Updated March 2, 2009.

March 2, 2009

Up at 5:43, no problems at the airport. I was pretty relieve because the radio had reported cancelled flights, and as soon as I got in the US Airways line an agent was calling over people on the DC and Phoenix flights and informing them those flights were cancelled.

We left on time and arrived in PHL on time, but my flight to O'Hare was delayed. I sat and waited and hoped it would not be cancelled.

March 1, 2009

Whole Foods in Tampa not open til 9:00 AM??? Grrr...

Passed a couple of restaurants on the way to/from the new Bradenton store, but I was in too much of a hurry to seek out biscuits. Really wish I could have found an itinerary that gave me a full two days in Floriday, instead of just barely a day and a half.

WTF??? Why are they going to open a new store here??? US-301 & Manatee I think, not that far from the new store I just visited on Manatee. Isn't that what got them into trouble, building stores too close to one another???

Finally, Sebring!!! That store had been causing me anxiety since last summer. When I decided not to visit it, because it was not on the original closure list, I did so with a worry that there might be a second wave of closures. Given that knowledge, I can't fathom why I didn't just go ahead and invest the time back in August--would have been, what 90 minutes? Two hours? 2 1/2? Still cheaper than all the anxiety I ended up feeling about that store hanging out there.

Blew through Port Charlotte and Naples as quickly as possibly, but it was still much later than I'd hoped, around 4:00, when I hit the greater Miami area and reached the new Pembroke Pines store. Time was tight, but I still wanted to try to find the phone # for Wellness Clinic in Hollywood where I'd had a good massage in August. I found the number and learned that Lilian was available for appointments. The place was just 9 miles away, so I headed there immediately in case she got booked up, but that turned out to be a mistake. When I finished and punched in the total distance from there to all the stores, I was surprised it was a whopping 130 miles!!! That final store closed earlier than I expected, 9:00 PM, so it was going to be tight. I blitzed as much as possible, and when I finally started heading north from Miami I called that West Palm Beach store to see if they observed the 10 minute rule. When it became apparent I wouldn't even reach it by 9:10, but more like 9:15 or 9:20 I called back and convince the manager to save a DoubleShot for me at the drive-thru window. Unbelievable, I thought, that I was going to be 5-10 minutes late after a drive of some 700 miles! Still, I got my DoubleShot and accomplished my (expensive) goal for the weekend.

Tried Pollo Tropical for the first time, and I was pleased to find fried yucca on the menu.

Once I settled into my drive on the turnpike and finished my breakfast it occurred to me to check the flight time on my itinerary in case I had transposed 6:50 as 6:05. I was very much hoping for an extra 45 minutes of sleep, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that my departure time was actually 7:50!!! A whole 1:45 more sleep--I felt like I had just found free money!

I had been waffling between turning in the rental car and sleeping in the terminal or instead trying to find a safe place to park the car nearby. Since I had to exit the freeway to gas up anyway, I started looking around. I had taken the exit closest to the airport, but I instantly regretted that decision. Even though there were gas stations at that exit, I saw no place good for parking. I probably would have been better off taking the main thoroughfare, Orange Blossom Trail (US-17/192). I debated whether to risk one of the hotel parking lots when I spotted a street that led into a neighborhood. I quickly found a very wide cul-de-sac with several cars parked on it, and I found a spot not directly in front of a house, next to some trees. As I was about to change a patrol vehicle circle the cul-de-sac--"LAWS" or something like that was written on its side--security, I presumed. I wondered if that street was part of a private development, but I took my chances anyway.

Despite the extremely warm temperatures of the day before, there was a dramatic shift in the weather in Orlando, and the low dropped into the 40s. Even with all my layers, the lone thing blanket wasn't sufficient to keep me warm without the engine. Concerned about drawing the attention of that patrol, if it returned, with the engine exhaust, I drove down the street in search of a better parking place. Nothing became apparent, so I decided to risk the parking lot of the Sleep Inn.

February 28, 2009

Finally found airfare/car rental to Florida at just under $400, and I decided that it was worth spending the money to ease my anxiety over the possibility that one or more of the 18 stores I had not visited in Florida might close. Sebring was the oldest, at about 15 months, and after nearly half a dozen calls over the course of several weeks I continued to be told the store wasn't closing. Still, I couldn't be sure, could I? Not unless Starbucks published a list, and given that it had been over a month since their announcement, I was doubting they were every going to keep their word and publish it.

The others were no more than 6 months old, and you'd thing those would be safe, for now, but some of the original 600 stores to close were just 3 months old, so I considered any store a candidate.

To avoid having to get up early, I drove down Friday night. Cuban food and and a desired to check out Scores with a free entry coupon were an additional factor. I slept near the airport and drive in about 7:15. The web site said to allow 45 minutes to get from F parking to the terminal, but it took less than 30. No additional screening at security, but the agent who reviewed my boarding pass/passport called the supervisor over to verify the single name. Only the second time it had happened. This supervisor did not ask for additional ID. I politely suggested that by now all agents should be familiar with single-name passports, and he seemed wholly uninterested in my comments.

The food court at PHL had Yuck-fil-a, and I gave in to the temptation. The sandwich was indeed nastier than that of free standing locations.

Upon touching down in Orlando and deplaning I rushed towards the car rental area, passing many or most of the passengers on my flight. My effort was for naught, because the line at Budget was still extremely long, the longest of all the agencies. Time was of the essence, and I began a mad scramble to try and find a car from different company at a reasonable price. I asked a Dollar agent, and she said around $32, about the same as my Budget reservation, but then she pointed out the line. The National line was very short, so I gave them a try, but I foolishly decided $40 was too expensive. I went ahead and got in the Dollar line. Putting my bags down to mark my spot, I rushed back over to Budget to see just how much longer the line was. When I returned to the Dollar line an elderly couple had bypassed my things. I moved them to my proper place, and the man in front protested. I said I had been in line. He replied that I had rushed off. I didn't like his tone, so so I said something like "you don't have to be a jerk about it." He was about to reply, but he instead said, with an accent, maybe New York, maybe Boston, "ah, I don't want to get into it with you." After all that, the line moved so slow I ended up decided to go over to National anyway and pay the extra fee. While the agent set up my rental I asked if there was something going on, and he replied that it was something called Bike Week.

Got out to the car, an HHR, and immediately plugged in the power inverter. No worky. AARRGHH!!! Was the inverter bad, or was the car's plug not working? All I could do was plug the inverter into another car, a different model. Still not working, but I did not have enough information to draw a conclusion.

Was planng to avoid introduction and just buy the coffee to save time, but since I had to charge my laptop I went ahead and gave the supervisor at OBT & Lancaster my spiel--but... no sample for me! On top of that another partner gives me a wearied, impatient look when I go to use the restroom. He's got both doors open, like he's about to clean/mop them, but there is no need for him to occupy both at the same time, is there?

Passed a Best Buy on the way to the freeway and bought a different model inverter. Still didn't work. Jeez, Louise--how can it be that in the 21st I can't get freaking power to my laptop???

The delay renting the car screwed up my itinerary--by the time I reached Clermont it was clear that I would not be able to make it from there to Sebring before the sun went down. As such, I'd have to go to the Tampa area first, which would make for a less efficient route.

The first good thing about my trip happened in Clermont, when I thought to ask the baristas about a Latin restaurant, and one said there might be a new Dominican place right across the street--yep, Sabor Tropical was there! I was surprised--I don't usually see authentic Latin restaurants in a shopping center like that.

Rushed to Riverview, but because of the power situation I had to stick around and charge up while I figured out my route. After reading some reviews I'd decided I wanted to try out Mons Venus, so I altered my itinerary and headed out to New Port Richey first, then back to the new Tampa store which was just a mile or two from the club.

Given my time constraints, I had not planned to spend much time at Mons Venus, but once I saw that this strip club was nothing like anything I'd ever seen before, I had to stick around. Crazy, crazy place.

The Wal-Mart down the street prohibited overnight parking, but lucky for me the Home Depot lot across the street had a couple of vehicles in it, one being a van with foil covering the windows, a sign that someone was camping out for the night. I had only brought a light blanket, but the weather was warm enough that between all my layers and the the blanket I stayed warm enough.

February 24, 2009

Oh, this is bullshit!

Starbucks in Taiwan The country used to be listed just as "Taiwan", but now it is listed as "Taiwan, Province of China". Fucking Chinese must have put pressure on Starbucks, and Starbucks caved.

February 23, 2009

Well, I can no longer deny reality. This article about Taiwan indicates that my mission is truly impossible. With store closures in Israel (in 2003), Australia, the United Kingdom, and now Taiwan, I'm faced with the certainty that I'm going to miss out on so many stores that the whole of my soul will be consumed by loss. I should just kill myself now and save myself the pain that will ensue when I found out just how many stores I missed. Unfortunately, I can't kill myself until I see Watchmen. And X-Men Origines: Wolverine and several other movies this summer. And then next summer, Iron-Man 2. And in 2011, Avengers.

February 13, 2009

The anxiety continues, as I make repeated calls (every week or so) to particular Starbucks in Los Angeles, Sebring, Lynnden, Calexico, and others, to see if they have been slated for closure yet. I'm sure the baristas are sick of these calls, and I place the blame squarely on Starbucks' shoulders. If they would just publish the fucking list then people could stop wondering which stores are going to close.

February 7, 2009

Grrr... Starbucks' stupid secrecy continues to screw me. Besides causing general anguish, their failure to publish the list of closing stores had tangible effect on me this weekend. After going 7-0 in the Rocky River Scrabble tournament I decided to go up to Guelph, ON, to try and boost my rating even further. Since the tournament would not start until 2:30 PM, I had plenty of time to hang out at the House of Lancaster, a near-obligatory part of every visit to the Toronto area.

Unfortunately, the new Starbucks in Beaver, PA, had been open since July, and because Starbucks had not yet published the list of store closures, I had to worry that the store would be on that list. Driving down to that store, plus McMurray, before heading up to Ontario, would add 180 miles to my trip, and cause me to miss out on H.O.L, but I the detour would be cheaper now while I was so close.

Thing is, my strategy for maximizing my travel resources was supposed to have shifted towards skipping stores until future trips in order to avoid excessive detouring. But now, for fear that stores would close, I was wasting hundreds and thousands of miles and money. I swear, that is really a dick move on Starbucks' part, keeping the closure list secret so long.

February 1, 2009

Detoured 120 miles from my route back to Wisconsin, to visit a single new store in Lafayette, IN. I used to make these types of detours earlier in my project's lifetime, but as Starbucks began to expand ore aggressively I decided it would be more efficient to skip some stores and visit them on subsequent trips. The game had changed, however, with the announcement of all the store closings. I had suspected since the July announcement that, moving forward, any underperforming store could be a target for closure. Last week's announcement just confirmed my suspicions. As a result, I felt to get to each store as quickly as possible. Sucked to make that detour though, because I was planning to travel to Indianapolis in March. But if my job ended before then I might not have a chance to pass near Lafayette before heading overseas, and the store would be left hanging out there, and I would lose sleep worrying about it. I couldn't risk it.

January 31, 2009

AARRGHH!!! How can they fail to learn from what happened last summer. They caused so much anxiety and irritation with their refusal to release a list of store closures that a week and a half later they had to back down and publish the list. But, as this article indicates, they are being secretive once again. How hard would it have been to learn from their mistake and have the list ready when they made this week's announcement???

January 28, 2009

Here we go again, 300 more closures. Fortunately for me, I totally expected this, and that's why I have been so aggressively visiting stores even after I got to all (but one) of the stores on the July list of 600. That's why I so aggressively circle the country over the Christmas holiday. Unfortunately I could not get to Florida, so I now have to consider that some of the newer stores, which opened since July/August, might close. Might have to fly down there for a weekend, which would suck for my overall travel budget.

I'm truly hoping, though, that Starbucks will learn from their debacle in July at have a list of the 300 stores already on the website so people won't have to wonder like they did before. Let's see.

Nope. Not yet. Only one relevant piece of info up on the site, that 200 stores will be in the U.S. and 100 overseas. That sucks. No way I can get to those in time, and even if I could, I'd need a list.

January 25, 2009

Met Pete for some Scrabble at the Starbucks in Racine. Winced a bit while in line. The DM for Grand & Dilley's had not gotten back to me, and my negative experience there was really souring my view of Starbucks. Besides my feelings that Sunday morning, i had found myself unable to stand in line at the Starbucks in Lake Geneva without thinking of how unprofessional and un-customer-friendly it was for a store manager and a district manager to ignore a customer issue.

January 21, 2009

Well, after 9 days I have to assume that the manager at Grand & Dilley's is not going to call me back to explain what happened. He said he would get back to me in an hour, of course. So I felt it was time enough to try and talk to someone at a higher level. I called the other store on Grand and was able to get an extension for the district manager. I left her a very polite message. Will she return my call, I wonder.

January 16, 2009

OH... MY... GOD... HOW INCOMPETENT CAN THEY BE??? It took me no less than thirty minutes, probably more, to obtain the number for the new store in Austin. I had to call the three nearest Starbucks, then Seattle, twice, then the cloest Starbucks, again, before I got a good number. Really, this shouldn't be so frustrating. How hard would it be for the manager of every new Starbucks to call a couple of the nearest stores and tell them the phone number??? IS IT REALLY THAT HARD???

What the heck??? I've called the Coon Rapids store several times since it opened, at least three, and I'm pretty sure that each time the same barista answered. From the second time on I grumbled at that because that barista should never answer the phone at all. She has a curt, could-care-less tone that makes the customer feel like he's imposing by calling for info. Ugh.

AARRGHH!!! The whole Coon Rapids issue was a waste of time!!! Because of a database mistake I thought it was a new store, but it wasn't!!! I could have reached the hotel well before 10:00 so I could sleep 8 hrs, but not with the unnecessary detour to Coon Rapids. AARRGHH!!!

January 12, 2009

This isn't exactly Starbucks' fault--they were just caught in the middle. But I'm still irked at how they supervisor and then the manager handled things.

It all started Sunday night, when I decided I wasn't going to be able to make it back to Twin Lakes in time to see the premiere of 24. I often slept at the Lake Forest oasis on the way back from a weekend away so that I can get my Starbucks in the morning (none between home and work), but this time I had a secondary goal, to download the 2-hr premiere once a torrent file was uploaded.

To avoid attracting the attention of police, I stayed at the oasis until about 3:30 AM before driving up to the Starbucks at Grand & Dilley's, and as I expected there was a car in the parking lot already when I arrived. Probably a partner waiting for the manager to arrive and open the door. I started my download of the first hour and went to sleep. Around 5:30 I woke up to find the download almost completed, so I started the 2nd hour and went back to sleep.

Sometime around 6:30 I heard voices. Once I woke up enough to realize they were talking about me, and once I felt the light shining through my blanket, I knew what was coming next.

After running my ID twice, unsuccessfully, the officers gave up, but they did not drive far. One unit stayed nearby, presumably to keep an eye on me. Once I changed I went inside for the coffee I would most definitely need to make it through the day (since I would not be able to sleep any further). After the barista gave me my coffee I asked if the manager would be in later. The supervisor asked if there was anything she could do, and I immediately replied that I had parked at the Starbucks to wait for coffee and download a file and that I did not appreciate having the police called. Interestingly, the supervisor did not say that they had not called the police, a fact which quickly became apparent when a customer, and older man who had been sitting in a chair when I walked in, walked up to the counter and said, in a borderline belligerent tone, that he had called the police.

It's hard to recall the entire conversation, but I tried to explain to the man that he should not have called the police. He wasn't listening, and he flat implied I was lying about using the Internet to download a file. At some point he said, loudly, "I'll call the police again." (not sure what he would tell them--that I was buying coffee???) and then he rather aggressively said something like "...get your coffee and get the hell out!"

I calmly and politely turned to the supervisor and said something like "I was not rude to this man, was I. He had no call to speak to me like that." I expected the supervisor to back me up, but she just said something about his being a regular customer and looking out for them.

I ignored the man and continued to explain to the supervisor why he should not have called the police, that that action put me in danger because the police are routinely shooting unarmed men in the back and pulling them out of cars and beating them. The supervisor did not acknowledge my position in the slightest, but instead a second barista came up and recounted some irrelevant story about a pair of Wendy's employees being shot in the drive-thru lane. That of course has no logical relevance to a car sitting out in the parking lot for a few hours, which is the only thing that customer had known before he chose to call the police.

I wasn't getting anywhere with them, so I took my coffee and left.

On top of all that, the hour-one torrent file I had downloaded turned out to be fake!!! That meant I'd have to leave work earlier than I'd hoped so I could finish watching the first two hours before Monday nights episodes.

After a few hours at work I called the store and asked to speak to the manager. He seemed genuinely about why the customer had called the police, and he seemed to agree that this was inappropriate. He said he would speak to the baristas and get back to me within the hour, but as of that evening he had not called me back.

Now, while I can understand that the supervisor and the other barista were in a difficult spot, the manager was under no such constraints. At a bare minimum he should have called me back to follow up, as he said he would do.

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