Barry Saunders

I’ll take the cop over the java giant every time

Dang, I was rooting for the cop.

Whether Raleigh Police Lt. Matthew Kohr was culpable for the cup of 187-degree coffee spilled in his lap or whether it was the fault of an improperly applied top, I wanted to see him prevail in court against Starbucks.

Why?

For one thing, because I refuse to believe a man would intentionally spill 187-degree coffee where Kohr spilled it just to make a few bucks – or even to make 750,000 bucks.

For another, I was rooting for him because I love cops when they aren’t arresting me and shooting unarmed people.

Mainly, though, I was rooting for the cop because I hate Starbucks anytime.

The devil and Starbucks

Baudelaire wrote that the devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.

No argument here, but the second greatest trick had to be Starbucks’ brain trust convincing sane people to pay up to $6 for a cup of coffee. I have on my desk the autobiography of Starbucks’ founder, Howard Schultz. Its title is “Onward (How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul.)”

It should be called “How Starbucks Made Suckers Of Us All.”

Do I sound as bitter as a quadruple-brewed cup of chicory? Probably, and a story in USA Today last year may sum up part of the reason. The writer called it the “Why didn’t I think of that?” theory, as in “Why didn’t I think people would overpay to walk around with a green and white cup of swill in their hand?”

I’ve skimmed Schultz’s book, but have yet to locate the part where he goes “Voila! You know what? I’ll bet I can convince people to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a cup of the same stuff they can get for free at Jiffy Lube or Wally’s Garage.”

As a person of admittedly few noteworthy achievements – unless you count that I’ve watched every black-and-white episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” at least 17 times – there is little of which I can boast.

There’s this, though: Starbucks has never gotten a dime of my money for a frappuccino, for a venti, a trenti or the Santa Maria.

Some of my animus toward the company is more substantive. Remember when U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., embarrassed Tar Heels by saying the government shouldn’t require restaurant employees to wash their hands because he felt the filthy-fingered philistines would be forced out of business eventually anyway?

No calls back

He was dining in a Starbucks when he first unfurled that bit of free-market foolishness. Tillis, understandably, didn’t return several calls seeking further elucidation.

Less understandable is the fact that Starbucks didn’t return a score of telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment. On the rare occasions a live human being in Starbucks’ corporate headquarters answered the phone, she or he invariably said they weren’t the person to whom I needed to speak, but they promised to have that person call me.

That was in February. I’m still waiting.

In the N&O story this week about the jury siding with Starbucks over the cop, what really roasted my beans was reading this: “‘We are pleased with the jury’s decision as we believe our partners (employees) did nothing wrong,’” wrote a Starbucks spokeswoman in an email. “‘The safety of our customers and partners will continue to be our top priority. You may attribute this information to a Starbucks spokesperson.’”

Oh, so they can perfunctorily respond to e-mails when it’s time to gloat over a courtroom victory, but they refuse to respond when they may have to answer questions.

Spokeswoman Meagan refused to give her last name – something every spokesperson this side of the mob willingly does.

You don’t reckon she was embarrassed to work for a company that calls a just-above-minimum-wage-earning barista a “partner” to the billionaire Schultz, do you?

Were I a “partner” I, like a venti latte, would be steamed.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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