the-deuce.jpg

Starbucks, the Drip of Death, and the Destruction of the Universe

You’ve been there. Got that nice, big cup of coffee first thing in the morning from your local Starbucks. Performed your cathartic coffee-preparation ritual over at the condiment stand. Pissed off the guy behind you because you took too damn long and hogged all the half and half, and now HE’S gotta go have it filled up…you bastard. But who cares about him? You’ve got your cup o’ joe, and now you’re ready to face the day. Now it’s back in your car and on the road…off to work, off to school, off to wherever.

And then it happens.

You feel a little bit of moisture on your index finger. OH, I HOPE MY MIND IS PLAYING TRICKS ON ME. You take a furtive glance down at the hand you’re coddling the cup with. AGH. It’s happening again. The DRIP OF DEATH.

Twenty seconds ago life was good. You got your addiction fix, performed your daily ritual, and felt good about what the day might bring. You even took preventive measures like placing the drinking spout and the seam of the cup in positions that were diametrically opposed to one another. But now none of that matters, because you forgot to pick up napkins. How could you be so shortsighted? Didn’t you EXPECT this to happen? I mean, after all, it’s an international epidemic.

Now look what you’ve done. Your car upholstery is jacked up. Your finger is sticky, and the feeling of friction between your index finger and middle finger is driving you FREAKING NUTS. Didn’t you know that it wouldn’t be so bad if you’d used sugar substitute? Doofus. And just how do you think you’re gonna keep your eyes on the road when you’re insanely worried about where and when the next drip is going to happen? I still can’t believe you forgot the damn napkins.

Is that a drop of coffee on your pants? I think I see some on your jacket, too. Hmm, that’s gonna be a tough one. How much did that cup of coffee end up costing you, anyway? What about the time it took to clean up the mess? What about the anguish you suffered while dealing with your Drip? God help you if you wrecked your car while battling that unpredictably volatile, crappy excuse for a coffee cup.

Let’s look a little closer at this abominable condition, henceforth referred to as the Drip of Death (DOD). Why does it happen? Short answer: crappy cups with faulty seams. Not all seams are created equal. It seems like Starbucks is playing a sadistic game of Jenga with us–sometimes the structure holds, and sometimes it doesn’t. Some seams will hold your coffee; some never had a chance. Some will last 20 minutes, while others will last for hours. Then, of course, you have the ones that bust as soon as you’re settled in your car. Tough luck.

Anatomy of the Seam

While your steaming hot coffee sloshes around, coffee infiltrates the seam region on the cup, saturating it to the point of mushiness. It doesn’t help that you hit every bump, dead opossum, and discarded shoe on the road in your SUV, either. That only accelerates the seepage up and down the seam of the cup. I think it’s Starbucks’ way of civilly (arguable) protesting against your use of an environmentally-oblivious gas hog.

So anyway, you’ve got this ticking time bomb of a cup in your car or your monstrous Hummer H69, and you’re just waiting for this sucker to go off. Better yet, you may be blessed with one of those seams that’s so far gone that the lid pops off the top of the cup. Those tend to be extremely fun at, say, 65 mph. Even better if you’re on a curve.

If that seam gets too moist, especially up near the top of the cup, you’re a goner. Although it sounds like a good thing, too much moisture on the C-spot is the root cause of DOD, and that makes it bad. Very bad. Listen, if you’re faint of heart, I suggest you stop reading now, and whatever you do, don’t look down! The pictures that follow tell the chilling tale of a real-world encounter with DOD. You’ve been warned.

Alright, you sadistic bastard. I knew you’d keep reading. For me, the last straw happened this morning when my tall coffee cup succumbed to C-spot degredation, and the DOD got unleashed all over my car.

My e-brake was first, followed by my console, and then by my cupholder. Of course, all this occurred after I first felt the DOD on my index finger. At that point, however, I knew it was too late. I also became keenly aware of the fact that I had no napkins…And god help you if you stick your hand down in my cupholder–it may get stuck there alongside a couple of George Washingtons and a handful of honest Abes.

