Traveling the World’s Starbucks Stores: Starbucking is Starsucking

Meet a man nicknamed “Winter,” who is planning to visit every single Starbucks location in the world. Yes, that’s right: this self-absorbed white collar schmuck is spending a significant part of his life traveling to Starbucks stores, and he’s keeping a thoroughly tedious record of his progress on, with plenty of lists, photos, and tired musing.

Given the proliferation of Starbucks stores around the globe, Winter’s goal may prove elusive for some time. After all, as soon as he covers any one region, a new location pops up like a mole that needs to be whacked, ensuring that he’ll have to crisscross the country – and the earth – many times over. His current North American store count, as of June 22, 2006, is 5,558. Winter doesn’t include the stores that Starbucks licenses out because he considers this set of mostly kiosks to be “mind-numbing” (as though the company-owned locations are all ripe with mental stimulation?).

At any rate, you’re probably wondering how anyone could possibly have visited that many Starbucks stores already. Well, this self-described “collector” has been at it since the late 1990s and has visited as many as 29 Starbucks stores in one day, often staying for only a few minutes before moving on to another coffee corner. He’s taken a lot of roadtrips and flights, and he’s frequently left behind his IT day job and real name of Rafael Antonio Lozano to pursue this Starbucks stores mission, which is, by the way, in no way affiliated with or sponsored by the Starbucks corporation. With a PayPal donation, though, even the average joe (my pun intended) can help support Winter’s caffeinated cavorting – or his, ahem, “Starbucking.”

Starbucking is actually the name of a new film chronicling Winter’s quest. Lawyer-turned-director Bill Tangeman, after reading a story about Winter, decided that the journey deserved video documentation because, apparently, we don’t have enough third-tier reality television. Captivated by a man he unwittingly describes as “fantastically unusual,” Tangeman and crew tagged along while Winter hopped from Starbucks to Starbucks, fancying himself novel while painfully pretending he’s not. After an Omaha debut in March 2006, the film has appeared this month in – surprise – Seattle. And it’s not quite the beanbuster that I think those involved were grinding to get.

All you have to do is watch the trailers for Starbucking, check out Winter’s site, and read the interviews he’s given over the years to realize the grand irony of his travels: this guy is about as interesting and inventive as the corporately sanctioned Starbucks stores themselves, which is to sayâÂ?¦.not very interesting or inventive.

Consider this quote from his blog, which he just calls a “log”:

“A pretty hot bleach blonde walked in, sucking on a type of lollipop. Women who look that good shouldn’t be allowed to suck on a lollipop, or anything else, for that matter, in public. It’s cruel.”

This, believe it or not, hovers near the zenith of Winter’s wit and writing, and his behavior in the movie isn’t much better. Topping the list of the most boring travel-oriented blogs I’ve ever read, the Starbucks fanatic’s ramblings rarely surpass mediocrity, ranging from inane to sophomoric. Perhaps, if the whole enterprise were some sort of ironic, cerebrally crafted performance piece, it might have been relatively jolting. Instead, it’s just overroasted.

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