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August 25, 2006


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barista c

Starbucks doesn't advertise the short size because hardly anybody wants it. It is as simple as that.

Plus, customers were having a fit because that would mean we had FOUR sizes on the menu and their addled little brains couldn't decide. It's available, we have the cups and it's on the register. All you have to do is order it. Chill out people.


If the reason for not advertising the short size on the menu was that Starbucks wanted to make more money, then a much better way to accomplish that would be to elminate the short size altogether. Come on people, find something interesting to write about.

Amy Alkon

I would drink the short. I rarely finish my coffee.


If there were four sizes, customers would be hella confused. People would come in and ask for a small coffee and we would have to ask 'OK, do you want the SMALL? Or the SMALLER SMALL?'

At my store (in Quebec) a large part of the customers are French-speaking. And the word for 'large' in french is 'grand', which looks a lot like the word 'grande'. So if someone asks for a 'grand', I have to ask them every time if they mean grande or venti.

Anyway. All that to say that four sizes on the menu would be just awful.


When the Slate piece appeared, we had a small uptick in people asking for the short size.
Sometimes people will ask for the smallest size. If you point to the short cup, they invariably want a tall one.

coffeeguy :)

the reason the short size isn't on the menu is becuase ultimatly it's almost never ordered when it's pointed out and people want more.

The reason we still keep the cups around is simple enough though. Cappucinos and espresso machiatos taste best in a 8oz or smaller size.

Especially cappucinos. In a short all you get is the good foam. :)

I know this is a bit off subject, but, what is the starbucks liqeuer made of, is it essentially starbucks coffee with vodka and cream? or.....


it's all about history.

there was once only two sizes pre-now-a-days-starbucks. then there were three. the menu boards could only accomodate the three sizes, since they didn't know to build all their stores with a future size coming down the pipes ten years later...
fast forward ten years, there becomes a fourth size. (thank the gluttinous population of the americas)
now we have a problem:
menu boards that can only accomodate three sizes, but there are FOUR!
ofcourse the new size goes up.
fast forward six more years and we have new menu boards...
but will it confuse people to have more choice?

more choice at starbucks is never a good thing, especially when the majority are concerned with speed...

the mystery is solved.
in history of all things.

funny that.

sure it doesn't hurt that it helps the bottom line.
a strange thing, businesses trying to make profit in this corporate world...

funny that too.


I love the assumption that Starbucks customers are mouth-breathing morons whose brain would explode if offered more than three size choices. The "addled little brains" comment by an above poster is precisely the reason I rarely visit Starbucks these days-the presumption that I am a mindless idiot, far beneath the vast wisdom of someone who makes coffee for a living.

I wonder how many people would continue to visit Starbucks if they realized how little credit for intelligence the staff that works there gives them.

Barista to the Stars

Ummm.....not to be rude, but I WORK at *$. I see the customers who peer at our menu board as if it were in Greek then say, "Gimme a medium." or a "grandy". I don't really presume that the customers are morons but, well, sometimes they are.

And was that a bit of snark -- "someone who makes coffee for a living"? That's a whole different thread, sweetie.

Barista to the Stars


The only time I really serve shorts is for kids drinks or for adults who order "extra hot kids hot chocolate". People always ask for the smallest we have, see the short cup and end up asking for the next one up.


Brewing coffee is only part of my living. A large part of it is doing everything I can to cheer up other people who have a complex that makes them think that what they do makes them a more special human being than others who happen to work in the service industry.

There are plenty of people who come into my store with a lot more money than I have and are a lot more miserable than I am. The worst part of my day is dealing with people like that, but 5 minutes later, they are out of my life. The worst part of their day is that it IS their life.

I assure you, there are many more customers that assume we're idiots and treat us like crap than there are baristas who assume that you're stupid.


Amy Alkon

Actually, there's a famous consumer study of two jam stands that shows that people think they want more choice, but are confused and less happy once they have it. Unfortunately, "more choice" was the 24 jam stand versus the 12 jam stand. Our Pleistocene psychology isn't always capable of functioning smoothly in what's called an "evolutionarily novel" environment. People think, "Oh, we're modern, and so is our thinking." Actually, it takes, according to evolutionary psychologist Don Symons, hundreds or thousands of generations for an adaptation to take hold. Got a little off on a tangent there, but people should be perfectly capable of making a choice between four different sizes of coffee -- especially since Starbucks is a pervasive business and they'll probably choose out of habit if they haven't been in jail or living out in the woods for 20 years.