The bottom line here is that something needs to be done about this. Starbucks execs are snickering because they fill up their $23 stainless mugs, all the while getting $0.10 off of each purchase thanks to their attention to the environment. Meanwhile, you’ve got coffee all over everything you own. With that in mind, the campaign to BUILD A BETTER SEAM starts today. Sound the horns.

And remember the damn napkins!

Take the Next Step!

  1. Share this on Twitter:
  2. Share this on Facebook:
  3. Submit it to StumbleUpon
  4. Bookmark it on Delicious

66 comments… read them below or add one

Homer Simpson November 14, 2005

They want us to spend $23.00 for a stainless steel mug they buy from China for $23.00 a gross!…and it has their advertisement all over it! I’m still going to drink the crap though, DOD or not.

Reply

Laura November 15, 2005

My first suggestion to you is to switch to the caramel apple cider. Ha ha! From there, though, the only way to prevent the drip of death is to do the 2 cup request. Simply ask them to put one cup inside another–and tell them it’s because it burns your hand;) This puts a damper on the infamous Starbucks save the earth with cheap cups campaign, which will eventually force them to GIVE IT UP. Don’t get me wrong–I am all for saving the earth. However, when you are paying $3 for a cup of coffee, I think the least you can ask is for it not to be spilled all over the car/pants/shirt/dog/whatever. Plus, I don’t think it’s about saving the earth. I think it’s about saving money under the pretense of saving the earth, which is just down right nasty. You are right, though, the best is when the lid pops off. Curses! I’m still seeking enlightenment on that one myself. I love Starbucks. I really do. But come on, people!

Reply

tfro November 15, 2005

I vote for the return of styrofoam. Thats good for the earth, no? Plus it gives me something to chew on later on.

Reply

HART (1-800-HART) November 15, 2005

Like the captions :D

I never trust a take-out Coffee with its high-top lids and the puny holes. I’m a flat-lid type of person, who enjoys yanking back spout along the dotted lines .. so I can just open my mouth and pour coffee down my throat in a thick stream – like it was meant to be .. not trickling down with some whipped cream and whatever they serve in there. And while I’m at it.. They put a kiosk at my local Safeway – but, you can’t get a shopping cart in their area. What’s with that? Not to mention, it’s BEHIND the cash registers, by the exit. What’s the point of having coffee in a grocery store, unless it’s available to drink while you shop? eh?

Reply

heather November 15, 2005

I COULD just chastize you for drinking Starbucks, but then we wouldn’t get such hilarious captioned pics, would we?

Welcome to the madness =) Looks like you’re going to fit in just fine.

Reply

Jeremy November 15, 2005

You don’t have to get the Starbucks brand, stainless steel mug to use it there. I have a variety of mugs, some even from *gasp* the Caribou Cafe that they gladly fill. You save $ everytime you bring in your own cup, you help the environment and you avoid the so-called DoD.

:D

Reply

Yeah That Cassie November 16, 2005

I too fell prey to the DOD epidemic this morning. It’s a terrible, terrible thing. Your account was chilling.

By the way.. love the pictures with captions. ;)

Reply

jeremy November 16, 2005

“I think it’s Starbucks’ way of civilly (arguable) protesting against your use of an environmentally-oblivious gas hog. ”

Nope. I walk to get my occasional fix, and I still end up with the DOD.

I miss the indy coffee shop I used to live next to. They served Illy, and the cups never failed me. Screw corporate coffee!

Reply

rachel November 17, 2005

you are weird. this is what coffee does to you, makes you weird.

Reply

roy solomon November 18, 2005

I’m with Jeremy. $9.99 stainless insulated vacuum mug from 7-11. I get it refilled everywhere. You are paying your pennance for using up paper.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Reply

Rusty August 28, 2006

Thanks for the funny read. I was cracking up the whole time. I can relate to all of these incidences, and have done a deep analysis as well to determine the root cause. You are just backing up my theory, and provided much new insight.

Thanks,
Rusty

Reply

scott November 15, 2006

BYOM -
You have to say it like the movie-trailer-voice-over-guy – it was an ordinary morning… until the return of the Drip of Death… dun, dun, dun .
Hilarious, brought back terrible memories…
reduce, reuse, recycle… bring your own mug.
Great post.
Happy Birthday Pearsonified !

