I found myself in a Starbucks buying tea last week for my mother who was in the hospital in New York. As I stood in line, the employees behind the counter would periodically yell out, “May I help the next guest, please?”
When it was my turn I asked the guy serving me if he had to call us guests, and he said he did. I laughed. Guests don’t usually pay for their food, I said. He laughed, too.
In fact, here are the first two definitions of “guest” in my dictionary:
1. Somebody who receives hospitality at the home of somebody else.
2. Somebody who receives entertainment, such as a meal or attendance at a social event, that is paid for by somebody else.
Hmmm… I guess my tea should have been free.
So what if Starbucks execs want me to be called a guest. Does that do any harm? So what if the smallest size Starbucks offers in tea or coffee is called “Tall.” Who cares? What does it matter?
Language matters. Starbucks is manipulating us. My small, single tea bag cup costs almost two dollars, but because it’s “Tall,” perhaps I won’t notice the price. I have to wait in line, but hey I’m just at a party, I’m a guest! Lucky me to be invited to the home of Starbucks!
Language shifts our perceptions and attitudes. Remember the book Brave New World? Remember Doublespeak? Starbucks is just one of many companies attempting to alter our realities through language. Stay alert and call them on it. Think your own thoughts. When you realize that you’re being manipulated, you gain back some of your freedom.
~ Zoe, IHE President
Image courtesy of Simon Shek.