Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Starbucks Can Teach Doctors

I’m sitting in a Starbucks now pleased that I found one of the few plush purple chairs to sink into.  While this is not my regular coffee haunt, I will patronize them at times.  I cannot drink their high octane coffee and will order some milder tasting overpriced beverage instead.

I don’t come here for their food and drink.  I come in spite of them.  I buy a drink and consider this my rent for the time and space. 

I am put off that one can’t use traditional English when requesting a specific beverage size here.  Is there something wrong with the conventional terms small, medium and large?  You won’t hear me utter the highfalutin descriptions tall, grande or vente.  If I want a medium hot chocolate, my usual purchase, then those will be my chosen words. 

At Dunkin Donuts, where coffee is velvet, the staff sport T-shirts emblazoned with the statement:

Friends Won’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks.

This should replace In God We Trust as our national motto.

Yet, this place is packed.  The car line at the drive through was a dozen cars long.  Folks will wait 20 minutes in line to buy an overpriced beverage that could be used as industrial insecticide.

How do they do it? 

I wish my office waiting room could lure crowds like this.   Perhaps, I have a chronic case of Frappuccino envy.  There’s brilliant marketing and branding going on in the guts of Starbucks.  As a gastroenterologist, I’m supposed to know something about guts, yet I admit that I am mystified.  They have convinced us that this is the hip place to hang out, and we march to them like lemmings.  It reminds me of the cosmetics industry, which has masterfully convinced us to pay too much money for stuff we don’t need.

A Lemming Craving Caffeine

Medicine is a different beast, but maybe we private practitioners can learn a few things from these marketing mavens.

I need to start revising my medical terminology.

The Old Loser Term          The New Cool Hip Lingo
You need a colonoscopy        May I offer you a Colonoscopuccino?
You have a large ulcer            You got a Vente Gastriato Macchiato
Skip hemorrhoid creams.       Go No Whip!

Perhaps, I can partner with these guys.  Anyone who manages to get their stuff down their gullet will surely need a gastroenterologist.  


  1. I almost wanted to shout, "I want a Colonoscapuccino!!", until I realized what that actually meant. So I think I will decline the whip and the colonoscapuccino and stay clear of Starbucks altogether.

  2. The new terms are much more appealing. Great observation at Starbucks.

  3. Although I disagree about the quality of Starbuck's coffee I do agree they are doing something very well when it comes to marketing. Having a comfortable place for customers is always important.

  4. @Arcpoint, you southeners must have tough stomachs, and that's the opinion of a northern gastroenterologist.

  5. May I offer you a Colonoscopuccino? Too funny! Great post, and so true!

  6. I always feel weird ordering there because I don't like their special lingo! Very entertaining post!

  7. Starbucks has set themselves up as "the third place", number one and two are home and work.

    It's a place customers "want to be".

    While our offices may not ever become places patients want to be (aside from creating some sort of GI spa side business!), we can de-commoditize our medical services by providing a physical environment that makes patients comfortable and train our staff to match our vision for a better in-office experience.

    Thanks for the post!