Feb. 11th, 2014

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So we heard about the "Dumb Starbucks" opening in Los Feliz this weekend and decided to check it out. At that point, press was pretty minimal about the store and people were throwing around theories that Banksy was behind it, as he's been threatening to take over LA the way he did New York last year. We'd spent a good portion of the afternoon just wandering around West Hollywood enjoying the weather so we figured at the very least we'd drive over to see the Dumb Starbucks.

We got there and the line was pretty bad. I wouldn't say it was epic, it seemed like it would be a worthwhile venture to hang out, get free coffee, and just see what it was about. There were signs all over stating that the store technically fell under parody law, was ] an art exhibit, was donation driven, was free, it was all pretty confusing and conflicting which obviously made it more interesting.

Ethan and the dog got in line while I went to check out the actual storefront, which was not possible because the windows were blacked out which of course made it that much more tantalizing. There were two men hanging out in the parking lot selling "Dumb Starbucks" hats & stickers, again for a "suggestion donation". Which was bizarre because who the hell bootlegs a coffeeshop/art gallery/massive public troll? I looked at what they were selling and it looked identical in quality to what the people leaving the coffeehouse had, just the Starbucks logo with the word "Dumb" in front of it.

I went back in line and hung out with Ethan, the dog, and a bunch of other random people, and we discussed why we were there, was it worth it, why did this seem appealing, everyone sort of seemed either confused or excited. Again a lot of people thought this was Banksy or Shepard Fairy, or at least someone with money since clearly this was about as posh an operation as you'd get going in less than 24 hours. The signage out front looked great, the barista's had high quality uniforms, there were branded umbrellas outside the store, before even taking rent or all the free food and coffee into account this stunt had to have cost at least $15k or so.

The line moved -incredibly- slow. People would trickle out and occasionally you'd hear someone talk about how terrible the coffee was. Some people had ceramic mugs (which I coveted), some people left with hats, but the most common thing was just regular paper cups, though EVERYTHING was double cupped so that the cup with the logo wasn't stained with coffee, which of course led people to believe that these things were art and therefore would clearly have some sort of value (again because banksy).

there's only so much time you can spend hanging out in line talking to your spouse or watching your dog play with kids before you get kind of bored...i think for me that hit at about the 1 hour mark, which was also about the point in time where I absolutely refused to give up and go home. I'd put in enough time standing in line and not really knowing why I was doing it (because quality issues aside, I don't drink coffee!), but goddamnit there was no way i wasn't going to see the inside! So I started looking on my phone to see if I could find anything out about Dumb Starbucks. At that point a lengthy Buzzfeed article had been posted that showed the interior of the store, dumb Starbucks stuff was being sold on ebay, but overall no one knew what the hell was going on. I just knew that I wanted to see the inside and that i'd put enough time in that i wasn't going to be deterred. (also i heard they had Dumb Norah Jones cds and I kind of wanted one of those as I have a bootlegged version of Bankys' Paris Hilton cd and thought they would look cute together)

eventually we got inside. we we the last group of people let inside and at that point it was actually kind of scary because people were pressing their faces up against the glass and it totally looked like something out of Dawn of the Dead. Throughout this part of the experience, the "dumb baristas" kept stressing that everything inside was crap, that everything from the coffee to the pastries was just stale stuff that they'd picked up at Vons, but no one cared. So it was a little creepy feeling trapped in the Dumb Starbucks with hundreds of people lingering outside trying to get in, but we'd made it, our efforts had paid off.

the inside was pretty mediocre. it looked like a really stripped down starbucks that didn't have working refrigerator cases or cash registers. the only things that worked were the overhead lights and the coffee machines, which were incredibly slow. There were 2 people manning the entire operation, though by the time that we had gotten inside one of them was essentially the defacto security guard making sure the front door stayed locked (i also think he either called the police or a private security firm to clear the people out of the parking lot as the mob quickly dispersed and then reformed) but yeah, the most notable thing about the interior of the Dumb Starbucks was how astoundingly mediocre it was. It wasn't clever, there were no funny signs on the walls or anything mocking large scale retail culture, no biting satire, nothing that was all that interesting. it was just kinda boring. the only cool thing for us at least, was since we were at the end of the line, we actually got to talk to the employees a bit, and it was clear that they were pretty heavily scripted in what they could and couldn't say, but it seemed like they had at least let their guard down a little, since by that point we were all just locked in the store together, where it was FAR less crowded.

We got our personalized coffees (well ethan got a coffee, I got a cup) and headed out...feeling completely and utterly dumb. all in all i think we waited in line for about 2 hours. on one hand it was cool because we had no real plans that day other than wandering around neighborhoods, we got to see a ton of people, the dog got to play with lots of people, and it was a nice day to hang out outside. We had conflicting expectations on the whole thing, whether it was getting a piece of banksy or some other renegade art, it was kind of funny to be doing something that we were essentially questioning the whole time, and in the end it truly was about as dumb of an experience as you could have, but i kind of loved that, and it's not really lessened by the fact that it turned out to be some stunt that was backed by Comedy Central. On one hand, yeah I am sure I could've been more productive with my Sunday afternoon, but I wanted to see what the hype about Dumb Starbucks was, I didn't have the highest expectations, and it was so astoundingly mediocre and so open about its own mediocrity that it was pretty fun. but also completely dumb, and i feel like that is the best part, Dumb Starbucks completely and thoroughly lived up to its name.

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