Mailbag: The Worst Starbucks, Ralph Klein, Sami Salo’s tenders' -

Mailbag: The Worst Starbucks, Ralph Klein, Sami Salo’s tenders’

I’d be happy to address this issue, but first permit me to instinctively cross my legs and hunch over slightly


Welcome to the Mailbag, where I assume you’re all coming to the big Maclean’s Taste event in Toronto next Monday (and in Calgary and Vancouver in June). Wells and Coyne travel the country debating the perplexing issues and vexing public-policy questions that confront our society. I travel the country eating for free. The lesson as always: be the guy who writes about killer robots.

Onward to your questions…


Dear Scott:

Sami Salo. Discuss. – Chris B

Chris B –

I’d be happy to address this issue, but first permit me to instinctively cross my legs and hunch over slightly.

Almost there… being careful…

When first it was reported that the Vancouver Canucks defenceman had ruptured a testicle, I found myself immediately pondering a question: how many other parts of his body would the average man rather have rupture than a testicle? The spleen, for sure. Let that sucker blow! Probably the appendix, too. (Having some gross inflammatory liquids sloshing around inside you sounds awful, but somewhat less awful than the prospect of half your nutsack exploding.) How about an eyeball? Probably not, but the fact that I even pondered it for a split second is revealing.

I believe it was Carol Burnett who equated the pain of giving birth to grabbing your lower lip and pulling it over your head. Well, ladies, permit me to inform you that given how much it ouches when a man’s balls are even gently nudged, I can only conclude that the rupturing of a testicle would hurt as much as taking your lower lip and pulling it over Jon Favreau’s head. No juxtaposition of words or phrases makes a man cringe quite like “rupture” and “testicle” – with the possible exception of “Kathy Bates” and “naked in a hot tub with Jack Nicholson in that movie.”

As it turns out, Salo’s testicle didn’t actually rupture. But in order to play the next game, he needed to have two shots to dull the pain in the “affected area.” Folks, you can imagine how badly the testicle must have hurt if the idea of jabbing two needles into it was greeted as the appealing option.



I have an investment opportunity in Liquid Paper and Correct-type strips. Any thoughts? Want in? – M_A_N

M_A_N –

Sorry, just sank all my money into 8-track tapes. Come on, passage of time – be cyclical! [Crosses fingers.]


Dear Scott:

I implicitly trust Stephen Harper because he is Prime Minister and he has been elected to that position by a minority of Canadians. Am I drunk or just misguided? An ex-Albertan and proud of it… – Tceh

Tceh –

Whoa. Hold on a minute. Ex-Albertan and proud… Does that mean you are proud to at one point in your life have been an Albertan? Or does that mean that you currently are proud to no longer be an Albertan? It makes a difference, especially if you’re passing through Red Deer right now and I can publicly broadcast the make and model of your vehicle.

I was an Albertan once. I lived in Edmonton and Calgary for about three years back when Ralph Klein was making national news with his radical campaign to completely transform government into an entity of fiscal responsibility without ever missing happy hour. (Mission? Accomplished.)

One night, I was sitting next to Klein at a small dinner in Calgary and he set himself on fire by spilling a flaming Sambuca on the sleeve of his jacket. I’ve never seen a man so calm. Klein leisurely picked up a napkin and slapped it against his arm a few times until the blaze went out. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even stop telling whatever story he was in the middle of. Come to think of it, no one else at the table reacted with shock or with surprise… or at all. The Premier kept talking and suddenly I was staring at the smoking black remains of his sleeve. It occurred to me: this must happen all the time.

So that was a weird moment. Almost as weird as the time a staffer in the PMO brought her dog to work and allowed it to roam at large through Langevin Block. Walking up the stairs to the second floor that day, I happened upon the dog crouching just outside the Prime Minister’s office. It was taking a crap. It was taking a crap just metres from where Paul Martin was meeting with the Premier of the Northwest Territories.

At this moment, I actually paused, stood still and considered my options.

