I happened to walk into Echo Coffee this morning at the perfect moment to witness an interesting spectacle. The customer in front of me was really grumpy (and obviously woke up on the wrong side of the bed), and ordered a few drinks — ala Starbucks. I didn’t hear the entire order, but she began with a Caramel Macchiato, followed by a coffee, and a soy latte.

My best guess is she was in charge of ordering drinks for the office that day, and stumbled into Echo Coffee since she couldn’t find a Starbucks.

The staff member at Echo Coffee handle the order perfectly… quickly explaining that he could make her a caramel latte — similar to how Starbucks makes them. He even explained that a traditional macchiato is a small drink made with espresso and marked with milk.

The customer wasn’t enthusiastic — didn’t smile, and actually looked offended that it wasn’t exactly the same.


  1. How often do people really order Starbucks drinks at other coffee shops?
  2. Some shops in the valley would simply say ‘no’ to this sort of order… I can think of several shops that don’t even have flavors. But, on the flip side Echo Coffee just made $12 off of her order.
  3. Is there a whole class of grumpy Starbucks customers who fear change?

Update: Above is a photo of my toddy + zucchini muffin from this morning.

Echo Coffee
2902 N 68th St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Arizona Coffee

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Wow, you’re very observant! Sounds like the staff were remarkably accommodating, considering that it would have been just as proper to provide directions to the nearest Starbucks. Echo and maybe a couple other shops here are not snobbish, but could be, and justifiably so.

    It’s a difficult thing to “un-train” the Starbucks palate. It would be nice to believe that we’re a coffee-appreciating population here, but I don’t think the Valley has reached a critical mass of coffee aficionados yet. The change — if it is to be feared — is not occurring fast enough.

  2. Perry

    It’s pretty amazing actually. Not all Starbucks drinkers are grumpy, but they will enter any shop and ask for a tall, grande, or venti drink without guilt. Most common is the Carmel macchioto or frapuccino. Many baristas know these drinks and how to recreate them with good coffee, but Starbucks just markets them with funny names. Many baristas I know began their training at a Starbucks! The people we are talking about know they like coffee, but it is the baristas job to educate, and please the customer enough to want to come back to good local coffee. Thank you echo! Thank Starbucks!

  3. As much as I do not like the flavor profile of an average Starbucks drink. The best way to convert a customer is to get them an equivalent drink, create a relationship and later educate them about what you as a coffee proffessional may consider a better option.

  4. Austinmiles

    It happens often i think. But i order a medium if i am in a starbucks which is equally douchey. You can’t change the word of grande to mean something opposite.

  5. Perry and Ron are on the right track. It’s one thing to be proud of your coffee, the higher quality and the time and effort it takes to create a superior product. It’s another thing assume that a Starbucks customer will only be satisfied with a Starbucks drink. Generally customers are pleasantly surprised when they receive a high-quality coffee beverage from one of these local shops that focus on attention to detail and good coffee. Turning them away not only is a poor business decision, but also holds back the advancement of quality coffee.

  6. I can speak from experience and more then likely most all of the baristas that work for me (Press) we usually get 1-5 a DAY……so easy to convert them from Starbucks from a taste perspective….its another thing to convert them from their daily routine….brings great satisfaction to see customers taste a better product….then rip *$’s…..

  7. Chris,

    First, thanks for stopping in. Sorry I missed you, as if you’d had a sec I would have relished a chance to say hi.

    Second, as the owner of a business, practicing snobbish customer service seems like a sure fire recipe to financial ruin. It is the rare business that can get away with that behavior and thrive. The fact that some coffee shops exist, while exhibiting that behavior is a testament not to their greatness, but to the overwhelming demand for coffee by the population.

    Second, if those of us in the specialty coffee/third wave crowd don’t take every opportunity to educate the customer, we are missing out on a significant mandate of the third wave. Without education, we are failing.

    And just like Steve from Press mentioned, nearly every first time customer at Echo is essentially a current (and soon to be former) Starbucks customer. I do my very best to identify these customers and welcome them. If the opportunity arises, I do take the chance for a slight jab at Starbucks if the customer (without having ever tasted my coffee) begins to compare Echo to Starbucks ala competition. I reply with something along the lines of, “I don’t think Nordstrom thinks they are competing with Walmart.”

    That’s as snobbish as I get, but it’s important to note that this is something I will mention near the end of a conversation, not the beginning. Once I feel it’s probable the person is open to the notion that Starbucks might not be the best, then I slide this in. Certainly to lead with this train of dialogue, however, would be foolish.

  8. If I lived near this place, I’d come here often. Sounds like a reasonable coffee shop with great customer service.

    I probably was that person in line in front of you when I first started branching out, if you will. I would have continued to go to Starbucks, had I been “dealt with” by a snobbish barista. The same goes for restaurants, too; if someone can’t be bothered to explain neat little things or pique my interest, then why should I be bothered to listen to them be pretentious to me?

    I bet if more baristas took the time to explain similar drinks to people who are willing to try something different and new, we wouldn’t have as many Starbucks sitting all over the country, but more people who are more appreciative of better tasting, better quality coffee.

  9. I am in the coffee business in Spokane, WA as a mobile, established in 1999. I do shows, events and festivals and get lots of customers who order “the Starbucks Way” I offer five sizes of beverages, but rather than compete with the names of sizes, I have fun with…
    Big (12 oz), Bigger (16 oz), Biggee (20 oz), Biggest (24 oz), and the Trucker (32 oz).
    The customer gets a laugh, appreciates the simplicity and a finished product that competes very well against the Starbucks brand.

  10. Jason Casale

    I would argue the point that Starbucks is making a caramel caffe latte macchiato.
    The reason is qualifies as this they mark and stain the foam on top with the shot at it goes into the cup of steamed milk last staining the milk foam then the milk foam on top stained again on top with caramel sauce.
    They should just change there drink to this as it is the appropriate title.
    Read the definition of a latte macchiato below from wikipedia and I think you will agree.
    This is a moot point ask the customer if they want an espresso macchiato or a caramel latte macchiato.
    This in itself would resolve this long time controversial issue without offending any one.
    Just my 2 cents

    A caffè latte differs from a latte macchiato in that in a latte macchiato, espresso is added to milk, rather than the reverse. A caffè latte has a stronger coffee flavor.
    The latte macchiato is milk steamed to microfoam, served in a glass with a half shot of espresso poured gently through the foamy top layer, creating a layered drink with a macchia – a spot – of espresso on the top. As with an espresso macchiato, which is espresso with a spot of milk atop, indicating there’s a hint of milk underneath the cream, a latte macchiato is the opposite, to indicate there is espresso in the milk.

  11. Psyd

    Jason nailed it.
    The Giant Green Siren *does* make a macchiato. It is, as Jason points out, a ‘latte macchiato’ or steamed milk marked with a dollop of espresso. What the barista refered to was a ‘caffe macchiato’, or espresso marked with a dollop of foam.
    I mean, if we’re gonna make fun of Buckspeak vs Italian, we gotta get it right, right? ; >

  12. I agree with Ron. If any coffee shop would want to encourage first-time customers to deviate from their previous coffee provider, then one of the best way to market the superiority of its own products over the other is by letting them sip in a relatively equivalent cup of coffee at first so as not to alienate them and to build a solid customer relationship foundation. I guess most of the time coffee shops overlook this aspect and instead go on to market their products by directly promoting how their products are much better than that of their competitors.