Reply

Chris Cree November 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Chris! Thanks for sharing this. I missed it the first time around and you had me roaring!

Reminded me of my Navy days. Very much pre-Starbucks, ceramic mug in the car with no lid. Can’t tell you how many times I spilled. Was so glad the uniform was coffee, *ahem* khaki colored.

Reply

Barryke December 12, 2006

If you can’t beat them -

Why not take a simple revenge by just alowing it to drip whilst standing inside a starbucks shop, or on the counter? Just let it ruin their counter or floor, and if its really a pest they just might hand you a napkin.

Reply

Chris P. December 12, 2006

Barryke,

Well, I’ve had my share of spills inside the store, too. I found out (quite violently) that their tables also double as catapults.

I think they’re really in the business of manufacturing subversive weapons of mass destruction, all while feeding my addiction.

Either way, I’ll be back.

Reply

Frederick December 13, 2006

Yep. Those sadistic store owners always purchase two tables with odd length legs. This creates the situation which results in the COD or Catapult Of Death. This can not only be dangerous to oneself but to other nearby coffee drinkers as well since the cups can be catapulted quite a distance when you lean on the table with the old “king-fu action” elbow.
Finally, to add insult to injury, they also have agents who come in late at night to move tables around. This keeps you guessing, keeps you buying more coffee, and increases stock prices of dry-cleaning companies the world over. It is a conspiracy!

Reply

Gregory Pittman December 19, 2006

Chris, This post is unbelievably hilarious. I was yelling, “Absolutely!” the whole time I read it. I’m sure my co-workers are wondering what’s going on in the music guy’s office.

This has become one of my favorite blogs. Not only have your instructional posts saved me from using a couple of overkill plugins, but I get entertainment value, too.

Donations? (seriously)

Reply

Chris P. December 19, 2006

Gregory,

I accept donations in the form of 30″ Apple Cinema HD Displays or PayPal :)

You can find me on PayPal at my extra-spammy address, sales@designerknockoffs.net. Thanks!!

Reply

Nars January 24, 2007

haha, there is some humor in this. But, for the most part if you hold your coffee cup like you hold a flower, it should stay fine.
if you hold it like a stronger business handshake, then you will damage the structure.

Reply

Margo Pearson January 25, 2007

Hey, I just thought I’d say congrats on your bloggie. From one Pearson to another, good luck!
MP

Reply

Chris P. January 26, 2007

Thanks Margo! I have been out of town for three days, and I just learned about my nomination yesterday.

Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked…Unfortunately, I think Khoi Vinh is going to come out on top, but it’s still nice to receive mention in what I think is a pretty competitive category!

Reply

Matt L January 28, 2007

Ewww… paper cups, I typically drink a doppio and recently had it out of the demitasse cups they have available and have not been able to go back to the paper cups, they really ruin the flavor. So, I’m guessing it’d be the same for all beverages served in those things.
I’d have to side with those saying to buy and bring your own mug and make sure they give you your $.10 off.

Reply

Daniel February 4, 2007

Hey Chris P.,
I’ll take one of those 30″ Apple Cinema Displays as well…

it’s usually the dumb baristas that drip caramel all over the cup that piss me off.

Reply

maureen February 24, 2007

wow! your research astounds me.. the e.r. nurses I work with posed our own theory. those who used cream had drips ,black coffee drinkers were safe because the lids were only meant to be applied once. we who are forced to wear white salute you.

Reply

Pete February 24, 2007

Ever seen the flick “Super-Size me”?…Starbucks….ah…yes….all those countless hours listening to those banging noisy blenders, all the nonsense named excuses for expensive drinks placed in cup sizes named after italian gibberish. Anyone know that “venti” actually means 20 in Italian for 20oz cup…..Of course,…Please,… lately I just go in and annoy everyone by buying oatmeal raisin cookies and no coffee. The cups are poorly designed. I’ve had the worst drip at work on a blistering cold day, where as I walk back to my office, the drip burns and then freezes on my knuckles…Thanks for your enlightening thesis on cup seams. I’ll bring a glue gun….

