In Tukwila, Wash., the baristas at Cowgirls Espresso offer a bit of T&A with your morning latte. And it's not only Cowgirls Espresso, either. In an ever-growing caffeinated marketplace, Washington cafes struggle to differentiate themselves by resorting to the prurient interests of their customer base.
Check out this snippet from
In a short, sheer, baby-doll negligee and coordinated pink panties, Candice Law is dressed to work at a drive-through espresso stand in Tukwila, and she is working it.
Customers pull their trucks up to the window, where Law greets each with an affectionate nickname, blows kisses, and vamps about as she steams milk for a mocha. "You want whipped cream?" she asks, a sly smile playing on her pierced lip.
The next customer rolls up, and Law throws a long leg onto the window sill, like an indie-rock ballerina at the barre.
"Do you like my leg warmers?" she asks. "Aren't they hot?"
Hot is not the half of it. To stand apart from the hordes of drive-through espresso stands that clutter the Northwest's roadsides, commuter coffee stops such as Tukwila's Cowgirls Espresso are adding bodacious baristas, flirty service and ever more-revealing outfits to the menu.
At Port Orchard's Natté Latté, baristas sport hot-pink hot pants and tight white tank tops. Day-of-the-week theme outfits ranging from racy lingerie to "fetish" ensembles are the dress code at Moka Girls Espresso in Auburn and at several Cowgirls Espresso stands in the area. Bikini tops are the special at Café Lorraine on Highway 9 in Woodinville, and the women of The Sweet Spot in Shoreline pose provocatively in Playmate-style profiles on the stand's Web site.
"In this area, we all know how to make good coffee," said Barbara Record, who opened Bikini Espresso in Renton last month. The trick is to set your business apart, she said, and sex is one sure-fire way to do that.
"It's just, how far do you want to go?" she said.
Barista Candice Law at Cowgirls Espresso in Tukwila says she makes more in tips than she ever did as a waitress at Hooters. (OF COURSE you do! ---me)
I'm no prude, and I'm all for women owning their sexuality, but I can't help but think that this whole thing is just about objectifying women via caffeination. There are so many issues running amok here; the patriarchy (these cafe owners are mostly men), market-supported lecherousness ("there will be no "thong Thursday," as some customers have requested") and homophobia ("If I'm going to pay $4 for a cup of coffee" said one male customer, "I'm not going to get served by a guy") that this whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I mean, why not just consolidate your efforts and serve espresso at the freakin' strip club?
UPDATE 1/30/07: I was hoping Twisty would offer up commentary on this, and she did. Go read.
UPDATE 2/5/07: Just a thought: As a former barista, I just hope these gals wear aprons. OSHA. Just sayin'.
Oh, and P.S., I didn't think I'd get as many blog hits for this post as I've been getting lately. (Big up to Cowgirls Espresso Barista Candice Law for linking to me on her MySpace page, among other folks on the Internets.) Just to clarify my position on this, I don't look down upon the baristas working at these kinds of coffee shops, for it's their choice to do so. I just disagree in general with the premise of using sex to sell a cup of coffee. I've dealt with many a silly customer during many opening shifts past; it was bad enough being stuck at a job that pays a little better than minimum wage; the last thing I want is some horndog early riser schmuck leering at my jubbiles while I make him a cappuccino. Or a nonfat, decaf mocha with no whipped cream. You know what I'm saying.
And I won't hesitate to give a shout out to those baristas that take a certain sense of pride in pulling the perfect shot or steaming their milk to just the right consistency.
And maybe the girls at these places take the same pride in their work. But do their customers appreciate that? Or do they appreciate ... something else?
But maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges here.
Props to Jacob at Smelling the Coffee for the link.
(Photo credit: Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)