1. I could leave the poop where it was, retreat to a safe distance and wait patiently for the elected head of the Northwest Territories to emerge. No matter how long I would have had to wait, it would have been worth it to see the look on the Premier’s face. I’m convinced of this.

2. I could clean it up.

I cleaned it up. But afterwards I was angry with myself. It was Paris Hilton’s cell phone all over again.

Flashback squiggles: I’ve written about this before but once at a party in Hollywood (back when I was a TV critic at the National Post), I found Hilton’s phone on the bar. I grabbed it and ran off. Together with some pals, I flipped through it a bit. At the time, Hilton was dating Avril Lavigne’s future ex-husband, Deryck Whibley of Sum 41, so there some photos of the two of them together (but not, you know, “together”). The other critics urged me to rifle through the phone and jot down celebrity phone numbers or whatever. But instead I went and gave it back. Why? Because I am a sucker. Ocean’s 13 would have to get to Ocean’s 6,345,221,074 before I’d be considered deceitful and flamflammy enough to warrant membership.

Anyway, to answer your question Tceh: Yes, you are.


Dear Scott:

Now that Heritage Minister James Moore’s “Canada’s Hockey Team” have been eliminated, are there any Canadien teams left in the NHL playoffs? – HockeyFan

HockeyFan –

Let’s not be too hard on Moore. I like politicians who are upfront and unapologetic about their sports allegiances. Most Canadians don’t know this but Stephen Harper actually weighs 130 pounds. He only looks plump because he never appears in public without wearing all six Canadian hockey sweaters, just in case.


Dear Scott:

Why did you name your puppy “Squib” in the first place? I mean, what were you expecting with a name like that? Talk about setting yourself up for disappointment. – CR

CR –

We took our dog to the park last night where one of our kids was playing baseball. Big mistake. While we were being distracted by the raw thrill that can only be generated by 83 consecutive passed balls, Squib somehow slipped out of his collar and sprinted off. Naturally, he headed straight for the diamond where, without going into the anatomical details, he essentially tried to deflower the third baseman. I found myself simultaneously horrified and curious as to how Mel Allen would have called it on “This Week in Baseball.” I guess this dog really did have its day. How about that!

Anyway, I was firmly on record as having favoured the name Bosley. I wanted to call the dog Bosley because it would allow me to live out my fantasy of being Charlie from Charlie’s Angels. I would have felt like the mysterious man behind the speaker phone every time I called out to the dog like “Goddammit Bosley, get the hell over here!” or “Shelley Hack? Really? She just doesn’t do it for me, Bosley!”

Speaking of which: Why has no one updated and recreated that series? We get a new 90210 but we don’t get a new Charlie’s Angels? How does that make any sense? Hot chicks going undercover to solve crimes. Costumes. Bikinis. Gunplay. And Charlie could communicate via iPad or Skype or telepathy! WHY IS THIS NOT ALREADY HAPPENING?


Dear Scott:

A friend recently visiting me from Calgary claimed his MP is a true THIRSIO, which he then explained means “Tim Horton’s in Riding, Starbucks in Ottawa.” Can you guess who his MP is? – Dan

Dan –

Oh, let’s not blow his cover. It’s cute to imagine this guy fancying himself a Mastermind of Subterfuge for managing to pull this one over on his constituents: These fools think I drink a certain brand of coffee but in truth I drink a slightly different brand of coffee. I am the Ernst Blofeld of caffeine. MWAHAHAHAHA!! I picture him boarding the plane in Calgary in boots and a jean jacket and deplaning in Ottawa in tasseled loafers and linen, craving a half-caf misto.

If we’re going to expose something, let’s expose the Single Most Annoying Coffee Shop Ever. I nominate the Starbucks at the Pinecrest Chapters in Ottawa. Permit me to make my case.

One. Several people who work there insist on addressing all customers as “my friend,” as in “What can I get for you, my friend?” or “How’s it hanging today, my friend?” I am not your friend, Starbucks person. If I were your friend, I would take the time out of my day to inform you that your nose piercing make you look like you’re trying too hard.

