They say ‘sex sells’, and drive-thru coffee stand owners in Spokane, Washington, are proving this age-old adage right yet again.
This is the city of the ‘bikini barista’, where topless baristas working from drive-thru coffee shops like ‘Bare Beans’, ‘Big Shots’ and ‘Devil’s Brew’ are using a new scantily-clad business tactic to boost sales.
According to ABC, the phenomenon of teaming coffee with sex appeal seems to have started in Seattle back in 2007 and spread from there. However, predictably, not everyone is happy about the eye-catching baristas.
Mike Fagan, Spokane WA City Council Member told Zagat:
We’re talking about three stickers strategically placed. I don’t want to pound on the ‘It’s for the children’ argument but that’s what it really is all about.
So, who is putting women up to this, what some see as degrading work? Mother of three Sarah Birnel owns three stands in Spokane and says the business model is as simple as you would imagine – sex sells, and sex can sell coffee.
“We are selling coffee,” said Kiersten Silva, 22. “Just coffee with a pretty smile, maybe, and some boobie action sometimes.”
Despite appearances, most baristas said ogling isn’t much of a problem. Caila Cronin said:
Every once in a while you’ll get a creepy one that say some weird stuff to you, but it doesn’t really happen that much.
But as the seductive stands have spread, controversy quickly followed, including in Spokane.
Miss Silva told ABC:
One time a lady came and said my family should be ashamed to have me as a daughter because I’m dressed like this.
Local mothers Kimberly Curry and Hillary Van Akin are part of a growing army of people trying to change Spokane’s indecent exposure laws to force the bikini baristas to cover up.
“I feel like this is our community,” Ms Van Akin said. “We want to set some sort of a standard for decency, and I think allowing anything like this is just the tipping point. It’s just going to keep escalating until it’s all over and it’s acceptable.”
The controversial model does seem to be a shrewd move. According to STUDYLOGIC, a NewYork based market research company, men aged 18-54 spent nearly $7 billion buying coffee from drive-thru coffee stands.