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I've discovered the magic of ordering ahead at Starbucks, and all the guilt that comes with it

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Starbucks mobile ordering

My day starts at 7AM. I get up, brush my teeth, throw on tinted SPF moisturizer, and leave my Queens, New York apartment by, ideally, 7:30. My usual first stop is the Starbucks next to my subway station, which inevitably adds at least 15 minutes to my commute because regardless of what I order, living in New York means dealing with millions of people at all times. It’s the best.

Over the past couple weeks, however, I’ve changed my morning game. At the behest of my dad, I started using the Starbucks app to order ahead. Now, as I’m walking out the door, I put in an order for a turkey bacon egg white sandwich and a grande black iced tea lemonade with no sugar and light ice. The app remembers my order, too. By the time I get to the coffee shop, which is about 10 minutes from my place, my drink and sandwich are waiting on the counter for me. I walk in, grab them, and walk out literally three seconds later. This means no more dealing with lines of 15 people or interacting with anyone before 8AM.

The high I get from bypassing waiting people is fantastic. I’m always a little smug when I one-up waiting customers by grabbing my order from seemingly out of nowhere. I’m a mobile ordering convert, although I do have some trepidation whenever I do it.

Starbucks rolled mobile ordering out nationwide in 2015. Other fast food chains, like McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and even TGI Fridays are either testing or already implementing the feature. Apparently people loved Starbucks’ mobile ordering so much that in-person customers were actually repelled by the store when they saw tons of people waiting at the counter. They left thinking the wait would be too long. So far, I haven’t run into major wait issues, but I’m also constantly surprised at how the baristas keep up with both incoming online and in-person orders.

This is my shout out to baristas. I want them to know I feel slightly guilty avoiding them in my quest to optimize my weekday morning routine. Am I a bad person for using mobile ordering? Although I truly love it, I always feel slightly bad when I take advantage of it. It almost feels unfair to other customers. I also like humans and want them to have jobs. It’s just, man, getting to work on time is important, as is an extra 15 minutes of sleep.

A lot of New York City residents pride themselves on their ability to avoid human interaction. Entire ad campaigns prey on this inclination. Look at these two Seamless ads from the subway:

Seamless
Seamless

Or revisit this Sex and The City scene in which Miranda meets the real woman on the other end of her Chinese takeout order. Sure, takeout ordering in the early 2000s still involved talking on the phone, but it cut back on human interaction. What’s particularly ironic about this clip is Miranda feels like the butt of a joke when her takeout woman knows her order by heart. This is arguably one of the best features of mobile ordering.

Still, I feel the same way ordering ahead as I do about self-checkout at grocery stores. I’m happy to not rely on other humans to progress my day, but also guilty for going around them. It really doesn’t have to do with humans sucking. It’s more about making the most of my time. Everything is about me.

I haven’t figured out how to reconcile my guilt. I’m definitely not going to stop using the Starbucks app, so I think the thing to do is visit local coffee shops on weekends. (My guilt is also over supporting a mega-corporation instead of my local spot.) When I have the time, I pay a little more and go to my locally owned cafe for an iced matcha latte. I’m starting to view mobile ordering as a necessary evil to achieve a less stressful day in which I’m actually on time to work. When I can, though, I’m all here to support the world’s humans by waiting in line, chatting with baristas, and actually accepting the rhythm of New York City, which is always a little infuriating and never as fast as I want.