Reply

John F. Jewell August 9, 2007

Chris,

Excellent analysis. I never focused on the precise reasons for the Drip. Now I know why. I just quit drinking coffee out altogether due to this syndrome. I understand where you are coming from however. It is not coffee making you weird. It’s the ME degree. I know, my Pop is an ME and I remember growing up having to learn what was bad about a design or what could be better, etc. Excellent site and you spell a lot better than Dad too.

Reply

Terra September 11, 2007

Help! Its still happening the DOD is attacking willing and unwilling caffeine-heads. I was just on my way to email Starbucks when I read this blog. It seems that almost two years later they still have not improved this design. See image:

http://web.mac.com/terra_apple/iWeb/Xternal/Sbux%20Drip.html

Reply

Thats Car Mel not Carmel September 12, 2007

That is an awesome post. We have all thought it but very few of us have vocalized it so well.

Reply

night club los angles November 28, 2007

HERE’S A THOUGHT: IF STARBUCKS DOESN’T “SHELL OUT” ENOUGH FOR DECENT CUPS (AND THEY SHOULD, CONSIDERING THE PRICE OF THEIR COFFEE)
MAYBE ANOTHER COFFEE HOUSE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED?

Reply

Stephanie December 13, 2007

someone buy this (cheap) boy a reusable cup! in fact, if you send me your addy, i will buy you one. i mean, come on.
:)

Reply

zoe February 22, 2008

@tfro:

Lol, styrofoam isn’t good for the Earth. It’s downright harmful coz everytime you break it, CFC (a kind of compound) is released into the atmosphere, causing the breakdown of the ozone layer (which protects us from cancer-causing-ultraviolet-rays). Styrofoams release CFC, plastics are non-biodegradable…. it’s a tough world out there.

Reply

Coffee Shop Owner February 28, 2008

Hey, go a block further and stop in at the non-chain coffee shop. Their coffee is less expensive, tastes better, and they do not have access to cheap paper that the “other place” has. They may also have fresh baked goodies, that are larger and, again, less expensive. Finally, if you go in enough times, they actually know who you are. Employee retention is higher at the non-chain shop so you can actually become friends. You might even get to know the owner and he will give you free coffee if you do have acup problem.

Finally, from an interview of the chain’s CEO, found in a entrepreneur magazine: “…its all about marketing…If people really wanted a good cup of coffee, they would go to Dunkin’ Donuts”.

Reply

Willy Pete March 31, 2008

@zoe

Uh, I am pretty sure that guy “tfro” was joking. I thought it was funny myself.

Reply

Cody McKibben April 7, 2008

“Your finger is sticky, and the feeling of friction between your index finger and middle finger is driving you FREAKING NUTS.”

Haha, that is the hardest I’ve laughed in a while! I love your writing style because, as unlikely as it may seem, I know exactly what you mean about the friction between your index and middle fingers!

Awesome site design too by the way. Keep up the great articles man.

Reply

XRO May 5, 2008

You silly pathetic starbuck-drinking twats! Let a Great Pestilence befall you and those who you claim to love, you two-dimensional cardboard cutouts resembling people!

Reply

Johnny May 5, 2008

XRO—->two dimensional is an unnecessary descriptor for cardboard. Next time you want to insult a group at least avoid redundancies. Just a suggestion. By the way will you prop me back up?

Reply

Sheri Fresonke Harper June 29, 2008

It’s summer, try their passion ice tea–no jitters, no sugar, just pure thirst quench.

Reply

Christine July 19, 2008

This totally happened to me last Tuesday. The damned Starbucks cup + DOD spilled all over my white blouse. Then I had to drive back home. & of course, needless to say, I was quite late (for my second day of work). ): The day was forever ruined.

Reply

Chris Pearson July 19, 2008

Christine — A tragic story, indeed. The grandiosity of your statement:

The day was forever ruined.

Is not lost on my erudite, empathetic audience, as we, too, have been burned by the DOD (some of us multiple times). I’m sure I speak for many when I plead, “Starbucks, is there nothing that can be done?”

Reply

Kevin July 29, 2008

It’s all about the seam. If they used a cup without one, it wouldn’t drip. Try Barnie’s.