"I love the assumption that Starbucks customers are mouth-breathing morons whose brain would explode if offered more than three size choices. The "addled little brains" comment by an above poster is precisely the reason I rarely visit Starbucks these days-the presumption that I am a mindless idiot, far beneath the vast wisdom of someone who makes coffee for a living.

I wonder how many people would continue to visit Starbucks if they realized how little credit for intelligence the staff that works there gives them."

Um...do you WORK at Starbucks? Because if you did i'm sure you'd be aware of the consistant idiocy that runs rampant in our stores. I love my customers, but we DO have to deal with some pretty ridiculous questions on an hourly basis. Like when a customer orders a frappuccino and when they go to pick it up they are like "Oh I wanted a hot drink" Well DUH, fraps are ONLY UNDER A SIGN THAT SAYS COLD BEVERAGES...


ahhh, but when you add 4 different sizes to the 15 differnet milks, and the 22 differnt syrups and the 50 different combos, you then have the 24 jam stand in action.

we have the size, it's not hidden.
people know about it, and if they want it, they get it.

people SHOULD know about it, as there are three types of lids on the stands, and when they order the 'small' and get the tall; but use the medium lid - the power of deduction comes into place, and ephanies arise - there IS a smaller size... (angels singing, stuff like that)

and then they continue to order the tall.


Most Starbucks drinks taste bad in short sizes (lattes, cappas) are inadequate for most consumers (drip) or just don't come that small (anything cold). Starbucks deprioritizes short because there's not really any way to use it that satisfies customers and makes the company look good! The wonder is that it's on the menu at all! It's exactly the same as something like organic milk or malt-almost no one wants it or has any real use for that option. Why should we waste a HUGE chunk of menu board real estate on it?!

NYC Librarian

I order shorts all the time, makes me feel as though I'm in the *$ secret inner circle of friends :)

barista chica

people who order shorts are mostly regulars. if you hold up a short cup to someone who says "small", they will 95% of the time go for a tall. short cups are the perfect size for kids drinks, espresso shots/macchiatos, and cappucinos, but most people want a larger drink than that (come on, this is america...). back when it was "short or tall" (also people don't understand the whole "tall is small" thing...), and then "short, tall, or grande", the drinks fit perfectly on the menu boards, but of course starbucks had to upsize. they aren't going to get rid of it - it's a useful size - but they aren't going to rearrange everything to include it. (i think that sums up what everyone else said...)

(also, canadianbarista - i live close to the mexican border and grande is confusing here - always say "grande GRANDE or grande VENTI?!")


How does asking for a medium make you a moron? I always do that, not because I'm an ignoramus, but because I like to buck the stupid Starbucks policy of creating their own names for sizes. It's retarded. If I want a medium, I want a medium, not a venti. I also love to see the barista snicker when I ask for a medium because then I get to laugh at how the self-righteous retail clerk thinks she's better than me, an Ivy League student, because she works at Starbucks. Give me a break.

Perhaps all these sizes wouldn't be an issue if the names were actually meaningful. Tall as a description of a product sold by volume? No, tall is a description of height, not volume. The switch to the Italian "venti" for a 20 ouncer? Most people don't even know that venti means 20!

How about 8, 12, 16, 20 ounces (in the US)?


Brian - I hope the cashier doesn't snicker at you. I am a Barista and I abhor the names of the sizes because of the confusion they create, and also because they're pretentious. I secretly praise those of you who buck the trend inside my head as I make change for your medium coffee.

If the cashier does snicker at you repeatedly, you should let the manager know.

coffeeguy :)

agreed but honestly we do have to be carefull just how full the menu boards get. Just today I had not one not two but three diffrent customers order a "cafe vinilla" before I explained to them that the cafe vinilla was a cold drink.

They would then all say "oh well I wanted a hot drink" and I would have to explain that they wanted an espresso beverage which are hot. Most ordered a vinilla latte not even knowing what a latte is.

The point of my story is that if you need help ask. If your confused ask. There is absolutly no crime in admitting that you don't know about coffee or starbucks lingo. NONE!

However assuming that you can just walk in and "figure it out" doesn't always pan out. There is a lot to coffee. I admit I had no idea what a machiatto or a coffee cherry was before I started working at starbucks.

We don't expect you to know what everything on the menu is when you walk in to starbucks. Feel free to ask all of us at one point or another had no idea about what coffee even was.

No I do not think our customers are stupid at all. Rather I think they are just embarssed to ask for help. I admit I was overwhelmed the first time I walked into a Starbucks.

