WHEN DID SMALL BECOME TALL?
(This was written years ago, before Starbucks ruled the planet and before there were blogs)
Hey I’m a capitalist. I love big business. I’ll take Bill Gates over Bill Clinton any time. But there's a wicked little retail trend that's got my panties in a bunch.
About 15 years ago, in a smokey Seattle office tower, a Starbucks executive devised a plan so evil, so deceptive, so heinous, that it would lead to great profit and success. But it still pisses me off.
The little weazle anti-christ thought the chain should go ahead and call their smallest size drinks “Tall” their medium size “Grande” and their largest size “Venti”. While this may seem like a cute little tactic to make their products sound trendy or foreign or something, it’s a profit-driven and brilliant, and evil to the core.
“Tall” doesn’t sound small, it sounds, well, tall. "Tall" is defined- “of more than normal height”. It is, by its nature, a relative term. A thing MUST be larger than something else to be considered ‘tall’. Except at Starbucks. Here, the “Tall” is the smallest drink size offered. So a “Tall” at Starbucks would be a “Small” anywhere else.
Starbucks figured out that when a customer comes in they will want one of three sizes, Small, Medium, or Large. If they ask for a Small, the “barista” reads his evil little script- “This is a “Tall”" and holds up the smallish cup. Since a “Tall” looks like a regular size coffee the customer usually just says ok. If by chance they want a smaller one, the barista informs him that that’s the smallest size. If the person has a hint of logic in his skull he will become confused at this point, and think he needs a double.
If the person asks for a Medium, the barista holds up a “Tall” and says in his best Obi Wan Kenobi, “This is a tall”. Again, it looks like a regular size coffee, so the person probably says ok. If by chance they want a larger one they will be shown a Grande, become confused by the Starbuck Mindfuck, and order it.
If the person asks for a “Large” the barista will probably hold up all three. And the person will probably go for the “Grande” the Venti containing enough caffeine to revive Keith Richards after a night at the Rainbow.
So you say, “What’s the harm?” The harm is in that when many customers receive their “Tall” however the transaction occurs, they think they are getting not the smallest, but the largest drink size offered, therefore justifying the $3.00 they just spent. If you’ve got a “Tall” in your hand instead of a “Small” you feel like you got more for your money. But you didn’t. You got a “Small”. And so people flood Starbucks ordering “Talls” thinking they are getting the largest size offered for 3 bucks when they are in fact not. Psych-out selling at its finest.
Now other venues have taken this to the next mind-boggling stage. Seeing the success of Starbucks size-shifting ploy, Burger King is now calling their smallest size offerings "Medium", their medium sized "Large" and the largest "Super." Now that is just wrong. Medium, by definition, means in the MIDDLE!!! The smallest offering can NOT be a MEDIUM!!! Again- it’s a dirty trick, even dirtier than Starbucks. When people ask for a medium they clearly do NOT want the smallest the place has to offer, but that’s exactly what they get.