My boyfriend is envious of my new Starbucks gold card. It came in the mail the other day and the first thing he said when I pulled it out of the envelope was ‘oooh, sparkly’ (this is what happens when you rob the cradle, you get a boyfriend who ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ a lot). He immediately called the Starbucks service hotline (yes, there is such a thing, to handle all Starbucks-related emergencies) and reported his card missing, so that he could get his current gold card replaced with the new, improved version that glitters like actual gold.
Being a gold member comes with certain privileges. You accrue stars, like a video game hero acquiring loot in an adventure, merrily moving forward in your routine life, but now with a renewed sense of purpose. You start building something, stacking imaginary stars in your account, like Mario picking up shiny gold coins with a satisfying jingly sound that brings so many of us back to a fuzzy state of nostalgia. It’s like receiving one of the stickers a favorite teacher would place approvingly on top of classroom assignments. Starbucks rewards us for spending, for consuming. The free grande iced tea every ten stars garners me is a negligible prize, it’s the thrill of watching those stars march across the screen in the magical Starbucks app that make it all worthwhile.
And there are the refills, which make me irrationally greedy for more. I become as thrift conscious as my Lithuanian relatives were when they just got off the boat. But it’s a free refill, I reason to my normally laid back self, I have to get it, even if I’ve already had three. Fill it up. I’ll get it to go. I end up drinking more iced tea than Delta Burke used to on the set of Designing Women when she had to wash down fistfuls of Vicodin just to get through a day of filming.
I find myself wanting more from my gold card membership at Starbucks though. I live in Las Vegas, where membership anywhere comes with outrageous privileges. Casinos offer their premium members all kinds of perks, and they increase in a tiered system that gets more obnoxious at every level. I find myself idly fantasizing about a Starbucks with a velvet rope and a bouncer, where I can bypass a line of undesirables and glide up to the counter, where my drink is already made, where I can text in my drink order and have it ready for me. The next step I suppose would be bottle service, where I can sit at a table cordoned off from the general public, the loud cell phone talkers, the people conducting job interviews right next to me, the cab drivers with their shoes off who spread their pungent lunches out on our shared table.
Am I the only one who dreams of such a privilege? Am I the only one who would be willing to pay for it?