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Starbucks is quietly expanding a service that may make customers drool

It's one of those things I never thought I'd appreciate.
chris-matyszczyk
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
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Inspired?

Screenshot by ZDNet

I'd never really thought about it, as I'd dismissed the very possibility.

Travel, after all, can be a numbing experience. It invites tolerance while excluding notions of predictability -- or, quite often, basic civility. 

You know you'll be buffeted, one way or another. You're just not entirely sure when and where the buffeting will occur.

For many, airports offer the kind of joyous experiences usually reserved for those undergoing surgery without anesthetic. The lines, the peculiar stares from members of the TSA, the crowds milling around every square foot, as if no one really knows where they're going at all.

And then there are those early morning flights.

You navigate your own consciousness, while you steer your way toward a coffee. Any coffee. Just let it be hot and motivating. 

Often, however, you stand in a long line, trying to control your faculties. The people ahead of you, equally shorn of alert consciousness, search their crania for words and needs. Then they search their pockets and purses for credit cards they've unaccountably mislaid.

Before you know it, you finally get your coffee just as your flight is being called. And spill half of it on your hand, causing you to curse the very notion of the trip. And life itself.

Oddly, Starbucks has given you a thought. It just doesn't want you to know it has.

I judge this from a surprising piece of information that I recently learned. The Points Guy reported that Starbucks was expanding mobile ordering at airports. All over America.

The service apparently began in June of last year at Washington Dulles International Airport. 

One might have imagined that Congresspeople would get first dibs.

Perhaps you, like me, had no idea this was a thing. Perhaps you, like me, might, for the first time in your life, consider that mobile ordering actually has a virtue.

Please forgive me, but when I recently saw one of Starbucks' pick-up only stores in action, I felt for humanity and its imminent plight.

Cold and soulless like an iced coffee.

Readers -- well, one -- chided me for suggesting that those (somewhat) younger than myself were only interested in staring at phones rather than talking to people. This reader, who may have even been a barista, accused me of "entitlement" and "contempt." (Am I not entitled to a little contempt? Isn't everyone, once in a while?)

He accused me of "not keeping up with the times," which struck me as a rather old-fashioned phrase. And he added: "We make connections with people that matter, not every prick who thinks he gets a conversation with a latte."

Naturally, connections with people that matter are made through a gadget, rather than in real life. Naturally, I was hurt.

Now, with the discovery that I can skip the Starbucks airport line, I wanted to reassess my entitled contempt.

Related:

I concluded that airports are different because they're far more utilitarian. If you go to your local Starbucks day after day, you may fall into a friendly relationship with one or more of the employees. At an airport, however, you're a desperate person looking for an instant kick (which has been said about me several times before). 

You really are there to buy and fly.

Ergo, I'm saddened that Starbucks didn't roll out this airport service as soon as it created its mobile app. What wonders it would have achieved.

Now, everyone at the airport can book an appointment at Starbucks. Isn't that precisely the sort of way tech companies always said they'd make the world a better place?

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