The real Starbucks did not get the joke as Los Angeles health inspectors shut down the Dumb Starbucks shop. Los Angeles coffee shop set up by comedy central and Canadian comic Nathan Fielder was stopped from serving drinks on Monday. Dumb Starbucks was open over the weekend and managed to stay open until Monday afternoon when the Los Angeles Health Department closed the “parody” coffee shop down.
Lines formed around the block as eager customers waited to get a free Dumb Starbucks latte or hot chocolate. Apparently, the real Starbucks had no real competition as those who consumed the free dumb coffee revealed that they were bitter and “horrible.” Fielder, who stars in a comedy series titled Nathan For You called for a press conference on Monday which was held outside the front of his Dumb Starbucks coffee shop. The 30 something comedian/writer told reporters that his shop was serving art not drinks.
The Internet had been buzzing all over the weekend about the news of this parody shop which featured logos, menus and drinks that were all inspired by Starbucks, aka copied. The gag was that the signs and trademark logos were all exact replicas of the real coffee chain but with the word Dumb tacked on the front. The real coffee shop franchise was not amused by the joke although they did not take immediate legal action against the trickster.
Fielder told members of the press that Starbucks could not close his establishment down as he was not selling beverages at all, his Dumb Starbucks was selling coffee as art – and presumably hot chocolates, lattes, cappuccinos, et al – according to those who sampled the drinks they did actually resemble works of art rather than drinks made for consumption. Descriptions that consisted of weak and bitter, with a further revelation that the hot chocolate tasted “like water” definitely made it sound that the real coffee chain had nothing to fear from their “competition.”
Inside the store, which was set up to completely mimic the real Starbucks, drinks were free and there was a tip jar by the baristas. The novelty of the shop ensured maximum participation from folks curious to see what was going on in the faux Starbucks. The real company was not overly amused, they did not get the joke and neither did the health inspectors, who closed the shop during Fielder’s press conference.
On the dumb countertop Fielder had placed a frequently asked questions (FAQ) list which informed “customers” that adding the word dumb to the front of the Starbucks trademark meant that the comic and his shop were protected by “parody law.” The FAQ also claimed that as they were making fun of the coffee chain they could use Starbucks trademarks under the “fair use” law.
Customers may have been satisfied but a trademark “expert” at the University of Notre Dame says that Fielder is making very liberal use of the law. Regardless of whether Fielder is covered by the law or not the real company that he and Comedy Central are poking fun at have not taken any action so far because of the prank.
Starbucks, the real one and not the dumb one, have most likely recognised that the Canadian comic and his U.S. network are providing free publicity. However, the coffee company may not take it too well if Fielder opens another dumb shop in Brooklyn next week.
At the end of the day, “consumers” weren’t there for the dumb drinks at all. A lot of the curious were just there to take Instagram snaps and post them on their Twitter and Facebook pages. As one man revealed, he held up a Dumb Starbucks paper cup and took a selfie adding the caption, “look where I am.”
While Starbucks didn’t get the joke as Los Angeles health inspectors shut down Dumb Starbucks it seems that neither of them liked the Comedy Central/Fielder prank. Of course the novelty was not lost on those who waited on Monday for over two hours to get free coffee and a pastry. According to Nathan Fielder, his network was not aware of his little L.A. prank but considering that it will be shown as part of his series, they apparently were in on the “dumb” prank. Thus far, in this small tempest in a coffee cup, the real Starbucks have not taken legal action. They have, however, pointed out that there is no connection between them and Dumb Starbucks.
By Michael Smith