This morning, I stopped into Starbucks for my tri-weekly Grande decaf Americano with a non-fat, no-foam topper. Yes, I am the only person in the world who orders decaf at 9am. I placed my order with a friendly barista named Rob who acts and does voiceover work when not actively barista-ing. He greeted me with a smile, asked how I was, gave me a coupon good for any $2 Grande iced drink all afternoon long. His co-barista had my drink ready before the cash register even clanged open. It was an overall pleasant experience. But upon returning home and reading about a new trend in coffeshops, it seems I have been shortchanged.
You see, my barista was not naked. Not even close.
In fact, he was wearing a shirt, pants, shoes, apron AND hat. As was his co-barista, a cute, impish girl with a sassy attitude. WTF? Why am I being denied some skin with my skim?
You see, it appears that more and more cafes across the country are offering all kinds of kinky services to customers in an effort to bolster sales. Some examples:
Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro, Maine
The brainchild of Donald Crabtree (a man – shocker!), this small town café opened in February, promising waiters and waitresses who serve their customers café au laits while café au topless. Crabtree initially received a flood of job applications and hired 15 servers. The equal-opportunity boss told CNN, "We didn't hire '10s.’ We hired everyone from skinny to big-boned women." In such a poor economic climate, he said his topless café makes people happy while offering previously-unemployed waiters a chance to rake in tips. (Note: The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop suspiciously burned down in June, five months after opening.)
Tukwila's Cowgirls Espresso in Washington
Cowgirls features scantily-clad baristas who say things like “You want whipped cream?" while wearing sheer baby doll negligees and panties or drape their leg over the drive-up window and purr, "Do you like my leg warmers? Aren't they hot?" Tukwila’s is just one of many in the Northwest, a trend believed to reflect the need to stand out among the throngs of coffee shops scattered throughout the area. Others include Natté Latté (baristas wear hot-pink hot pants and tight white tank tops); Moka Girls Espresso (these girls wear day-of-the-week theme outfits, including fetish gear); and The Sweet Spot (“Delicious drinks with a wink and a smile”- barista pose online, Playmate-style.)
And because we all know nothing says “eat a burger” like a babe in a bikini (See: Audrina Patridge; Paris Hilton), a new food truck called Baby’s Badass Burgers in LA has chicks serving burgers like the Cougar (aged beef and black truffles) or Sweetie Pie sweet potato fried with much of their own buns showing.
OK, first of all, Ew. This sounds gross. I do not want to worry about finding a stray pube in my whipped cream or smelling someone’s BO while trying to read a magazine and relax with my cocoa. I don’t care if some places also employ men – call me crazy but unless he looks like Brad Pitt and is serving me molten chocolate cake from my bed, this doesn’t do it for me.
And I know, I know, sex sells, blahblahblah, but at this point in evolution, do we really need MORE restaurants exploiting women’s bodies? Hooters is bad enough (and the fact that FAMILIES continue to take their children there makes me want to cry); now we have trucks and cafes and burger joints popping up, operating under the same philosophy. I know all too well that showing skin can net you nice tips – I was a cocktail waitress throughout grad school and would find myself scanning my closet for the perfect postage stamp-sized top to wear every Saturday night, then walk out clutching $200 in singles. But it made me feel awful about myself in the long run and I ended up quitting.
Some of the stories make it seem as if these cafes are answering consumer demand.
In a Seattle Times story, a male Cowgirls customer said, “If I'm going to pay $4 for a cup of coffee, I'm not going to get served by a guy." But ya know what? If Cowgirls didn’t exist, he would have to suck it up and fetch himself some caffeine from a traditional coffee shop. It’s not like millions of men are boycotting the coffee industry out of principle and these establishments simply have to open up to save the day. I don’t see any picketers marching in front of my Starbucks with signs that read, “We want a latte more skin!” Indeed, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the kind of men who frequent bootie-shaking cafes aren’t intellectually capable of dreaming up even that basic little play on words…if they can even read. Sorry to sound harsh, but IMO, the kind of people that patronize these establishments are just making themselves look dumb…and more than a little desperate.