Reply

John August 27, 2008

I don’t know if you’ve fixed this problem in the last 3 years since you originally posted, but I found a solution that works for me…

When you pop the lid back on, line up the sip hole with the seam on the cup. I started doing this about a year ago and I’ve been drip-free ever since.

Reply

Chris Pearson August 27, 2008

John — Unfortunately, my OCD dictates that I cannot, under any circumstances, have the seam facing me as I drink.

Reply

John August 27, 2008

Chris — Of course. I wasn’t thinking about the diametrical opposition of spout and seam. I wish you the best of luck with the DOD situation.

Reply

Chris September 14, 2008

The last time I drank Starbucks coffee I ended up in the emergency room as a result of consuming too much caffeine. I just had one 20 ounce cup too. But it was too strong.

When I got the bill for the emergency visit I then realized that that was the most expensive coffee I ever had!

I will never drink the stuff again.

If you are going to drink coffee from Starbucks just be sure to ask how strong it is before purchasing it!

Reply

Meg Strout January 15, 2009

We were all thinking it, but you pulled out all the stops to reveal the true design flaws! I have never seen someone put so much effort into illustrating the inadequacies in an everyday consumer product…and it’s awesome! Thanks for bringing light to the problem!

Meg

Reply

Harel June 15, 2009

They have the worst coffee anyway. Costa or Nero are much better when they are around (UK).
Thanks for that. I was trying to figure out why those damn cups keep on dripping like an ol’ geezer.
H

Reply

Michael Benninger June 22, 2009

How can I use your product?

Reply

Chris Pearson June 22, 2009

Michael — Check out the Thesis WordPress theme on the DIYthemes site, and be sure to watch the three demo videos to see what Thesis is all about!

Reply

Mahogany June 25, 2009

Hi Chris,

This post is sooooo engineer (straight down to the diagrams). I’m loving it :o). It’s so ransom, and of course I think you’re crazy, but thanks for this bit of “linguistic porn”, as you put it.

Reply

Mikey B December 8, 2009

Starbucks and the DOD? That’s why I drink Peet’s~they have better cups LoL

Reply

Rob McCance December 19, 2009

Chris:

From a fellow engineer living in GA (Cumming), also trying to diss The Man, here’s the solution to the soggy seam dealio:

Buy a tall or grande and get it in a Venti cup.

Much less upper-seam saturation time.

Plus added beni’s:

–no sloshing out of the top hole issues
–no pouring out half of the coffee to add the additives to make it actually drinkable.

Reply

Jhon April 13, 2010

You don’t have to get the Starbucks brand, stainless steel mug to use it there. I have a variety of mugs, some even from *gasp* the Caribou Cafe that they gladly fill.

Reply

cliona July 24, 2010

you’re a funny bastard! thanks for making me laugh.

Reply

Sarah Arrow July 25, 2010

Hey Chris,
I came by to read this post after you mentioned it in a video interview :)
DoD :D even my hubby read over my shoulder to see what I was laughing at, he agrees with you (he’s a two cup man also it seems).

I think you should give it up and drink Pepsi Max ;)

Reply

justin November 19, 2010

I think the baristas sometimes purposely “seam” you when you don’t throw a tip in the jar… I would think when they are trained they are taught to put the spout of the lid opposite the seam of the cup..

Reply

Roger November 23, 2010

I work with posed our own theory. Those who used cream had drips ,black coffee drinkers were safe because the lids were only meant to be applied once. we who are forced to wear white salute you.
Thanks Roger

Reply

Zak Klemmer March 17, 2011

Hey Chris,
Everybody knows my name at the local Starbucks. ;) How about Fed-Exing me a Thesis mug? Thanks in advance! ;)

Reply

Suzi Sandoval June 25, 2011

I appreciate the warning on the Starbucks cup and the DOD, but it isn’t Starbucks job to makes us happy after all they do best what they don’t do–serve up coffee in a seamless cup. Simple solution. Yet the frustrated customers keep coming back. We assume the next seam is the dream seam. Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.

