An Idea For Starbucks For People With Serious Allergies

Posted By Debbie on April 2, 2015

Before I paid for Starbucks by waiving my phone around, I used a Starbucks card. This was when you could customize your card with your fave drink and a message. I’ve since cut the calories and removed the yummy cinnamon dolce, but this was my card.

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It’s the closest I could come to a medical alert bracelet. 🙂 I actually do have a serious caffeine allergy. I can tolerate about 40mg in a day… that’s some dark chocolate. That’s some decaf coffee. I tolerate decaf very well and drink it almost daily.

In fact, I was such a good Starbucks customer that they sent me a gold card… which has nothing special written on it. And now I pay from my phone and don’t carry the cards.

I’m Decaf Debbie.

I’ve written before about my Starbucks name.

Of the three serious caffeine reactions I have had in the last 12 years, all three came from Starbucks. That means a woman (all three happened to be women) heard me ask for my “grande latte, decaf decaf decaf, with soy milk” and “please make sure it’s decaf” and “are you sure it’s decaf?” after I get it… AND then gave me NOT decaf.

I should mention that some wonderful Starbucks baristas have said hmmmm, I’m NOT sure it’s decaf. They spill it away and make it again. THANK YOU.

Two nights ago, I was up sick most of the night in agony and with lots of awful symptoms I wouldn’t even wish on an enemy. That was after having a client working session at Starbucks and getting a “grande decaf pour over” because the decaf espresso wasn’t working.

Zero of the three allergy attack instances happened while using the card that was my medical alert bracelet. All of the attacks happened with baristas who didn’t ask my name, so they didn’t get the “Decaf Debbie” spiel. Two happened where I wasn’t a regular, and the third was my old regular spot but a new worker.

I have a solution.

Let me log into my Starbucks account, where Starbucks knows ALL of my cards. Let me put in a small blurb about my allergies. I’m not the only one. For someone else, it’ll be milk. For someone else, it’ll be wheat.

When my card or phone is swiped at the register, show the cashier this allergy warning message. That way, special care can be taken, if needed, with my order.

Starbucks could also do what some fast food places do and put a funny colored sticker on my cup. That catches people’s eyes and they are re-reminded that this is an allergy instance.

This would help SO many people, and make it clear that we are not whiny, high maintenance customers. If I ask for decaf, you should give it to me anyway, but if you need a reason, I have a good one.

This is especially important where I’m not a regular. Where I’m a regular (which right now is 36 2nd Street in San Francisco), the people there are so wonderful that they look at me, pull out a cup, and write up my order and my name. It’s like Cheers. Everybody knows Decaf Debbie and everybody knows to make double sure she gets decaf. I still ask when the drink is delivered if they are SURE it’s decaf.

Where I’m not a regular? Well, I guess I’ll put some money on the old card and use that to make sure that people see something visual that says SERIOUS CAFFEINE ALLERGY. That way, people don’t assume I’m a bitchy woman who just wants to be different or “I’m trying to cut down” or any of the other stories people might tell. The reality is that I grew up caffeine-free in a house with a father with the same allergy. Found out at age 12 that I had it too. I know how to navigate it. But I need honesty and care.

Disney gets it right.

When you have an allergy or food issue, Disney will send out a chef to talk to you. I like to visit Disney World in Florida a lot, so I know all about this.

One great experience was at the nice Artist Point restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge hotel. Chef came out to talk to me. Confirmed that he can do dinner the way I need it. He then said their dessert of the day was a trio of creme brulees. I said sounds great, but do you use coffee or espresso in any of your desserts? He was shocked… he does. He said he NEVER thought of that before. But yes, there is espresso in the “mocha” creme brulee and he will just give me a trio without that one.

Bonus request: please stop sneaking coffee and espresso into sauces and desserts without being up front about that ingredient. It matters to some of us.