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Thursday, February 27, 2003   |    Letters (from)

Dear Starbucks

by Josh Abraham

Starbucks Customer Relations
P.O. Box 3717
Seattle, WA 98124-3717

Dear Starbucks people,

If you take three of anything that are different sizes, the laws of physics dictate that you have to have one that is the biggest one and one that is the smallest one. The leftover one is the middle one. This law will hold true for all things: three apples, three oranges, three cups of coffee, or even two cups and one apple or two apples and one orange, or an apple, an orange and a cup. Go ahead, try it. One will be bigger than the other two, one will be smaller than the other two. One won’t be bigger or smaller, but just right.

The children’s fable, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” is built upon this principle, which is so simple and easy to understand that even a four-year-old can grasp it pretty quickly.

Now in America and other English-speaking nations, we generally call the smallest one “Small” and the largest one “Large” and the middle one “Medium.” This has worked pretty well for everybody since we invented sizes, and there’s been little confusion.

Not so, however, in your many coffee houses around the nation. This morning, I stopped in to one of your Starbucks stores in hopes of quenching my thirst with a nice, large iced coffee. Denise, your lovely young barista, informed me that “Large” was not an available option; I could only choose Tall, Grande or Venti. Now I know that “Grande” is the Spanish word for “large” and “Tall” is the English word for “tall.” I’m not sure what Venti means, but when Denise, your beautiful barista, lined up three empty coffee cups in an attempt to explain, it turned out that Venti is your Large size, Grande is your Medium size, and Tall is your Small.

Tall does not mean Small, Starbucks! Tall means Tall! Here are some tall things for comparison: the Empire State Building, the New York Knicks, and a giraffe. All tall things!

And you know what’s grande? South America, for one. Also, Antonio Banderas.

I’ve contacted the United States Department of Standard Weights and Measures and informed them of your discrepancies. I hope you will sort out what’s what, and soon, if not for me, then for the millions of immigrants who come to our great nation in hopes of freedom and a cup of coffee, and are baffled enough by the complex intricacies of our wonderful language without being further befuddled by ramshackle sizing misnomers.

And also do it for Denise, your hot barista, who tried so hard to explain your convoluted system to me. She deserves a raise. Say, do you have a listing of your employees’ phone numbers?

I thank you, Starbucks, and eagerly look forward to your reply.

Yours truly,
Josh Abraham

Josh Abraham was born in Algeria in 1913. He spent his early years in North Africa, working various jobs—in the weather bureau, in an automobile-accessory firm, in a shipping company—to help pay for his courses at the University of Algiers. As a young journalist, his report on the unhappy state of Muslims in the Kabylie region aroused the Algerian government to action and brought him public notice. From 1935 to 1938 he ran the Théâtre de l'Equipe, a theatrical company that produced plays by Malraux, Gide, Synge, and Dostoevski. During World War II he was one of the leading writers of the French Resistance and editor of Combat, then an important underground newspaper. Abraham's fiction, his philosophical essays, and his plays have assured his preëminent position in modern French letters. In 1957 Abraham was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His sudden death on January 4, 1960, cut short the career of one of the most important literary figures of the Western world when he was at the very summit of his powers. No, wait. That was Albert Camus.