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Take the sprinkles and run


So, I've been hearing about these cupcakes.  Sprinkles.  Sprinkles Cupcakes.  You haven't tried them yet? Well-meaning people ask.  Nope.  Oh, you have to.  So when I found myself with a hankerin' for some cake this weekend, I bounced onto the cupcake bubble, and got myself some fancy sweets. 

And immediately regretted it.

I should have known there'd be trouble ahead when Google Maps informed me it was in Scottsdale, not Phoenix.  Little good is found in Scottsdale if you make under $100,000 a year, and you have a taste for things that don't involve bedazzling your Land Rover (I kid you not... No, seriously.  I'm not joking.  I saw this very thing today.)

I also thought this was an independent Arizona business.  And while it might be independent, the website indicated there were several other locations around the US, with its initial location in Beverly Hills(red flag?).  No biggie, but I wasn't as excited about patroning it as I still was about eatin' their c-cakes.

So, I walk into the store where 3 pretty young women are busy behind the counter, and 4 or 5 people are either eating cupcakes or buying cupcakes.  The store is pretty simple(or, so you think).  Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes.


No croissants, no cream puffs, no brownies.  Just cupcakes.  About 10 different kinds on any given day.  The decor is clean and simple, though stylish and obviously custom, and the cardboard-brown boxes and wooden forks and knifes give off a sense of earthy appeal... Except this is bullshit.

I look around to find a long glass case of Sprinkles accoutrement on the right.  The word "chain" instantly, and disgustingly, flashes into mind.  In the case are hand-made-but-hip little birthday candles, sold individually (Oh, $.50 each...how clever!...Blech.) or in a box of 6.  There are baby onesies and adult tees that tout the store's moniker.  There is even a 12-cupcake serving tray for sale (I didn't even bother to price check), which I'm guessing is for Scottsdale & Beverly Hills wives whose kitchenware must custom fit each individual food item they might ever consume in the history of their 3-year marriages to rich douchebags that will likely end with a handsome divorce settlement, allowing them to afford to endlessly fill their custom cupcake serving trays with Sprinkles cupcakes, purchased for $36 a dozen, before tax ($3.25 when sold separately).

I hear one girl pleasantly, if not robotically, call "I can help the next guest, please."  "Guest," she says, like we're at a hotel.  I know for sure that this, if it is not also on the first page of their employee manual, was how she was instructed to say it.  Not "customer," or "patron," or even "person," but "guest."  I can almost forgive this verbiage choice in a department store where a customer might spend a few hours, but a small shop?  Spare me the fanfare.  I just want a cupcake.  There's something about this that really bothers me.  Maybe it's feels like pandering?  Maybe it's demeaning to the worker?  I don't know.  It's annoying.  She says it a couple times while I'm there.  And then, all of the sudden, I'm the next "guest."

She has a small pad of paper with a custom-printed form on it to take my order.  I tell her the 3 cupcakes that I'd like to take to-go, and she notes them on the paper as she stands directly next to the case full of cupcakes.  Then she asks my name.  She puts that on the piece of paper. 

My name better be frosted into one of those cupcakes.

I am directed toward the cashier, so I walk the five feet over.  After a few seconds the cashier turns around to face me, having gone to get my box of cupcakes off the counter right behind her, and confirms, with a smile, that I'm "Holly," and these are my cupcakes.  I almost would have thought they were androids, but for this overly-sensitive reaction:

I hand her my ID and my credit card.  Instead of handing back my ID, she hands back my credit card and tries to run my ID.  I didn't notice until only seconds later when she caught her mistake and says that she's really sorry, she kept the wrong card.  I just smile and laugh a little and hand her the card.

Ain't no thang.

She says sorry again with a little embarrassed smile.  I say it's really no problem.

She says she's been there since 8am, all day, and it's been a long day, so she's sorry.

I again laugh a little and smile, because I really don't care at all about the mistake.

She then goes on to say that her coffee drink must not have done the job of keeping her more awake or something.  She even says she's sorry again.

I tell her that I do stupider things all the time, so no worries.  I hope this makes her feel slightly better.

Finally I get a receipt, and I'm out of there. 

And I'll probably never go back.  No matter how good their cupcakes are (and the vanilla one is pretty fucking good...chocolate wasn't impressive, lemon could have been a touch lemonier...but the vanilla...well, the vanilla...)

The place is lacking any sense of authenticity, and is empty of anything genuine besides that poor girl's embarrassment.  I wonder how much pressure is on them to provide perfect customer service?  I was, perhaps, inordinately turned-off by this place, but I've never before been so accutely aware of contrivance.  The simplicity of the store's aesthetic is a lie.  I think it's that kind of hypocrisy that pisses me off the most.  If the store were so simple, why did they need to write down an order for 3 cupcakes?  They don't have to cut anything, like a slice a of pie, they don't have to cook anything or heat it up, like a piece of toast.  Most of the time, they just have to put cupcakes in a box.  Sure, the box has separators so the frosting doesn't get jacked, but all in all, they're putting mother fucking cupcakes in a mother fucking box.

cupcakes + box = my order + payment = me out the door eating a cupcake = happy

But they have to write out an order ticket?  And then let someone else pack the box, and then let yet another person ring it up.  They even fill the fourth quadrant of my square box (that would have been empty since I only ordered 3 cupcakes) with a nicely wadded ball of brown tissue paper.  And what's with the useless gift items?  T-shirts I can kind of understand, but a cupcake holder?

These little excessive details seemed ultra-noticeable since they were in contrast to the biodegradable wooden forks and knives, the "natural" looking brown boxes, and the partially wooden interior.  It left me feeling so uneasy about the mere existence of such a place.  I know there are thousands of other places just like this, and I'm sure I've been to many before, so call me a practitioner of hyperbole if you must, but I was really sensitive to it today for some reason.  Maybe I'm PMS-ing (hence the desire for cake), but whatever.  It didn't feel nice, or pampering, or luxurious, or like I was being spoiled in this dumb store.  It felt fake, and unneccessary.  It felt like an insult, really.  I was reminded why it is that I really love the places I love and go to often, and why they're so important to me in a way.  My favorite bars, my favorite restaurants and coffee shops.  Even in those places where there is sometimes a sense of self-consciousness, or an occasional sense of arrogance or more-hipster-than-thou attitude, even then, there is still a genuine, authetic quality that I can identify with, that I can hold on to.  I don't need polish and faux-efficiency.  I just want quality and honesty.  And a little character goes a long way, too.  

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