The Rise Of The “Karen” Super Villain In A Coffee Culture


Did Coffee Shops Create Society's Greatest Nemesis?

Did the rise of Big Coffee Shops into our daily lives create more entitled “Karens”? That angry, obnoxious, and entitled subset of customers demanding attention beyond the scope of all others. Or did the increased popularity of caffeine beverages just create a fertile breeding ground for their behavior? Just where did so many entitled Karens come from so suddenly?

Darwin would have us believe in the evolution of the species. Does that mean that The Karen, like Marvel’s X-Men, are genetic mutations that suddenly evolved? Are they genetic super-villains transformed not from exposure to kryptonite* but from too much caffeine?

Many retail workers that have been in the industry for decades will tell you that it has become an unbearable career. Flight attendants must deal with all out fistfights breaking out on airlines and customers must be duct taped to their seats. Restaurant works must deal with food being thrown at them. This is not a behavior that has ever been seen previously outside the mentally deranged or Hollywood actors. And while cell phones are certainly capturing more of this behavior, the antidotal stories from service workers seems to indicate this behavior is reaching new daily lows –not just being captured more.

Not surprisingly, since I deal with questions on caffeine use every day, this rise in entitled Karen-like behavior seems obviously tied to increased in coffee consumption.

I am not suggesting that Big Coffee Shops have intentionally created all the entitled Karens and Brads as a way to sow chaos and undermine our democratic election process. But it is certainly a possibility. However, it is much more likely that the rise in caffeine consumption is enabling such behavior to proliferate around the world faster than a Kardashian love-child rumor.

The idea that overcaffeinated customers with the expectation of unlimited customization of orders and empowered by “the customer is always right philosophy” are being unleashed on an unsuspecting public might have seemed farfetched, implausible even, a generation ago. But that was before the explosion in coffee consumption.

The Coffee Explosion

entitled consumers
intitled correlation

The 1960’s through 1980’s showed modest growth in coffee consumption. And no obvious outbreak of Karen behaviors. But starting around 1990, the “coffee wars” broke out with one retailer expanding their market across state lines and exploding coffee into the forefront of American consciousness.

Did they unwittingly unleash a perfect storm by elevating customer expectations to being entitled while rewiring of a brain with too much caffeine for people to control the impulses driving their central nervous systems to demand immediate satisfaction to their overstimulated brains in every area of their existence? 

The overlap in Big Coffee Shop target customers to The Entitled Karen is undeniable. And the corresponding behaviours of the overcaffeinated and The Karen stretch the idea of coincidence.

entitled subsets

It’s just a theory.

We’d have to get Burger King to reintroduce the “have it your way” campaign to see if the hormones in their beef can replicate the stimulation of caffeine when combined with the unrealistic demands of constant customization and its impact on aggressive, entitled behavior.  I’ll let you know when I get funding for that study.

UPDATE 9/19/21:

I’m not the only one to notice this possible correlation. Here is a link to a nationally syndicated article, published today, that goes into this subject as well going so far as to call our the coffee connection as well. 

*Yes, I’m aware that kryptonite is from Superman in the DC universe, and not X-Men in the Marvel universe, but if you are worrying about that, you are a bigger geek than me AND are completely missing the point that people might need to dial back the caffeine a little.

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