Just do us all a favor and ask the barista if you have no clue. We certainly are not going to start acting rude or bite your head off over it. A lot of us accually enjoy answering coffee questions. :)


Okay folks...here's the explanation. I'm a manager, I know what I'm dishing here. Originally, Starbucks had THREE sizes. Short (which was the littlest), Tall (which was the medium) and Grande (the grandest of them all!) That makes sense, right? Short, Tall, GRANDE! Okay, fast forward in time and the American population demands an XL drink. So, now that we've acclimated the public to Short, Tall, Grande, we can't go to extra-Grande or some other such drivel. So, instead we add Venti (which is Italian for "twenty" which is how many ounces are in a Venti cup).

Hope that clears things up.


"I also love to see the barista snicker when I ask for a medium because then I get to laugh at how the self-righteous retail clerk thinks she's better than me, an Ivy League student, because she works at Starbucks. Give me a break."

Baristas, have you ever noticed how threatened people feel by us? By all plain terms, yes we do the same thing as mcdonald's, but do you see people who feel as if their intelligence were insulted at mcdonald's? Nope. Something about Starbucks just makes people feel so insecure, and geez it's coffee people laugh about it and go on.

(we're not always laughing at you, only sometimes and only because we need a break from all the jerks that come in)

Amy Alkon

My boyfriend got me the small today (we're in Portland for a few days). He asked "Do you have a super-small cup?" The girl serving him said, "Yeah, that's the eight-ouncer." No problem. She was very nice, he said. (As Starbucks employees usually are, in my experience.) And it was the perfect size for me. And PS I always order a small coffee, and never get any guff about it. I think some people (particular those woe-struck about the prospect of ordering a "tall") should get a hobby and take a vacation from complaining.

coffeeguy :)

totally. If you say large or medium we know what you mean. :)

"I also love to see the barista snicker when I ask for a medium because then I get to laugh at how the self-righteous retail clerk thinks she's better than me, an Ivy League student, because she works at Starbucks. Give me a break."

So, on the flipside, you think that being an Ivy League student makes you better than someone who works at Starbucks?
Starbucks employees serve the public every day, we do community volunteer work, and we (should) all do our best to make your day a little better that it was when you came into our place of business. When was that last time you volunteered your time for charity? When was the last time you made a stranger smile and brightened their day? Just because you go to an Ivy League school doesnt make you better...It just means you chose a different path. Having more money doesnt make you a better person...but you're in college and havent had a taste of the real world yet so we should forgive your ignorance. Maybe she was snickering because you're a pretentious prick and sometimes snickering is all we can do to keep from jumping over the counter and doing something that would get us fired....who knows....




Coffee beans are the pits of a kind of fruit often referred to as a "cherry" Cornfrost.


Then...if you're ivy league AND work at Starbucks? What does that make you?

Uh oh. I feel an identity crisis coming on.

I try my very hardest not to belittle someone when they order and in fact when they say medium and I call grande and they look funny I tell then they can call it whatever they want -- and that it's my job to call it to the barista. Because there is nothing I hate more than some person who has memorized their drink and says it so fast (and usually with one small wrong thing in there) that they try to confuse me (what a strange power trip). But to this day I have yet to ask a customer to repeat their rapidly spoken order because I get them perfect on the dot every single time (oh boy do I love that face).

Also, I don't snicker at customers -- ever. And the majority of us behind the counters aren't idiots (Starbucks tends to hire multifaceted people who have many talents, many of whom are VERY intelligent). In fact we have a little game of trivial pursuit going on in my store currently between customers and baristas.


On just the "customer orders a medium instead of a tall" point --

I do notice that many a time a customer will say "Medium" and then say something along the lines of "Oh sorry do you call that a grande?" (or something to that extent) in an almost condescending tone. My response: "Don't worry, I speak English, too."

~ Jenna

Amy Alkon

"So, on the flipside, you think that being an Ivy League student makes you better than someone who works at Starbucks?"

Good point about this bunwad.

People are too quick to assume having a college education (or an Ivy one) means something in terms of somebody's intelligence or capacity to function in the world. Look at Yalie George Bush. Before he was funneled into the governorship of Texas and then the presidency, he was behind numerous failed businesses. And look at columnist and thinker Wendy McElroy. One of the smarter people out there, and no college for her.


Canadian Barista, where in QC do you work? (Just out of curiosity... I used to work in a store in Montreal)

To the person who suggested naming them after their volumes.. the problem is, msny, many people do not even know how big an ounce is. It really wouldn't solve anything. They would still stare at the hot cups for a while, point at the tall hot cup, and ask for an extra-large frappuccino.


