YouTube video goes Venti after singing Starbucks employee fired in Chowchilla

September 21, 2011 

YouTube's latest rising viral star just lost his job. Christopher Cristwell, 25, is making national headlines after he posted a video of himself on YouTube singing about his job at the Chowchilla Starbucks.

In the video, he sings the song while playing guitar and wearing nothing but a green apron and his underwear: "It's just a cup of coffee / Give me a break / I shouldn't have to put up with this, making minimum wage."

Well, now he won't have to.

He was fired Tuesday.

The video was picked up by a popular Starbucks blog last week, which quickly caught the attention of the corporate honchos. After several meetings with managers, he was sent packing.

"They were really cool about it. The regional manager complimented me on my creative ability — not on that specific song — and then asked me why I did it. They were really trying to find out about my intent behind the videos."

The intent, he says, was strictly satire. He said he never actually did any of the shortcuts he sings about, such as filling a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with whipped cream because most customers can't tell the difference. "I'm not trying to say it's a healthy song, but it's definitely satire," he said.

A few of the lyrics are scatological and possibly profane, but if the song were a movie, it would probably get a PG rating.

Starbucks released a statement through company spokesman Alan Hilowitz on Wednesday afternoon that said: "While Christopher was expressing his own views in the video, the disparaging remarks about our customers and company are unacceptable and out of line with our commitment to our customers and partners (employees)."

Cristwell got the idea for the song after one particularly stressful shift. He was searching YouTube for rants about Starbucks and found plenty of customer complaints — but none by employees. He uploaded the video in July with the hopes of causing a few laughs.

"I understand some people could get offended by some of the lyrics, and I don't want people to think they won't get quality beverages from Starbucks," he said. "But there are moments when you're working for Starbucks that it's so stressful; if you mess one drink up, it can back everything else up."

He hopes the video becomes a "teachable moment" for the company. "Starbucks should probably realize this is a mentality for many of their employees," he said.

At first the video got a few hundred views a day. Then a few thousand. It started going viral after it was posted to the front page of StarbucksGossip.com, a popular blog about the coffee chain. By Wednesday, it had more than 40,000 views and was featured on national news websites, including the Boston Herald and CNBC.

Cristwell, who was born in Keflavík, Iceland, but has lived in Chowchilla since he was a toddler, is studying to become an emergency medical technician — but he says he wouldn't mind if his life took another direction because of the video: "I really enjoy singing and songwriting. If it turns into something, that would be a dream job for me. I'll just take it as it goes, I'll roll with it."

But his more immediate interest is finding a new job. He was passing out résumés Wednesday afternoon. "I have bills to pay and I hope the video doesn't affect my ability to get hired. It's just a comedy song. I really am a good employee."

For someone who just got fired from the job he's held for five years, Crist-well comes off as confident, cool and collected — qualities that will no doubt ease his search for a new daily grind.

Online editor Brandon Bowers can be reached at (209) 385-2464 or bbowers@mercedsunstar.com.

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service