Confessions of a Starbucks Squatter


That one older lady with the long denim dress sits at her usual barstool, snacking on her usual croissant. My pastor sits quietly, working on his laptop near the back, just like the swarm of students glued to their Macs throughout the rest of the shop. Sorority girls sit chatting at the array of tables out front, while the morning rush of businessmen cycle in and out, hardly speaking at all. Brayden greets me with a smile as I order a drink with a name too long to remember if I’m still half-asleep, so thank goodness he has my order memorized. I scan my gold card, earn a few stars and begin to wait. For my drink? Well, that too. But more importantly, for a table. I stand patiently, hoping one of the intently focused college kids decides they’re done working for the day. However, the longer I wait, the more I realize that the bio major working on her lab report is a perfect representation of me and my usual study sessions, and if she really is anything like me, I sure won’t be getting a table anytime soon.

Stated above is the real life, day to day experience of a “Starbucks Squatter.” No, I didn’t make that up and yes, I am proud to identify as one. Starbucks squatters, by definition, may vary. Some mark squatters as the heartless table-stealers who mooch off of Starbucks’ free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets at the cost of a $1.85 tall black coffee. Personally, I like to think of myself as a financially-savvy, dedicated student who enjoys the ambience that only a Starbucks work environment can provide (their beverages are pretty good too, of course).

How do you know when you’ve crossed the line from Starbucks addict to Starbucks squatter? The first key indicator is having more money on your gold card than in your checking account. But it isn’t a problem really, because you can buy breakfast, lunch or dinner there. You might also be a Starbucks squatter if the barista knows you so well, they’ve asked you out on a date or two, tried holding your hand or gave you a little wink while handing you your drink. Is it awkward? Absolutely. But, you can bear it because there is no way you could give up your precious cup of alertness every morning (and afternoon and night). You can most definitely identify as a squatter if you spend more time at Starbucks than at home, leading baristas to become some of your closest friends.

“All of the baristas are like my best friends now,” junior squatter Trinity Turlington said. “Some of us even text on a daily basis.”

It isn’t news that coffee shops serve as places to hold meetings, study or dig into a good book; however, Starbucks provides a unique experience, ideal in fact, for many people to work in. Starbucks places a lot of focus on customer experience, programming their baristas to not only build drinks, but to also build personal relationships with customers. The baristas memorize your name and apologize when they can’t remember. They memorize your usual order, and occasionally leave a smiley face or happy message when you pick up your cup. Though it doesn’t seem like much, the personal touch of a barista asking about your day or wishing you luck on the test you’ve been studying for is a big enough change to sway most people into coming back for more.

“I’ve never met a rude person at Starbucks,” fellow squatter Hannah Griffin said. “I’ve had long conversations with strangers there, and I’ve never had a bad experience.”

Not only does the personal experience make Starbucks a welcoming workplace, but the environment plays a large part as well. The slight chatter, coffee dripping from the espresso machine and low background music provide white noise loud enough to avoid distraction and quiet enough to remain focused. Starbucks is a busy place, especially at certain hours of the day, and provides a short escape from the writer’s block halting any progress on that horrid five-page English essay. Starbucks offers small meals, snacks, baked goods and a wide range of beverages and, like I mentioned earlier, a gold card earns free refills on tea and coffee. The environment screams efficiency, and, as a student, that is exactly what I need to get through piles of homework.

“I have literally sat in the same spot for over five hours when I have a lot of work to do,” Griffin said. “The environment is extremely relaxed and focused, so it’s also a great place to meet people and sit with friends. Plus, being a member has tons of perks.”

Among the most frequent complaints is that us squatters are damaging to the company. We hog all the Wi-Fi, run up the electricity bill charging our laptops, take away table space and drive up the cost of coffee by requesting so many free refills with our gold cards.

I may get a few refills now and then, but my preferred drink sometimes costs me up to $7 and if I order a baked good to snack on, my bill is easily over $10. I am certainly not cheating the business because, if anything, they’re the ones cheating me by enticing me to spend that much on a 20 oz. drink that will be empty in a matter of minutes. No matter how long I stay on their Wi-Fi, Starbucks won’t be charged a penny more than they would if nobody used it, and if they didn’t want people making use of their outlets, why would they place an outlet conveniently located beneath nearly every table? The large crowd of people hogging tables actually helps business in the form of free marketing, which shows outsiders Starbucks’ products are in high demand.

Overall, Starbucks Squatters aren’t cheapskates who mooch off of the company. We are dedicated individuals pursuing excellence in our work, and we just so happen to trade office chairs for mahogany barstools. Starbucks supplies the ideal workplace for maximum productivity. Starbucks Squatters are simply tapping into that.

Do you own a gold card? One with enough stars to remain at that level for the next few years? Have you ever been the first one in Starbucks, the last to leave or even spent the night at a 24-hour location? Do baristas know more about your life than family members at times? You, my friend, can officially identify as a Starbucks squatter: a status only achieved by the most dedicated elite. Own it. Wear it proudly. There is no shame when it comes to caffeine addiction, especially when it comes in the form of an ice-cold venti triple-shot caramel macchiato.

Design by Sarah Gibson




When you crave something refreshing: Iced Green Tea Latte with half raspberry and half classic syrup

Don’t let the gradient dark green to pink color of this drink sway you from taking a sip. Green tea in itself has a very mild taste, and adding classic syrup sweetens up the beverage. With raspberry syrup added to the mix, this drink provides you with the benefits of matcha green tea and a refreshingly fruity taste.




For the coffee-drinker who doesn’t like coffee: Iced Caramel Macchiato with hazelnut syrup

If you are one of the few who actually enjoy a cup of black coffee, good for you. For the rest of us lukewarm coffee addicts, we still need the energy from espresso but could pass on the taste. Caramel macchiatos alone are fairly strong, but adding the extra hazelnut syrup provides a nutty sweetness that pairs great with the drink’s other notes to mask the unforgiving taste of espresso.





To make a rough day a little sweeter: Vanilla Chai Frappuccino

Culture has dubbed the iced vanilla chai latte the whitest of all Starbucks drinks, so I obviously had to one-up that label by ordering the Frappuccino version. The Frappuccino version provides comfort in Florida’s unbearable heat and tastes nearly identical to its popular cousin, though slightly milder due to the blended ice. Will it wake you up? Probably not, but it’s likely to brighten your afternoon.




For the person who hasn’t slept in days (or if you’re ballin’ on a budget): Trenta Caramel Mocha Iced Coffee with cream and sugar

“Gasp, what is this word “trenta” you speak of?” For those who never inquired or read the menu extremely carefully, Starbucks offers a size above venti for their coffees and teas, though unfortunately not for their tea lattes or espresso drinks (believe me, I’ve pushed for it). Caramel and mocha are very general flavors favorable to people with different tastes, and supply some relief from Starbucks’ extremely bitter coffee. Plus, because it is a coffee beverage, not only can you get free refills with your Starbucks gold card, but the cost is about half that of any other espresso beverage or latte.