The Short-Lived Life of a Unicorn
An anonymous Starbucks worker tells all.
On Wednesday of last week, Starbucks rolled out a brand new drink: the Unicorn Frappuccino. It was a liquid rainbow of pink and blue, topped with pink-and-blue sprinkled white clouds (whipped cream). The kind of clouds a unicorn might jump through, if unicorns were real and they could defy the laws of physics.
I heard of the drink just a few days prior to its arrival. We were prepping for it, emotionally and physically — we, the baristas. We had to make gobs of sour blue goo and make sure we had enough syrup on hand. Overall, I’d say the staff was a little bit excited, but mostly scared. The Unicorn Frappuccino was a little more labor-intensive than most frappuccinos, and frappuccinos are already the bane of the barista’s existence. We anticipated people would come for the drink—but we had no idea just how many would.
The requests came in early. Technically, the requests came in the day prior. On Tuesday, people started asking us to make it for them — pretty please. Starbucks is a massive corporation, and its promotions have red tape all over them. No matter how many people asked for an early bird favor, we had to say no.
The promotional product (aka “unicorn frapp ingredients”) our store received had been projected to be enough to last from the Wednesday launch through the weekend, so about five whole operation days. We open our store at 5 a.m. on weekdays, and our entire stock of product was gone by 6 p.m. that evening.
The customer count in our store on a non-unicorn Wednesday is around 900. We had almost 1,200 customers — so an additional 300 customers came through. Our regular customers were also veering from their normal drinks and plopping down their debit card for a taste of magic. People were wild. Self-proclaimed sugary-drink haters were even giving it a go. Everyone was trying to catch a unicorn.
What is so amazing is that the mania around the drink actually turned in into a unicorn. A dream. A promise. An unreal thing. Because, for the majority of customers, the unicorn didn’t exist. They saw pictures and heard talk of it — but when they showed up to witness (and ingest) it, there was nothing to be found.
Those late to the party didn’t feel like they were late. Press releases all over the internet had announced that the drink would be around for about a week. People filed in on Thursday, and Friday, looking under the counters and on the shelves. We have fielded tens of phone calls. No one can accept that it is gone.
I don’t know who dreamt up a drink that looked like a cheap mood ring. It could have been a low-level barista or a high-and-mighty Starbucks executive. (I’m betting on the former, but the one who benefitted financially from the concept was definitely the latter.) All I know is it came and went before sunup and before sundown. No one can even be sure it even happened.
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