I have a very dim view of mass humanity. Individuals are OK, but as a whole, humans are moronic. So, I’m not usually surprised when the ‘wisdom’ of the crowd makes something manifestly stupid happen. This is how a bunch of old Etonians were elected to save us from poverty and how footballers get paid £160,000 a week. Every so often, though, my fellow humans engage in something so soul-crushingly dumb that I am forced to recalibrate my misanthropy meter to take in the new low to which humanity has stooped.
A moment like this happened yesterday when I opened twitter to see Red Cups everywhere. I hope, like me, you’re asking, “What are Red Cups?” If so, pat yourself on the back for your ignorance. Red Cups are these…
#RedCups (don’t forget the hashtag!) are a trivial seasonal gimmick from your friendly, local, globe-shafting, liquified caffeinated crap merchants, Starbucks. That ought to be that. There ought to be nothing to see here. If Starbucks want to piss money away filling my twitter timeline with ads about the colour of their cardboard, I’m not happy with it – I’d rather they used that money to pay some taxes – but I’ll live with it. I’ll tweet them the obligatory insult making it clear where I’d like them to shove their cups, breathe an angry sigh, and move on. If everyone in the western world did this, it’d be red faces, not red cups, at Starbucks. Across a Seattle boardroom table, they’d realise their ham-fisted corporate mateyness was an insult to intelligence, an embarrassing festive failure, possibly a resigning matter. Starbucks’ share price would plummet, sales would fall, the company would go bust and the world would be a better place.
But that is not what is happening. What is happening is this:
People merrily and moronically joining in. Look at them. Look at these demented, tweet-happy freaks, plastering every pixel of the twittersphere with their gurning mugshots, joyous at the opportunity the world’s most pernicious coffeemongers have given them to drink out of a different colour of receptacle.
PEOPLE, YOU ARE GETTING EXCITED ABOUT PACKAGING.
This is not, never has been and never will be, acceptable behaviour outside a tetrapak design meeting. You should not be glorifying a cup unless you have a PhD on Form vs Function in 3D Space and spend your days glued to a laptop in a ‘thought lab’ in East London.
Giving the benefit of the doubt, what these people are really getting excited about is, of course, what is in the packaging – a festively modified hot drink. It makes them feel Christmassy. You or I might need the first fall of snow, or Salvation Army carol singers, or, God forbid, the lighting of the first candle on the advent wreath to get in the Christmas spirit, but hey, stick in the mud, move with the times, Christmas now means John Lewis adverts and Starbucks cups, don’t you know? Jesus? Who’s Jesus?
An eggnog latte might taste nice. It certainly makes a more interesting conversation topic than cardboard (for about five seconds, if you are sat in a coffee shop at the time). Well done, by making that clear you qualify as a higher functioning form of dullard, but a dullard nonetheless.
Even dullards can have dignity, though, can’t they?
It seems not. Forget for a second what a menace to society Starbucks are. Forget that Starbucks have found a way to make you pay £3.50 for tuppence-ha’penny worth of squashed beans and water. Forget the aggressive, anti-competitive practices they (allegedly) use to force out small, independent coffee shops. Forget even that they made £1.2 billion of UK profit in 2009-2012 and paid not a penny in taxes. You don’t need to buy into that low grade hippy, peace-and-love, save-the-world schtick, to realise that this still applies:
YOU ARE DOING THEIR MARKETING FOR THEM. UNPAID.
Starbucks have recruited a legion of unpaid marketing interns to redefine the a Birth of Christ as Pumpkinspicelattefest for them, and these people don’t even realise (or care!) that they are slave labour. It is now simply ‘joining in the festive spirit’ to help corporations make more money to squirrel away from the taxman.
Why not go the whole hog and let them tattoo their poxy mermaid on your face? And charge you image rights for using it? Why not give up the day job, sell your possessions and parade round your local high street for the rest of your life shouting, “OMG! Honey and almond hot chocolate is totes lush.” Is your life really so meaningless and divorced from nature, that squealing about a branded beverage is the height of your emotional range?
By all means, tell your friends if you’ve been to a good restaurant, recommend a brand of dog food when meeting a fellow walker in the park or support a local butcher who does a nice cut of lamb. Word of mouth is fine. But this is Starbucks. Star-freaking-bucks. They have billions of dollars. They are doing a good enough job of decimating our high streets without a bunch of mindless social media footsoldiers doing their dirty work for them. Tell me, do you really love this particular variety of mass-produced, arbitrarily-spiced brown sludge so much that you will sacrifice all sense of self-respect blurting about it on social media to no-one’s benefit but their bank manager’s? And if so, do I have to share a planet with you?