Reply

John Sheehan, Marina Del Rey August 31, 2011

Funny article, I really liked it. While we are on the Starbuck’s rant,
even though I do love Starbuck’s, because I am clean and sober
except for caffeine, yes, I know it’s a drug, I love it, I need it, and I
would never get anything done on my list without it. Hell, with it
I can sand and varnish an entire boat in a couple of hours. But,
I hate corporate art…have you seen this formica art they have hanging at most Starbuck’s? In the design are suttle little paper
cups or ceramic cups which they don’t even have, as if we didn’t know
what to drink out of. They should just have a caffeine drip from IV
tubes hanging from the ceilings with fresh mouth pieces you get
after paying ‘The Man”, also even though the chocolate brown leather
couches are about the most comfortable I have ever sat in, I wonder
what all those drips on the tanned bovine flesh are reading on a bacterial count meter. It’s like they’re trying to put the milk back into the cow one bad C-spot seam drip at a time. I also love the Artisan sandwiches, but must I look at their demo model which sits
near their display case all day long? I must admit though, I recently
discovered the best cold coffee drink ever…Venti Coconut Frappuccino, I have them mix lots of extra toasted coconut into the drink with of course whipped cream on top with extra sprinkles…
Lastly I feel I can say all of this because I once was a dreaded Barrista
at the Tamarac Square Starbuck’s in southeast Denver on Hampden.
It was the early morning shift, I think I had to get there at about 4:30, this and I’m not a morning person, just a recovering alcoholic,
bipolar guy with ADHD and OCD thrown in with a superiority complex and an inferiority complex operating at the same time,
so the manager, we’ll call her Sheila said,”John it’s time to switch
out the brewed coffee, it’s been there too long…”, I replied, “That’s
your job Sheila, cause I don’t fucking work here anymore.” I then
took off my adorable green apron miniskirt neatly rolled it up, and then proceeded to throw it at her behind the counter and then poured
myself a venti bold, went to the ‘sugar bar’, and then unscrewed the metal lid from the Vanilla sprinkles lid and like usual poured 4 ounces of free vanilla spinkles in my Joe, as I learned you don’t have to pay extra for vanilla flavor…All for now…or as Howard Schultz learned to say in Italian Starbuck’s, Trenta Bolda Mothafuckahhhh!!!

Reply

Jack May 21, 2012

This has happened to me many times. I did a search and sure enough I’m not the only one. The DoD kind of defeats the purpose of the splash stick. I might as well forgo the stick and have the whole thing splash on me.

Reply

Luissa June 14, 2012

I have a variety of mugs, some even from *gasp* the Caribou Cafe that they gladly fill. You save $ everytime you bring in your own cup, you help the environment and you avoid the so-called DoD.

Reply

Sarah Arrow August 19, 2012

Simply ask them to put one cup inside another–and tell them it’s because it burns your hand;) This puts a damper on the infamous Starbucks save the earth with cheap cups campaign, which will eventually force them to GIVE IT UP. Don’t get me wrong–I am all for saving the earth. However, when you are paying $3 for a cup of coffee, I think the least you can ask is for it not to be spilled all over the car/pants/shirt/dog/whatever. Plus, I don’t think it’s about saving the earth. I think it’s about saving money under the pretense of saving the earth, which is just down right nasty. You are right, though, the best is when the lid pops off. Curses! I’m still seeking enlightenment on that one myself. I love Starbucks. I really do.

Reply

Nick February 12, 2013

YES! You vocalized my sentiment (and the sentiment to all my light khaki and stone pants with permanent coffee drip stains on them)! It’s 2012 right now – why has this not been fixed?

Reply

Matthew Horne March 3, 2013

Chris, while waiting on a site to finish transferring I thought I would read a few things on the site.

This has to be one of the best posts I have ever read. If it wasn’t for the fact that its 03:00 in the morning and my fiancee is sleeping I was be laughing pretty damn hard right now.

Reply

Matt O. November 1, 2013

Friends don’t let friends drink SBUX! Take the coffeeneuring challenge, a chance to try something else — likely much better, in a proper cup!

Reply

Jessica August 20, 2014

I feel the same way about Starbucks as I do about Dunkin Donuts. Why pay $4 for a donut or coffee when I can get a larger, more tastier product at my local gas station?

Reply

Hoot and/or Holler

Previous post:

Next post: