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John Nippolt
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       I'm not a Starbucks guy, so I don't go in there to impress or be impressed. I will not pay attention to who is sitting where, how people are dressed, or, if they are reading, writing, or computering. I just go there to buy my wife her weekly Sunday edition of the New York Times and split. I don't seek latte ambiance, or any of the associated tasty goodies that spin out from this generic social fountain; this is the only place in town that sells her paper. I go in, grab a copy and wait patiently in line while those in front of and behind me try to make up their minds on what they will order. Today was different.
      I usually drive to a nearby lot to park my car and avoid the traffic congestion that surrounds Starbucks. After I got out of my car and walked across an access road towards the place, I noticed there were no customers sitting outside at the tables in front, nor was there a line of cars waiting to order at the drive-thru window. Hmmn, it didn't look closed so I must have come during a lull which was a first for me. I was hoping that it was not too late to get a copy of the paper; it was still mid-morning and they don't usually run out until after noon. I might get lucky and not have to face a long wait in line in that incredibly expensive, but delicious smelling place.
     There were a few people inside, tucked away in their thoughts, sipping at one thing; nibbling on another. I had never seen it this empty in here. The girl who worked at the window noticed me as I walked in; we made eye contact. I was wearing a woven straw hat and I was dressed in a t-shirt, camouflage shorts, and rubber boots. I'd been working in the stream up until I took a break to go and get the paper, so I really wasn't dressed in a Starbuck's mode. Also, the young fellow who worked the counter glanced up as I came through the door and then turned away to carry on with what looked to be his main chore. He was making coffee.
     With no one in the way, I walked directly to the news stand, picked up one of the few remaining copies of the New York Times and then continued on to the register. With no customers in front of me and no customers behind me, there I stood.
The worker kept his back to me and perhaps he didn't realize I was standing there waiting to pay for my paper while he continued on with his duties. It appeared like he was pretending I wasn't in the room. I wanted to see how long it would take for him to recover his senses and remember that we both had looked at each other when I entered the place, but enough time had passed that it was time for me to interrupt the young man.
     The girl at the drive-thru window watched the whole episode unfold. I guess she was waiting to see how long it would take for someone else to help me. My look told her that I was not going to wait any longer. "Oh, may I help you, sir?" she asked.
     As she said it, the young man stood up and turned to face me. "Can I help you?"
     I said nothing, tossed the paper on the counter and held out a twenty dollar bill. The clerk rang up the sale and told me, "That will be two dollars for your Advertiser."
     I corrected him and replied that I was buying a New York Times not the Honolulu paper. "Right, the New York Times, that will be two dollars."
The price for our local Sunday newspaper is two dollars, but the New York Times cost three times as much. He took my twenty and while I waited for my change, I was thinking about how much money I needed to buy a couple items at the market when I finished my business at Starbucks. I decided to be honest, anyway.
     "You made a mistake."
     I had to remind him that a New York Times cost six dollars, not the two he charged me and I returned the balance back to him; the extra four dollars I could have made from his mistake.
     He re-tabulated the first exchange and then got everything straightened out. He handed me my receipt and began to apologize for the mix up, "I'm sorry about..." I interrupted him at the same moment and put this question to him, "Sorry? Don't you mean thank you?"
     He stopped talking and rolled his eyes at me. I resisted the urge to explain further that he should have been thanking me for catching his error instead of making excuses for his inept service. After all, that four bucks was money he, or someone else who works that shift, would have had to make an accounting for. I had hoped to give him something nice to recall at the end of the day, something on the order that there are still good honest folks out there who won't rip you off, had it come down to that. Instead, I got a dirty look.
     Yesterday, it happened again. I wasn't made to wait this time, but the girl working the counter wanted to charge me two dollars for the Sunday paper. I realized that this mistake might be a common occurrence here, and I began to wonder how much Starbucks loses on the average. I held the paper up for her to see and said, "I have a New York Times." The young girl smiled brightly back at me and said, "Thank you, sir. I thought you had the local paper." Nuff said.