Two. They always fake-compliment your order. “Nice one!” they over-enthuse, or: “Good choice!” F— you. I don’t need you to tell me I nailed it with my choice in beverages. Just go get my coffee without stopping off for 20 minutes to chat with every other employee in the store about the thematic subtext in the new Broken Bells CD or what you should wear to your big date at Montana’s tonight. Jesus.

Three. This is how the ordering works: You’re a few people down in line from the cash registers. Someone comes your way, over-greets you, takes your order and fake-compliments it. A few seconds pass.  You die a little inside. Then someone else comes over, and you have to tell them you’ve already given your order, and they have to fake-compliment the fact you’ve done so (“That’s awesome!”). Then you get to the cash and you tell them what you ordered – except they call out the order again, even though they must know that all the other employees buzzing around them have already taken the order. So then you have to tell them your drink has already been ordered, at which point they reply, “That’s awesome!” THIS HAPPENS EVERY GODDAMN TIME. I hunt you in my dreams, Howard Schultz.

Four. They insist on asking you for a name or initial to put on your cup – even if there is hardly anyone else in the store. I once resisted this but now have gone the other way and have taken to giving them the longest name possible.

“Could I get a name or initial to write on the cup…”

“Yes, Bartholemew J. Witherpennyspoon. And please write it out in full because the two chaps in line behind me are also Bartholomews.”

I am petty that way. I also enjoy parking and walking briskly into a Tim Horton’s when the drive-thru linup is absurdly long. Then I try like hell to hurry out so the people near the back of line, who watched me walk in, can see me coming back out. Look at me. I’ve already got my coffee and my donut and my other donut and you’re just sitting there on your lazy asses. I AM MORE INTELLIGENT AND COMPARATIVELY ATHLETIC.

Filed under:

Mailbag: The Worst Starbucks, Ralph Klein, Sami Salo’s tenders’

  1. I am beginning to realise that poor Squib never really stood much of a chance, did he? The benchmark you have set for dogs is much too high for any poor pup to meet. Really, how do you top a dog that dropped a steamer right outside the PM's door. "What's that Lassie, the Premier stepped in what?"

  2. Nice try, but no one is buying that they ever actually let you in Langevin.

  3. Scott: try this…

    The few times I've been into Starbucks, I simply ask for coffee. They ask me what kind, and I reply, "coffee". Again they ask what kind, and I give the same answer. After a few rounds of this, they finally suggest some incomprehensibly named blend, and I say "so long as that's coffee, set me up with one!"

    Then they ask me what size. I ask for a medium. They explain to me that they don't have medium, but rather I have to choose from mondo, groovy or ventricle (those might be wrong, in that I haven't had a coffee by this point in the transaction and can't really focus all that well). I ask which one of those is medium. They mutely pour me a cup of some size, take my money, and I leave.

    No compliments, no faux friendships. Just a crappy cup of coffee that tastes like a burned tire. If not a happy experience, it's at least bearable.

    • I always say "I like a normalish coffee — medium-sized type of thing", and it works like a charm. They never make me use one of their size words, and the most clarification I ever have to do is choose between medium and dark roast.

      • That's awesome, my friend! PERFECT CHOICE!

        • What can I get you?

  4. I hate when people at Starbucks are polite. Every once in a while, the guys in the underground Starbux at Bay and Front will ask me how the weather is, is it still nice outside, would I like my receipt, etc.

    STFU. Just give me my coffee. I haven't had one yet, and just cause you've been sucking on espresso all morning doesn't mean I want to chit chat while there are 38 people in line behind me.

    I feel much better now.

  5. Also, a question regarding the upcoming Taste event you're hosting: has the chef managed to find a wine pairing for pigs-in-a-blanket yet? :)

    • Blue Nun, the April 2010 vintage

      • That will complement the baconaise sauce nicely.

