be a large, a venti would be an extra large, then a trenti would be what, an extra extra large?

  19. Blueskylaw says:

    When the shrink ray eventually hits Starbucks, what will they do?

    Will a grande short now contain 15 ounces instead of the old 16?

    • Cacao says:

      At least with Grande, they can get away with it. It does not denote number of ounces. But the Venti? Yeah, try getting Americans to say Diciannove. ;o)

  20. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I’ll use whatever words they want me to use if it’ll help me score with that beauty behind the counter.

  21. Kuri says:

    So I guess people who use Large, Medium, and Small are out-hipstering hipsters?

  22. eddison72 says:

    Starbucks trains customers alright – they have trained herds of coffee-slurping twenty-somethings to fork over upwards of $4 for a single cup of coffee. It’s coffee people. You can buy it for about $6 a pound and brew it in about 3 minutes with water.

    • JJFIII says:

      Ever eaten at a restaurant? You can buy a steak and grill it for about a third of what you pay. Your analogy is silly. If you want to make it at home, go right ahead, but who the hell are you to criticize those that CHOOSE to spend their money in another way. By the way, I do not drink Starbucks or any other coffee, so I save even more than you, so I guess YOU are the real fool for spending anything on your silly addiction.

      • Senator says:

        No, you both are fools.

        • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

          Yay for arguing on the internet!

          • eddison72 says:

            People who argue on the internet have two things you’ll never have: 1.) Something to say, and 2.) The balls to say it. Yay!

      • eddison72 says:

        You’ve gotta love anyone who says, “who the hell are you to criticize…” Oh the irony. And just for the record: I’ll criticize anyone I damn well please, asswipe. Now you know who in the hell I am.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      A cup of coffee is less than $2… If you want a Latte or a cappuccino it is reasonable to pay more. I just put my mug under the spout of my Jura Impressa J9 and push the cappuccino button and a get a perfect one every time for the cost of a few coffee beans and a bit of organic 2% milk.

    • RedOryx says:

      $4 for one of their espresso drinks? Sure. $4 for a single cup of coffee? No. Try again.

    • Charmander says:

      They don’t charge $4 for a cup of brewed coffee. But you already knew that.

      • eddison72 says:

        Oh my god! I should have specified “specialty” drink because THAT would absolutely worth $4! The shame and horror! Please accept my deep and sincere regret for deliberately misleading everyone (except for you, oh intelligent one). I just adore that cutesy little move where you sarcastically quip how you knew that someone “knew” something already. It let’s us all see how much smarter you are than everyone else. I’ve never seen that move before. You, my mouthy cunt friend, are truly one of a kind.

    • dks64 says:

      It’s not coffee, it’s a 20 ounce cup of delicious sugar and caffeine. Worth the $4, helps me get through my work day. And yes, I have an espresso machine at home with Starbucks syrup, it’s NOT the same, no matter how hard you try.

  23. lehrdude says:

    I was able to deal with the lingo, and the “burnt coffee”…but I began my official boycott when I figured out the the difference between a Large and an Extra-Large…errr…a Venti and a Trenta…was a bigger cup and an extra scoop of ice.

  24. funnymonkey says:

    Morris is wrong about the whole thing. The purpose of the lingo at Starbucks is to streamline the process for the person making the drinks. The barista doesn’t care how you order it, and they aren’t correcting you when they call out your drink. If you order a small decaf latte with one shot of vanilla and skim milk, they will call out “tall,decaf, one pump vanilla, non-fat latte” and they will call out the exact same thing if you order a tall, decaf, one pump vanilla non-fat latte.

    The lingo is necessary for the person making the drink to know what they’re making, and using the same words every time eliminates confusion. The order is the order of the little boxes on the cup, where the barista marks down what the drink is so that they remember it after they make the seven drinks before yours.

    They call out the size first, so they know what size cup to grab – iced first if it is iced, because those are different cups. Then the rest is the order of the little boxes on the cup.

    It’s a very efficient system, and seriously, no one behind the counter cares whether or not you use it. They also have no say in whether or not it is used. They must use it, so giving them crap about calling a small a tall is a waste of breath. Call it what you want. You’ll get the coffee you ordered.

    Customers have started using the lingo because everyone likes to feel like they’re in the know. It’s different from what people are used to and, when Starbucks was starting out, and was a cult thing of coffee aficionados, people thought it was cool. Now that they’re everywhere, people don’t like them because they’re too “corporate” and it’s cool to say the lingo is stupid. People are proud to say they never go to Starbucks and the coffee tastes burnt. I disagree, but it’s a matter of opinion. My in-laws say all the time how they don’t like Starbucks coffee, but they love the coffee at my house. It’s Starbucks.

