Chai is Good For Your Karma! (Not.)

Since I’m in a rather snarky mood today, you get a double dose of venom. There’s some overlap between these folks and the ones I just got done complaining about, but there’s also a wonderful whole extra crowd included here. I think they’re still called “yuppies,” but I don’t know anymore. The words to describe certain sectors of people change so rapidly, and I’m such a misanthropic little troll who tries to avoid human contact as much as possible, that I’m not certain anymore. But I’m sure you know the type.

They’re the ones in front of you at Starbucks, taking forever to decide they want a triple-shot half-caff skinny soy vanilla latte with peppermint sprinkles. Oh, and then one of those darling little ciabatta rolls. And a small apple cider flavored chai for the ride home. Good for the karma or something. Most of them will spend hours congratulating themselves on the healthy eating choices inherent in that little ciabatta sandwich, and how they’re probably helping Mother Earth by eating wholesome food that was produced organically by hand, skillfully put together by their barista under the loving eye of a people-oriented manager.

Yeah, gonna call bullshit on that one.

I don’t know about the coffee. I don’t know about the chai. I don’t know about the tea. I honestly could care less, except that drinking anything that involves the phrases “half-caff,” “decaffeinated,” “skinny,” or “soy” probably can’t end well, and the idea that you’re somehow a better person by virtue of what you drink inspires me to murder. Well, and the price tag. I mean, 7-10 bucks for a freakin’ cup of coffee? One that has had 90% of the things that make it coffee removed (you know, all that caffeine and sugar and such)? Foamy the Squirrel has plenty to say on the subject, and for the most part, I agree with him.

But those sandwiches. That’s what I really want to tell you about. You know where they come from? Not some magical wonderland in the back room. Not some loving Italian grandmother they keep under duress to mix that spinach and cheese into something vaguely resembling food (but it’s on a ciabatta roll, so it must be awesome and interesting, because it’s so non-American and not-basic!) No. It comes off a damn assembly line.

Picture this: Somewhere, there is a conveyor belt, where 17-20 people stand for twelve to fourteen hours a day. These people will shove a roll into a machine that cuts it in half. Split the two halves and place them on the belt. Drop an egg on one half. Measure out an exact amount of a positively repulsive spinach-and-tomato-paste mixture (that is being ground together by hand by some other poor schmuck for 12-14 hours, 30+ pounds at a time) – and don’t get too much or too little, or the sandwich must be thrown away and the employee reprimanded – layer on a slice of some unidentifiable but stench-filled cheese – that must be peeled in single slices by several other schmucks for that wonderful 12-14 hour day – and then close the roll. Mind you, you can’t get any of the tomato sauce on the exterior of the roll. You must ensure that the cheese is centered and square on the roll. The top must match in size to the bottom of the roll. If any of those things aren’t true, yep, that sandwich is tossed and the employee reprimanded. Then somebody has to squeeze the whole mess, making sure it’s squared off and no components are sticking out. Then someone else has to push it into alignment in a tight little row to go get frozen, and someone else has to take it and shove it into a packaging machine that has a tendency to bite, and then it gets shot into a centrifuge where, if the weight is off – even a little bit – it gets spat into the trash. If it stays there for long enough, someone will pick it up and shove it in a box, where eventually it will find it’s way to Starbucks, be thawed out, unwrapped, and presented as your delicious handmade sandwich that you somehow earned Good Karma for buying.

During that day, one is liable to see 40,000 or more sandwiches go by. The process is supposed to produce between 80-120 viable sandwiches a minute. That’s viable ones. Whole, perfect, passed quality assurance and everything. Realistically, that means those people are slamming parts together on 2-4 sandwiches per second, and god help you if you slow down or something goes wrong. This is often done by individuals who are down on their luck, disabled in some painful but non-work-preventing way, migrant workers. The conditions and treatment cause a higher turnover than retail stores on Black Friday. They cost about 10 cents to make. They’re sold to Starbucks for about 20 cents. And then the consumer pays $5 (or more) for it, and some of them have this vague sense that they’re doing good for someone, somewhere by doing so.

Hey, if you like ’em, that’s fine. By all means, eat ’em. But this attitude that buying things at Starbucks – or any other retailer – is preferable to any other retailer due to some mysterious good will or wholesomeness just needs to go. Because if you strip ’em down, you’re going to find that they’re all ugly, painful things.

Kay. I’m done ranting for the day. I promise. Maybe later I’ll post something amusing, if I can muster up the will to write something that isn’t just me bitching.


One response to “Chai is Good For Your Karma! (Not.)

  1. Sounds like a bunch of slackers if that is all of the yummy sandwiches they are making in a day. I say let the beatings begin to ramp up production! All hail the mighty Starbucks Empire!!

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