On the weekend a few weeks back, and seemingly out of nowhere, a parody of Starbucks opened in Los Angeles called “Dumb Starbucks.”
And from the outside store sign to the inside decor, the coffee shop appeared totally identical to the real Starbucks.
Even the menu board overhead listing various coffee drinks was an exact duplicate of Starbucks menu, with the exception of the word “dumb” prefixed to menu items, which included: “Dumb Iced Vanilla Latte, Dumb Blonde Roast, Dumb Iced Espresso, Dumb Tea, Dumb Brewed Coffee.”
Drink sizes included “Dumb Venti, Dumb Grande and Dumb Tall.”
There were also compact discs with names like “Dumb Jazz Standards”and “Dumb Taste of Cuba”placed by the registers.
Huge lines formed over the weekend after word got out that the faux Starbucks was serving free coffee drinks.
At one point about 300 people stood outside the store for two and a half hours to get free coffee and pastries.
One observer said the hot chocolate tasted like water, and the opinion of the coffee ranged from “horrible” to “bitter.”
Then on Monday, “Dumb Starbucks Coffee” was shut down by Los Angeles County health inspectors, who posted a “notice of closure” near the front door of the shop.
The closure happened just hours after Canadian comic Nathan Fielder took credit for the stunt, saying in a press conference that he was planning on using footage for his Comedy Central Show “Nathan For You.”
Fielder said of the coffee, “We changed up the beans. Usually whatever Ralphs [supermarket] has on sale.”
A Frequently Asked Questions page seen in the shop noted that, despite being a parody store, it also intends to be business-like.
“Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our ‘coffee shop’ is actually an art gallery and the ‘coffee’ you’re buying is actually the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!”
Starbucks responded to the news about the store with a statement:
“We are aware of the store — it is not affiliated with Starbucks. We are evaluating next steps and, while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark.”
But Fielder said he broke no law since he’s calling the store a parody. “They’re smart in not pursuing a case they know they can’t win,” he said of Starbucks, quipping: “If they keep the pressure up, they do risk losing me as a customer.”
Adding to the bizarre confusion, Fielder’s announcement came shortly after L.A. conceptual artist Marc Horowitz took credit for the prank. It’s unclear whether Horowitz and Fielder were working together.
As you might imagine, the elaborate prank sparked an uproar with social media.
“We just wanted to get a really good Instagram” shot, said Blair Romer. “It’s what everyone’s been doing, so we wanted to check it out.”
She knew she’d be on the line for two hours-plus and plotted out her smartphone shot: “Me holding the Dumb Starbucks cup, saying, `Look where I am.”
“We’ve been wondering what this was about for four days,” Los Angeles resident Rebecca Metz told USA Today. “I wish it was a political statement or a kooky artist, but it’s a really smart marketing stunt.”