    • Round-Eye 外人はコンスマリッストが好きです。 says:

      This is the first sane, non-moronic explanation of it. Whether you like it or not, thank you for bringing some unbiased thoughts to Consumerist. Most of the comments so far are from people who appear to like be contrarians for the sake of being contrarians.

    • Ouze says:

      Thanks for the explanation.

      I don’t drink coffee normally (usually I drink tea), but once in a blue moon – maybe 5 or 6 times a year – I’ll get Starbucks. I consider it more like a coffee drink, kind of, and I can’t make it at home and don’t care to learn how; for how often I get it I consider the price OK.

      • rambler american says:

        Not to be a grammar cop, but I think you meant you don’t normally drink coffee. Different meaning from not drinking coffee normally.
        Sorry. A little obsession of mine.

    • Charmander says:

      Thank you! Great explanation.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      OK, but…why not just use “small, medium, and large” as their “lingo” in the first place – knowing those are the terms normal people use?

      Answer: to be pretentious d-bags.

    • akiri423 says:

      This, a thousand times over. Yes, the people behind the counter will repeat the drink order back to you “their” way, but that’s because that’s the order of the little boxes on the cup. Just as with any business, regardless of what language is used (s/m/l vs. t/g/v) t’s easier (and cheaper) for them to have a standardized system.

  25. Senator says:

    They trained them also to pay too much for coffee. I NEVER use company lingo. Never will.

  26. mister_roboto says:

    In college in the 90’s in Seattle- it was kind of standard lingo at all coffee houses. Not so much anymore because of backlash about starbucks.

  27. bruin14 says:

    I am always happy to explain the concept of small medium and large to any Starbucks employee who doesn’t understand the concept. Of course I also always get out of my vehicle and go inside where the generally is no line and I get to fix my coffee the way I like it.

  28. RedOryx says:

    Those of you hating on the Starbucks lingo: when you go to, say, McDonalds do you order a Whopper? Or a McNuggets at Burger King? Because it’s the same kind of corporate lingo that customers are trained to use.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      Those are specific product names, like Frappuccino or whatever; they don’t refer to the overall product’s size.

      • dks64 says:

        Ever heard of Supersize? (I think they took it off the menu, but everyone knows where it goes to)

    • Rocket says:

      When I go to McDonalds or Burger King, I order a number 5, or a number 3.

  29. UhMerican says:

    a made up language for made up people.

  30. josephbloseph says:

    On the occasion I go into a coffee shop, I usually take the time to look at the menu, so I know what they have to offer. If you walk up to the counter in starbucks and ask for a large coffee, you are an idiot. They don’t have a size called large on the menu. You may as well order a meatball sub if you are going to ignore the menu. Also, nowadays I think most starbucks locations have more than one roast, so you should probably pick one of those out to go along with the size you should have picked off of the menu.

  31. grebby says:

    Coffee drinks were available in short (8 oz) or tall (12 oz) LONG before Starbucks existed….

    • Rocket says:

      And then Starbucks added stupid words like “Grande” and “Venti”.

      • grebby says:

        What would you prefer? Taller and taller-er? There was demand for 16 oz and then 20 oz drinks. I imagine they could have gone with S-M-L at that point, but they didn’t want to sound like a hamburger joint.

        • SavijMuhdrox says:

          but that’s the whole point. They didn’t want to sound like a burger joint, because then they wouldn’t be able to charge ridiculous prices for coffee.

          its all about marketing, and has nothing to do with efficiency.

  32. stoic says:

    Haha, small, medium or large, those are the only words in my vocabulary when I order at Starbucks. And, not surprisingly, they understand what I mean.

  33. JosephFinn says:

    Small, medium, large. I’d never use such bad Italian.

  34. rambler american says:

    There was a TV ad for some coffee bar, I forget which one, in the Boston area some time ago. A lady orders a large coffee and is corrected by the barista who says “chiaci” or something like that with a cheery smile. Lady looks nonplussed and repeats, I’d like a large…” and the barista says again “chiaci”. Lady looks slightly annoyed and says “what’s a chiaci?” Barista kinda pouts and says “large.”
    Quite amusing.

  35. Mackinstyle1 says:

    I’m happy to let a starving arts student correct me out loud if I don’t have to say “venti”.

  36. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I’ve never been in a Starbucks. I don’t have the money to spend on overpriced coffee drinks, and I only drink one cup a day. Instant, in the morning, with five sugars and five creamers, in a large cup. That’s it. If I want a hot drink later on, I’ll have tea with honey or Abuelita cocoa (when it’s cold).

  37. Zer0.MediA says:

    I’m afraid I’ve never had such a problem, because I would never walk into a store that makes me feel like an idiot for not speaking Hipster.

    I’d like to think that a large percentage of this site’s viewers are smart enough to have called bullshit on Starbucks in the first place… If I ever have to walk into a Starbucks, because a friend of a friend for some reason needs a coffee rather than a beer, I feel uncomfortable and out of place. I can’t stand walking into a Starbucks.