        • You may detect notes of citrus, motor oil and heart failure

          • I was hoping for Baby Duck. As a beverage, and an appetizer…

  6. "…and my other donut and…". Heh heh.

    • I was trying to figure out he was "comparatively athletic" because he was doing bicep curls with a buttercream doughnut clutched in each fleshy fist…

  7. Torontonians are just so friendly! I have no idea how you ever could have gotten such a bad rap…

    • If your firing at me, it was a year in New York that taught me to despise politeness in the morning.

      • A Canadian in New York who finds the New Yorkers too friendly?

        Yikes: you are one renegade Canuck.

        My friend…that's awesome!

        • Sorry, I was not clear. I appreciated the efficiency of the curt Starbucks New Yorkers. I did not find New Yorkers friendly or rude, just efficient.

  8. I'm glad we cleared that up. I love that Ralph Klein. I don't think I'll ever tire of stories of his drunken antics.

    Take note Jack, Steve and Mike. You need to drink more and do something outrageous, funny and be absolutely unapologetic about it. It worked for Ralph and it can work for you.

    • After thinking about this, you might be right. Think about it. 1. Drunk Harper vs Sober Ignatieff 2. Drunk Ignatieff vs Sober Harper. I would go drunk on both choices. I do not want to see Layton drunk though. You can only take so many mustache ride jokes.

  9. Lot of arrogant coffee drinkers.

    • Nah. Just cranky and misanthropic.

  10. Hah! I out-petty you!.

    When I approach a Tim Horton's I evaluate the drive-through line, if too long, I park and rush in as well. However, if the line in the store is too long, I just keep on driving.

    Hah-hah suckers! I kept my money and my time!

    And I still don't have a coffee.

    But a hollow victory is still a victory.

    • I generally tend to avoid coffee shops, so could someone explain to me why Tim Horton's regulars tolerate the complete lack of structure for lineups? The few times I've been there, I feel like I'm jostling for water at a disorganized refugee camp.

      • Because they're everywhere? I prefer William's Coffee Pub myself, but there isn't one on my commuting route. Tim Hortons are everywhere. They serve palatable coffee to go.

        I don't know many other options. I tried Petro-Canada's Neighbours, but then I'm dodging the cars at the pumps and wind up in line behind the old fart wanting to check 40 Lotto 6/49 tickets at the counter.

        • That's why I love my thermos. (And rarely leave home.)

      • Because I love that darn "english toffee" can't help it!

        • Ah. Whatever you do, NEVER look at the bag that stuff comes in.

          Some things can not be unseen…

          • Hahaha, I don't even want to know!

  11. Ah, Scott, you were cranky when you wrote this.

    You are at your best when you're cranky.

  12. Every other proper coffee shop in Canada understands me perfectly when I order a Large Dark Roast. Some starbucks get me that order without causing fuss. Any starbucks that asks me whether I mean a Grande or Venit doesn't get my business again.

  13. I recently started reading your blog mr. feschuk and the last part in this blog made me crack up and could not stop laughing out loud at the office. so thank you, but darn you.
    anyways, because I enjoy your humour and news, I really hope you're not a cocky a-hole like most people seem to be these days.

    • Phenomenal post. Thumbs up!

      • Indeed. Huzzah, madam, huzzah!

    • "I really hope you're not a cocky a-hole like most people seem to be these days."

      He's not. Even his son, Dave, is a nice and witty writer too. It must run in the family.

      • Cheers to that!!

      • I actually think he's just a different kind of cocky a-hole. But his son Dave is sweet.

        • Cocky? Yes. A-hole? YES. But a cocky a-hole? Yes.

  14. I don't understand why all the fuss over the lingo they use at crappy coffee stores: make your own at home in the morning.

    • You're obviously a morning person. I sleep so late my co-workers are lucky I wear pants every day. If they're really lucky, they're clean pants…. ;)

    • Nah. I take public transit. Hot beverages are a bad thing to take on a very crowded public conveyance.

