Bitter and Better: Put A Lid On It

My love-hate relationship with Tim Hortons

Greta Kooy, News Editor // Illustration By Cynthia Tran Vo

There’s a vivid memory I have of sitting in the back of my mom’s car when I was five years old. I told her I wanted to stay five forever. I think about that often, wishing the same thing now as I did then. I was hopeful and enthusiastic about life, excited by each passing birthday and the allure of growing older and getting wiser. Now I’m 25 years old and bitter, and I have no idea what happened.

Although I’m constantly reminded to not sweat the small stuff, it’s really the little things that irk me the most. I’m referring to those fleeting moments of minor inconvenience that can mess up your whole morning, like sitting in traffic or dropping your keys down the elevator shaft. Or, and this one irks me especially, going to Tim Hortons and getting a cup of coffee fixed with the worst fucking lid in take-out coffee history. That one really gets me going. Don’t even get me started on the whole sleeve thing.

I love Tim Hortons coffee, I really do. A double-double to be exact. I grew out of hot chocolate and moved on to the adult version with slightly less sugar and double the trouble. Each morning on my hour-long commute to campus I stop at Tim Hortons and get a large double-double and a toasted everything bagel with plain cream cheese. It’s that one constant I look forward to every morning. What I don’t look forward to is having a scalding cup of coffee in my hands for two seconds and having it soak the sleeves of my sweater and run down my arm. Most of the time I haven’t even peeled back that damn lip on the lid. It’s almost like it’s part of the service, like, “Here’s your coffee, enjoy your bath!” I don’t understand it.

Tim Hortons is a Canadian icon. It was named after the late Miles Gilbert “Tim” Horton, a professional hockey player, naturally. Horton, a co-founder of the company, opened a single location in Hamilton, Ontario in 1964. They offered up just two different kinds of donuts, Apple Fritters and Dutchies, and sold coffee for just $0.10 a cup. I bet they had nice cups, and even nicer lids.

A lot has changed for the company over the past 54 years and as of Dec. 31, 2017, there were more than 4,700 Tim Hortons franchise locations in over 10 countries. In Canada, it’s the largest restaurant chain, has over 3,000 locations and serves more than 2 billion cups of coffee each year. Unfortunately the Timbit kingdom, as purely Canadian as a BodyBreak commercial, was sold to Burger King and 3G Capital in August 2014 for $12.5 billion.

With its visible signs of community engagement, an extensive menu at affordable prices and addictive promotions like Roll Up the Rim, it’s easy to understand why Tim Hortons became as popular as it did. Timmies made such an impact that the word “double-double” was added to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary in 2004. You’d think a place known for its coffee would have the decency to use functioning, somewhat quality cups. But no.

Recently Tim Hortons put a rather cheap face forward, so I shouldn’t really be surprised. Despite its history sponsoring community outreach programs, the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation and its annual Camp Day, the company certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In early 2018, Ontario increased the minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 an hour. Both the Tim Hortons corporation and the individual franchise owners decided to cut employee benefits to cover the cost of increasing employee wages. Even if franchisees wanted to raise prices just slightly to cover their costs, they couldn’t because their contracts would not allow it. Needless to say the company is just surviving in the court of public opinion.

The only moment of somewhat positive publicity they’ve received in the last year was in a viral video when an enraged woman threw a literal shit at an employee. Talk about a crapshoot. While the lids are truly the least of their concerns, it demonstrates a lack of caring about the customer. While I do not intend to hurl my own feces any time soon, it does inspire a primal sort of rage in me. As a billion dollar company, how can they not have somewhat reasonably performing lids?

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