  38. Cream Of Meat says:

    This is stupid! The only lingo is the cup sizes. If I wanted a double I would say double, if I wanted nonfat I would say nonfat. If I wanted a large I would say large.

    Order two drinks and only change the made up cup size to a real cup size and its the same drink.

  39. Psycho Conductor says:

    First, as someone who works at said workplace, I will never, -ever-, demand someone use the “lingo”. If someone orders a small, they get a tall. If someone orders a large, they get a venti. If someone orders a regular latte… then I have to ask them what they mean, because that “size” is split between small and medium. If someone makes a deal about the lingo, I say “say whatever you want, English is my first language”.

  40. KrispyKrink says:

    Yeah… No.

    The rare ( I normally go to a locally owned shop) occasion I do go into a Starbucks and order a large, they know what I mean and don’t correct me. Though there was one time when I was in San Francisco some jackass did shout a correction. I shouted right back ” yeah, ok!”, I don’t mind the shouting game.

  41. caederus says:

    McDonalds did it first. How many people order by number? It speeds up order entry and moves the line along quicker. It also has the added bonus of getting people to consume more than they were before because it’s bundled.

  42. NeverLetMeDown says:

    I’m particularly amused about all the ranting about “it should be small, medium, and large,” when there are actually four sizes. So, small/medium/large is insufficient.

    • dks64 says:

      5. Short, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenti. That’s even worse for people trying to order with “Small, Medium, Large.” Does the small start at the Short (8oz)?

  43. scoosdad says:

    I keep thinking about Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi whenever I hear about people in line at Starbucks using their specific lingo:

    So if you fail, it’s “NO coffee for you! Come back– one year!”.

  44. Rocket says:

    Wait, so this post wasn’t sarcastic? The last (and possibly only time) I went to Starbucks, I said “medium”, and there were no issues.

    Also, Tim Hortons FTW

  45. balthisar says:

    When I go to Starbucks in Mexico, one usually has to use their lingo. “Grande” (“large”) is the medium size. Of course, I usually say, “lo mas grande” to get a large.

  46. SavijMuhdrox says:

    Heaven forbid the customer is always right.

    and this seems pretty outlandish justification for using fancy names for things simply so you can charge more money for them

  47. thenutman69321 says:

    I have never and will never use their stupid lingo. Small, medium, or large is just as quick to say and they know exactly what you mean and lol at someone thinking that them using the lingo after is somehow shaming you. Ridiculous. I’ve never heard anyone use the lingo while ordering a Starbucks drink and I highly doubt most people do.

  48. njwater says:

    whenever I encounter loud, obnoxious starbucks employees… it reminds me why I prefer to go elsewhere.

  49. jenl1625 says:

    It shortened the line in my case – by training me to stay away from Starbucks… Any place that’s going to act as if they don’t know what “medium” stands for when they have 3 drink sizes (or acts like they don’t know what “large” is) needs to get over itself.

  50. SilentAgenger says:

    How about we go after every restaurant with ridiculous names for menu items? For example, Moe’s Southwest Grill calls their burritos “Homewrecker”, “Art Vandelay” and “Joey Bag of Donuts”…what the heck is that all about?!?

  51. veronykah says:

    As a bartender I HATE this. Thanks to Starbucks I get people asking for a “tall” beer. WTF is a “tall” beer?
    Is that large or small?
    I don’t go to Starbucks.

    • dks64 says:

      No, I’ve seen restaurants have “Tall” beers, which are bigger, not smaller like at Starbucks.

    • viv says:

      You must not be a very experienced bartender, or perhaps you must be a really young one. People have been ordering “tall drinks” meaning large drinks, for a very long time, long before Starbucks even opened in 1971. If you look at some older movies, tv shows or books with a bar scene, people sidle up and say, “Gimme a tall one.” Even in current times, says a “tall drink” refers to a large alcoholic beverage. Example given: “She ordered a tall one and sat back to cool off.”

  52. Datura says:

    Where i come from (not the US and we have no Starbucks here) coffee comes in two sizes – small and large. If you order a coffee with a single shot of espresso it comes in a small cup. Double or more shots and it comes in a large cup. Which is probably about 400ml. Why do people need to drink a bucket of coffee?

  53. losergeek says:

    That’s bull – the reason everyone knows the sizes is because they have the display cups that show you which of their silly words mean which size cup. You could do the exact same thing but label the cups small/medium/large and have the exact same effect.

  54. Cactus Wren says:

    I’ve always liked the old story of the man who tried to order a ham-and-cheese sandwich in a fast-food chain restaurant … and walked out rather than call it a “Yumbo”.

  55. dks64 says:

    If I’m paying $4 for a delicious cup of sugar and caffeine, I damn well better have some fancy shmancy language to use to feel justified in my buying decision!