Winter (soon to be The Artist Formerly Known As Winter, or just draw a picture of a siren instad of his name) knows about caffeine.
He knows about drinking 28 cups of coffee and 2 espresso shots in a day, and the subsequent itching and gutrot it produces.
Winter knows Starbucks.
Taking the definition of obsessive-compulsive to a new level, Winter has travelled the globe to try and visit every Starbucks known to man. In the spirit of David Gorman (who tried to meet every Dave Gorman) or my long lost relative Ray Sears III (who has cataloged over 50,000 relatives with the surname Sears since 1976), Winter's trying to do something different. His challenge is never-ending, since they are looking at adding over 200 stores a month to the chain. See SBUX's conference call transcript from November, 2006. Current count is 13,728 locations in 39 countries.
When I visited China a couple of years ago, the most disturbing find for me was the Starbucks located within the Forbidden City in Beijing. The experience was like I had just whitewater rafted down the Grand Canyon to the most secluded spot in the desert, and there was a Starbucks serving ice caps. I picked up a large dark coffee for $7.00 (I ignore the Starbucks lingo when ordering) and it tasted like any other Starbucks, only twice as expensive and a bit culturally offensive to me. I did however like the Subway franchise in Beijing - it serves beer. Jared probably wouldn't have lost as much weight if they served beer in North America...
The whole experience reminded me of Homer and Apu travelling up the remote mountains of India to visit Kwik-E-Mart's head office.
They walk up to the sliding doors. A bell dings as they enter and approach a man with white hair and a flowing white beard. He drinks a Squishee, and a sign behind him announces, "The Master Knows All (except combination to safe)."
Apu: He is the benevolent and enlightened president and C.E.O. of Kwik-E-Mart -- and in Ohio, Stop-O-Mart. He is the one we must ask for my job back.
Master: Approach, my sons. [they do] You may ask me three questions.
Apu: That's great, because all I need is one --
Homer: Are you _really_ the head of the Kwik-E-Mart?
Master: Yes. I hope this has been enlightening for you.
Apu: But I must --
Master: Thank you, come again.
Apu: But --
Master: Thank you, come again.
The two of them leave, disappointed.
Recently there has been calls to close the outlet, based on the comments coming out of a Chinese blogger's site. I think that an outlet just outside the gates is fine, but putting one inside is like having a McDonalds inside a church - it just isn't right.
Here are some stats as of June 4, 2007 on Winter's quest:
Updated June 4, 2007, 14:30 GMT-5. Location: New York City. Upcoming: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina.
Starting mileage: 15350
Time traveling: 73 days, 5 hours (includes 5 days Scrabble)
Days since last speeding ticket (4/6/06): 427
Days sans shower: 2. Odor level: (fresh NATURAL gamy ripe pungent homeless noxious radioactive)
Miles driven: 26423 + 425 (Hawaii) + 50 (Alaska) - 905 - Port Jefferson Scrabble
New stores visited: 499visited not visited
Stores skipped stratragically: 14 (+ maybe 1 new Ottawa)
Stores opened in North America. since trip start: 247!!! (104 along path already traveled) (WTF!!! THAT'S, LIKE, 20 A WEEK!!! HAVE THEY NO MERCY???)
Stores missed due to Cabal's evil machinations: 2
Stores missed b/c they didn't answer the @#$%^& phone so I didn't know they were open!!!: 1
Stores missed due to poor scheduling: 1
Stores rephotographed: 427
Recognition ratio: 182/473 (26 stealth)
Visual recognition: 11
Visual recognition of DVD: 1
Unmistakably (even by my paranoid self) negative reactions: 6
Coffee consumed: (X - 27) * 4 + 104 = 1992 oz + 52 oz French press + 3 shot + 8 oz misto + 11 DoubleShot + 2 Top Pot au laits + 4 oz Blenz + 8 oz Tim Hortons
Stores where I was refused a sample: 1
Spent on coffee: $66.19
Spent on gas: $2,482.25 (JEEPERS!!!) - $1.50
Spent on tolls/parking: $146.92
Parking tickets: 2 ($39 + $15 (won't pay) + $65 (might pay))
Spent on airfare: $398.16 + $215.14 change fee + $219.70 + $105 change fee + $34.90 + $460.80 + $80.43 (parking)
Spent on ferry: $83.48 (Canadian)
Spent on rental cars: $167.08
Other expenses: $105.76 (tires) + $4.13 (sheet, toothpaste) + $71.62 (tire)
DVDs sold (at $20, $14 profit): 40
Medication: 8 fake cold pills, 16 real Nyquill, 20 fake Benadryl, 28 fake Excedrin (2 to blunt effect of hunger, 2 to get thru movie), 3 x 10 mg Loratadine, 6 x 30 mg pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, 3 x 10 mg phenylephrine hydrochloride
But the most impressive list on his site is the stores he has not visited.
His other obsession is documenting his Scrabble travels along with his Starbucks travels. Because one obsession isn't usually enough.
I once worked for a guy who has perhaps the largest collection of Rubik's cube-related material on the internet.
A bit of a sad fact was that I never actually saw him solve a cube, though I did see his binder of patterns and permutations for solving it. Obsessions are strange things.
Check out Winter's 6,000 or so photos of Starbucks locations around the world.
I see a coffee-table book in his future.