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Finally, the ‘Dumb Starbucks’ Stunt is Over
By: Victoria Hoey
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All weekend long L.A. residents have been twitterpated with the mystery of a little coffee shop in Los Feliz. Why? Because tucked neatly between an unassuming coin-op laundromat and deli glowed a familiar green mermaid logo and a huge sign that read, “Dumb Starbucks.” Once the hashtag hysteria began, people came from all over Los Angeles to wait in line for hours just to see what the fuss was about and to make speculations on the true nature behind the rogue store.  

What was clearly baffling to the crowds was the legality of the situation. The logo and the store design were clear replicas of the Starbucks franchise, just with the word “dumb” added in front of the all the original text. Not slightly different knockoffs, like the Romex watches you can buy in New York City. This was the exact Starbucks concept, down to the travel mug displays on the wall and the fake CDs being sold at the counter featuring artists like, “Dumb” Nora Jones.

There were pamphlets handed out inside that proclaimed that the establishment was a parody of the Starbucks concept as proven by the word “Dumb” in the logo and therefore fulfilled its obligation to not impede any intellectual property. Furthermore, the pamphlet read, "So in the eyes of the law, our 'coffee shop' is actually an art gallery and the 'coffee' you're buying is considered the art." But patrons weren’t buying anything; they were being given free coffee and free pastries. Is that art?

The feeling of the crowd was that of a younger brother who just caught his older sister doing something bad. Everyone was spending their time in line guessing what Starbucks, “The Giant Evil Corporation,” was going to do to this business. How were they going to slam the doors shut with their mighty legal team? In a lengthy, widely publicized legal battle or an overnight silent takeover? Everyone knew it was only a matter of time. They knew that a store like this would never be allowed to survive in our world.

Honestly, most people were fine with that. Especially once word hit the line that the coffee was subpar and people had been waiting for hours for grocery-store pastries. A store like that should close. Hipsters take their coffee very seriously, and the whole premise was a clear cry for attention. A flash in the pan and we all move on, but put the name “art” near anything in L.A. and dare tell us we can’t view it because of copyright infringement and you have a mob of angry, bruised-ego, out-of-work (or on their lunch break from the Olive Garden) artists on your hands.

And that’s why so many wanted to make sure they were the first to cash in on any scrap of paraphernalia they could get their hands on. If this shop was on its way to becoming a national scandal or classic David vs. Goliath legal battle, drawn out in the media for months, there has got to be some money in that for someone, right? Then Sunday morning, the free coffee cups featuring the “Dumb Starbucks” stickers began showing up on eBay for $50–$75.

By Monday afternoon @dumbstarbucks had more than 11,000 followers on Twitter and was the topic of more than 1,800 Instagram posts. The hook was set for a 4:00 p.m. PST press conference, which promised to unveil the mysterious owner amid a flurry of local news reporters and onlookers. Like so many things in Tinsel Town, what might appear to have substance one day turns out to be another vapid illusion the next.

The whole concept behind “Dumb Starbucks” was just a marketing stunt put on by Comedy Central’s Nathan Fielder promoting his show “Nathan for You.”

So, what’s going to happen to the store? Would Starbucks take on Comedy Central in some sort of legal Battle Royale or ultimate corporate dominance? Nope. They didn’t have to. By 7:00 p.m., the store was closed by the Board of Health for operating without a permit. By 7:10 there were just a few people milling around, three local news channels, and one police officer.

Officer Alex Sandoval was in good sprits and smiled as the few remaining stragglers took silly pictures of themselves with the (still) illuminated storefront. He told Digital Pivot that he was hired privately to make sure no one got out of hand or tried to steal or vandalize the sign. He didn’t know when the store was going to be taken down, but he did know that he was scheduled to be back in front of the “Dumb Starbucks” Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., keeping the peace, protecting the sign. This leaves the rest of us to wonder if this whole thing was a brilliant marketing campaign a gross misuse of social media, or an even more gross statement of the rampant scandal lust in American news reporting and society.

{Photo provided by with permission from Instagram user Synistar}

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About the Author
Victoria Hoey is a recent graduate with degrees in copywriting and advertising.
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