Is there a name for this? “Embarrassment Coupon” perhaps?

I recently got on a Cafe Verona kick. Dark, “chocolatey”, it’s really a delicious coffee, and so lately I’ve been snapping up Starbucks Cafe Verona anyplace I can find them. I’ve got a little single-cup coffee maker at work. Black and Decker. It makes one little cup of coffee, and usually during the course of the day I’ll make a couple cups. It wasn’t until I was on my second or third bag, that I discovered that Starbucks will give you a free cup of coffee if you take the bag back into any Starbucks Coffee. “Hmmm” I thought, “that’s pretty cool. It’d be nice to be able to stop by Starbucks one day when I’m out and about and know that I’ve got a free cup of coffee coming my way”.

So a couple days ago, I finished a bag and before I could throw it away, remembered to save it. I took it out to my car and put the empty bag in the middle console between the two front seats.

And there it sat. Mocking me.

Was I so pathetic, that in order to get a free cup of coffee, I was willing to walk all the way into the Mall clutching an empty bag of trash? I don’t carry a purse, so it’s not like I had any clever place to “hide” it on my way in. No, I was going to have to walk into Starbucks and hand over my empty trash and say, “here’s my empty bag, can I have my little free cup of Pike Place Blend, please?”

That was when I realized the genius of Starbucks. They know you’re not going to redeem that shit. They know if you’re going to plunk down $7 for a bag of ground coffee, that you’re not the type of person who looks for ways to get a 90-cent cup of coffee for free. Oh sure, you might try to tell yourself, “well, they’re going to recycle them”, but you know that won’t happen. The little Emo Barrista behind the counter is going to look you over, judgmentally sneer, fill a little cup up with some coffee he was about to throw out, toss your little bag in the trash, then talk shit about you to all his friends when you leave. “Dude, today this guy brought in an empty bag of coffee in so he could get his free cup of coffee… I know, right?” Not to mention the looks you’ll get from every customer in the place. I mean, if I was in line and you approached the counter and offered up and empty bag of trash in exchange for a cup of coffee, I’d be like, “man… here… lemme buy you a Venti, bro…”.

So I mean, there has to be a name for that, right? You offer someone something you KNOW they’re never going to redeem, but you look good offering it. It gives people a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling, but in the end, nobody’s pathetic enough to redeem it without submitting to some kind of “walk of shame” and taking a few self-esteem hits.

I think I’ll call it, “An Embarrassment Coupon”.

Oh, and if you spotted me in Starbucks today during lunch, don’t tell any of my friends, okay?