Thirty-Five Degrees Of Coffee Lid Separation

We are all familiar with the expression anything worth doing, is worth doing right.  Most situations are not black and white, so I’m a much bigger fan of the slightly different version that goes, anything worth doing, is worth doing well. This is not to say that simply trying is good enough, but rather that each set of circumstances typically defines “right” differently.

There is however a situation out there that has bothered me for years, and this particular thing is simple as right and wrong, to pretty much everyone.

Over the last ten years, western New York has enjoyed the growth of the Tim Horton’s restaurant chain. The simplest description of Tim Horton’s is that is effectively “Canadian Dunkin’ Donuts.” That’s probably not a fair description, but who said life is fair… even for Canadians.

Several years ago a brand spanking new Tim Horton’s was built about 100 yards (that’s 91.44 meters if you’re Canadian) from the front door of the company at which I was employed. Since the company didn’t really provide coffee (that’s an entire blogpost in itself) we all started frequenting the TH several times a day for our caffeine fixes.

All other things being equal, I’m a Starbucks guy, but in this situation convenience trumped all other details and I found myself consuming 5-10 TH coffees a week.

In the battle of brands that we consume, the biggest contenders are easy to spot:

Coke Vs. Pepsi

McDonalds Vs. Burger King

Starbucks Vs. Dunkin Donuts

Unfortunately, Tim Horton’s is still in the “also-ran” category keeping company with the likes of RC Cola, and Hardees. They may be king in Canada, but they have a long road ahead in the states.

The coffee at Tim Horton’s is good. It is not intense like Starbucks and it is different than Dunkin’ Donuts. Best yet, it is the least expensive of all three (you can still get a large for $2, all-in). However the big difference when comparing all three, is the standard lid that each uses to contain the precious bean-based beverage.


Competing lids from: Starbucks – Dunkin’ Donuts – Tim Horton’s

As you can see in the photos above, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts employ different versions of the well-known “sipper lid” where the side of the cup is extended into the lip of the lid, and the consumer receives the coffee through an oval hole parallel to the bottom of the cup. Tim Horton’s on the other hand uses a “flip tab” style lid on their cups.

This difference alone is not a big deal. The sipping experience is not the same to be sure, but it is serviceable and let’s be honest, with all the other problems we humans face every day, this one is immeasurably small… until.

Like almost every disposable cup in the world, the Tim Horton’s coffee cup is round. Being made of paper, there is a seam where the two sides of the once flat paper, are joined together. Being round it measures exactly 360 degrees. The opening that you flip up to access the coffee is thirty-five degrees of the circle in question. I borrowed a protractor from Oliver (my sixth grader) and I measured it.


Coffee Lids & 6th Grade Math Tools

I have clearly stated before that math is not my thing, but I can figure the following:

  • As a straight percentage, the 35 degrees of opening represents 9.7% of the circumference of the cup’s rim.
  • This means that if the application of lids to cups is completely random, I should receive an “opening over the seam” about one in every ten purchases.

Here is the problem, when you try and drink the coffee at the seam, it drips all over your shirt, tie, pants or whatever piece of you happens to be directly below the cup at the time. So, ten percent of the time I should expect to have to reposition the lid to avoid said drippage, but this is where is gets weird.


The dreaded “opening over seam” double whammy!

My highly unscientific survey of how I have received my servings of TH coffee over the years, has shown that nearly half of the cups are handed over in the undesirable “opening over the seam” state. Even if I am generous with my undocumented statistics, and round down to 40%, that is still more than four times what one might expect from a random distribution.

I’m no statistician, but something is rotten in Denmark, err Canada.

I don’t think we are facing anything as sinister as a vast Canadian conspiracy to make us all look stupid with coffee stains on our clothing, though that would be pretty funny if it were true.

No, I think the situation here is simple… the “right” way to apply a TH coffee lid is to do so with the opening somewhere within in the 90+% of the cup that does not contain the seam. It is likely just bad luck that the statistics defy the odds.

A single addition to the employee training process, and possibly a fraction of a second added to the application of each lid, would solve this problem once and for all, and it would make me very happy. In fact when I do get a lid properly applied, I see it as an omen for good things to come.

When it is wrong, I simply shake my angry fist to the north and utter something cheeky under my breath.

There are some (mostly Canadians) that feel that even with the seam far from the opening, that the TH lid is still an issue. CLICK HERE to get a glimpse. This is where concern turns to madness, and I don’t consider myself part of the ranting throngs.

Here’s the takeaway… next time you are talking to a customer, client, patient or any person who interacts with you in any way; ask them this:

“What is the most annoying thing about dealing with me, my company, my service, etc.?”

If you’re lucky the answer might be as simple as “the coffee lid opening shouldn’t be over the seam of the cup.” Fix that little thing and you will have a customer for life.

If Tim Horton’s is able to address this issue and let me know about it, I will quit Starbucks and switch to them exclusively. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2016 - Stephen S. Nazarian - All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “Thirty-Five Degrees Of Coffee Lid Separation

  • Having lived in Canada for nearly 5 years and drunk my share of Timmy’s, I applaud thee for keen observation and busting out the protractor! I think Second Cup is Canada’s best chain coffee, followed by Timothy’s World Cofee – what’s with Canada’s coffee with the name Tim?

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