      But there's a rtimmies across from my bus stop, and every morning I see 27 almost-accidents from the drive-thru line up snaking down the one lane road…

  15. Here is a quick self-esteem booster for us thin, spindly people:

    Order the 'short' (European translation – largest legal size; American translation – thimble, Canadian translation – Tim's medium) size of coffee at Starbucks whilst glancing ever-so-snobbishly at the hefty, middle-aged office worker with the Venti double-whip mocha and two scones (think sk-ON in your head instead of sk-OWN for an even more exhilarating elitist high).

  16. Haha. Will you be able to go back to that Pincrest Starbucks now? Or will the possibility of getting a "surpise" in your next coffee keep you from being able to return there?

    • Do you think they read Macleans? I bet not : – )

    • Screw them. There's an IKEA across the street from there. For the price of a Grande (yes I have been indoctrinated), he can get a coffee and a cinnamon bun. Sure they are both affronts to taste buds everywhere, but it's not that big a step down from the Bux.

      Generally the Chapters Starbucks are less efficient than the real ones, since the sit-down customers dominate. My regular one can maintain small talk AND give me coffee with a minimal amount of fuss. Startling, I know.

  17. This is the best mailbag ever!

    I live right near that Starbucks. I frequently flout the "no unpurchased books allowed in the Starbucks" rule. And I had no idea your comedy stylings came from a place of deep, deep rage at society…

  18. And for the record, get a "K-cup" coffee maker. Best purchase I ever made.

    • Sounds like it was built into a bra. A very, very large bra.

      • A huge bra that dispenses coffee…from the nipple area, I suppose?

        Stop sharing fantasies whilst touching yourself!

        • Wait, K Cup? I thought that was "K-Car Coffee maker". Reliable, and now twice as fast.

  19. Obligatory: Customer's suck. The poor bastards that work at these places have to deal with asshatery every day. How they are still able to fake happy their way through every day is beyond me. So don't be a dick about it.

    On a related note, a self righteous rant about 'Starshmucks":

  20. I once went into a Second Cup and accidentally ordered a "grande". The barista shot me the worst look and said really rudely "this isn't a Starbucks, we don't have GRANDE". Never been back to that location. Customer service jobs are rough, but that was just uncalled for!

    • He was just practicing natural selection and protecting his regular customers.

      You self identified by using the "I have more money than common sense" keyword.

  21. Where's the usual "There's no stupid question, unless…" preamble to the questions?

    My soul just died a little, Feschuk.

  22. Democracy Dog has it right. After a career of drinking crappy coffee complete with powdered coffee creamer that helps protect the lining of my arteries, I tried Sawbucks (reasonably good but unreasonably expensive), Timmie's (okay but never the way I really want it no matter how I order it), 2nd and last cup (I can't differentiate between it and Sawbucks in either price or flavour), WhackDonald's (they make REALLY good coffee, according to their marketing hype but it's kind of like Timmie's without the flavour), the coffee at the local privately owned coffee place (you can smell the burned coffee a block away) and Costco coffee–hey, it's from Starbucks–to make my own lousy pot of bitter that required gobs of cream and sugar to make the hit palatable, I finally got a K-cup coffee maker. Why wasn't this invented before I got old?

  23. Good story, Scott. That dog may have been the only one in the Martin PMO who knew what he was trying to do.

  24. i nominate the starbucks on dundas west and roncesvalles in toronto as the absolute worst. now most in canada are bad. visiting the us or europe they are actually friendly and service oriented but in canada mosy are surley.

    so ay dundas west they had a little mafia working there who got deep into gossip about the customers to the extent thsat they were telling people that one customer was stalking and harrassing people, because he stood outside several times on many days–AT THE BUS STOP. even called the police once, who say right away what idiots they were. when that didn't work they siad he was making rascist remarks–they forgot to tell the police that. they of course got sued and had to pay out but starbucks didn't fire the manager. total gen next slackers with anger at everyone but the people who actually screwed them over