Metropolitan train stations are widely acknowledged to be among the bottom circles of hell, and Penn Station, the underground warren of tunnels beneath New York City that’s a hub for both Amtrak and commuter rail, is widely acknowledged to be one of the worst. It’s crowded. It’s aesthetically unpleasing. It’s impossible to figure out where you’re going. The feeling of impending danger of missing your train is not exciting, no matter what impression you may have gotten from movies set in the 1940s. The last thing you want to do is have to talk to somebody.
Now Starbucks has stepped in to solve the problem. Yesterday it opened its very first Mobile Pickup café in Penn Plaza, the building above the station. Customers place their orders via the Starbucks app, and then they pick up their drink at the café. What a concept! There’s no repeating your order. There’s no fear of your precious specifications getting lost in translation (provided you don’t need more than 20 pumps of something). It might also be good for the baristas: No more harried customers screaming at them because their Frappuccinos didn’t appear instantaneously.
Just so it doesn’t seem too robotic and inhuman, a Starbucks barista will personally hand off drinks to customers. “Our customers who are on-the-go have told us that connection and convenience are important to them,” a Starbucks exec said in a press release.
But what if you’re late to pick up your drink from the barista’s hand? What if you’re responsible for the barista just standing there for several minutes while their arm gets tired from holding your drink? Wouldn’t that cause an extra level of stress that a harried commuter just doesn’t need?
Well, it’s only the second day. If anyone can figure out a way to calibrate that balance of convenience and connection, it’s Starbucks.