Cornfrost, Coffee Cherries are the fruit from the coffee tree.


Good thing no one else hadn't already cleared up that mystery eh? ;)

Umm, I'm not sure...but I think that coffee cherries are the fruit from the coffee tree...weird! :) lol

This is what i learned from my barista 101 class (to add to what has already been said about why the sizes are named the way they are)...

BEFORE starbucks was STARBUCKS COFFEE COMPANY...before the espresso, when there was just one little shop in pike's place, they only served brewed coffee, (thats why the short and the tall), then came espresso beverages and we added the grande. When we rolled out the frappuccinos, we added the venti.
Yep, thats the story I got...

p.s. I went into subway once and asked for a venti turkey sandwich, it was a long day at work, and can I just say, that they didn't laugh at me, they just asked what kind of bread I wanted.


Becca, my store is in Montreal. One of the three stores in the West Island. Yuppies galore!


As far back as I can remember, before Starbucks was nation-wide, espresso drinks were never small-medium-large. It was short (8 oz) or tall (12 oz). When the coffee craze hit, that size wasn't enough for American appetites, out came the 16 oz, and coffee places had to come up with a name for it. A lot of places switched to small-medium-large, but Starbucks chose to stay with short and tall and make up the "grande" name for their 16 oz. That still wasn't enough coffee for some people, and out came the 20 oz. and it needed a name.

People who bitch about grande and venti must also refuse to call it "Biggie" size at Wendy's or complain that the smallest pizza you can order at Domino's is a medium. Some people just need something to complain about. Whatever gets you through the night.

Mark McDermott

So? No one's mentioned what the price differential is between a Short and a Tall. Usually we all upsize if we get 4 more oz. for just a dime more, don't we? I'd like to order a Short someday just for the heck of it, but if I'm turning off the road to a *$, it's because I wants me COFFEE.
Didn't these same reporters ever mention that movies theatres don't sell "small" popcorn anymore, either? (On the flip side, Wendy's had the triple off the menu board for awhile, because not enough people ordered it; though they'd still make one if you asked. Then the Protein Diet craze hit, and it's back.)


Its really quite hilarious the way people view things that dont work at *BUX compared to the baristas that work there. Everything the baristas have said on here makes complete and total sense to me and should make sense to everyone else. Most people dont want the short cause its too small...who cares about the 10 cents difference. If your ordering the brewed coffee and you need room for cream you get almost nothing if you were to have ordered the short. Most people go into *BUX to BUY COFFEE they dont want some tiny teeny little cup. But for the people that do THEY ASK US! And I dont know what kinda baristas are "snickering" at customers when they dont order in "our" sizes. Thats just rude. If they ask for a medium I do say grande back only cause thats what I have to do as a barista. Your still going to get what you want I still understand! Like someone said a few comments back "I SPEAK ENGLISH!" And for everyone that doesnt deal with what we baristas deal with on a daily basis they cant really talk. Dealing with the public seriously blows my mind sometimes. Theres lots of fabulous people out there...but theres also people that cant understand the simpilest of concepts. :)

Barista sUz

Or... You know what you could do? Go to a Starbucks, ask what their smallest size is, look at it and decide whether or not you want it or the next size up. It's not like we're trying to hide it. We just don't have enough room on the menu board. Do you want to walk into a place and feel like you're reading a book, cos there are so many freakin options?!? You ask, and we WILL TELL YOU. I mean, when we have promos, do you honestly expect us to keep it on the menu board allllll year long, if we still have the syrup for it? During the holidays we advertise peppermint mochas like crazy! But little do they know it's available ALL year round.

As for the sizes, I think it has been very well explained that Sbux started with 2 sizes and expanded into 2 more sizes due to popular demand. I mean, hey we have regulars that come in twice in a day for a venti mocha frappuccino blended coffee [which I don't think I could even fathom a tall].

Funny thing is, my bf used to work for a local coffee shop. Their "small" was actually the 8 oz, "medium"=12oz, "large"=16oz, and "x-large"=20oz.
Whenever someone ordered the "regular" size, they would defalt to "medium". And unless someone specified, all the sizes would only get 1 shot of espresso [except the x-large, I think?]
The way I see it, they gave people as little option if they gave little description.
For example, I called a drink the official Starbucks way, to him. And he "summed it up in a few words" Which WOULD NOT have been the drink I wanted. Hah.

Sometimes, this may come as a surprise..
BUT things are done a specific way for a reason. Occassionally it's not a valid reason. But if you ask enough questions, you get good answers.

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