Nothing sets my mind ablaze quite like reading blind items: silly, vague, mostly inconsequential gossip about people I know on a surface level. “Yes, the A+ list mostly movie actor has hooked up with his A list mostly movie actress ex within the past two weeks. Shocker,” or “Allegedly two white celebrity couples have divorced this year because they disagreed over BLM lol.” After-hours, I click-clack around Crazy Days and Nights or Blind Gossip because I have a restless mind and these are my favorite kind of puzzles: wordplay, dipped in condescension, full of drama. Who knows if they’re true, planted (but still true), or completely fake — they are fodder, I am competitive, and I am also nosy!
Sometimes I come across a blind so unusual, so utterly random, that it fills space in my mind for days. I spend too much time thinking about Ben Affleck in not-global-pandemic circumstances, but lately he’s been living in my mind rent-free: admitting to lying about the back tattoo, the finsta, the sheer pageantry of those Ana de Armas pap walks! The Instagram account @deuxmoi accepts and reposts unsubstantiated gossip from followers, and on July 5 they shared this, submitted by an anonymous follower:
“So I was at Dunkin getting an iced coffee this morning and the manager helped me so I was like. Random question … I asked if corporate really shares Ben Affleck’s coffee order with them in case he comes in. She said ‘oh yes. Iced coffee with a shitload of sugar’ and ‘they give us a heads up when he’s going to be in Chicago.’ She also said that he has a sponcon deal which is why he’s always photographed with the coffee in his hands (even often in cities where there is no Dunkin).”
I had the misfortune of living in Boston for four-ish years, but cannot remember walking into a Dunkin’ and placing an order. (They used to do that thing where they’d put an iced drink inside a Styrofoam cup to insulate it, which is frankly completely insane; I did regularly see people drinking this way firsthand.) Ben Affleck was born in Boston. His support of the coffee chain is well-documented: “I have Dunkin’ Donuts everyday,” he told Collider in 2019. “It’s very weird [to have Dunkin’ in Los Angeles], I have it every day and people are always like, ‘Where is that? Is that near here?’ So, I feel like I’m spreading the word.” That doesn’t not sound like something you’d say if Dunkin’ trained employees in your order. Hmm.
Call me Hunter Harri-et the Spy, baby, because that’s what I’ve come here today to investigate: Does Dunkin’ really keep Ben Affleck’s coffee order on file? And how likely is it that his Dunkin’ habit is really just part of the world’s most successful sponcon deal?
I consider myself fairly learned in the career of Ben Affleck, but it’s important to consult experts, other people more versed in his comings, goings, and Dunkings. Kevin Slane, a writer for Boston.com, is widely considered to be the internet’s preeminent Affleck blogger. To begin with, I asked him to verify whether or not Affleck’s go-to order really is “iced coffee with a shitload of sugar?” Here is what Kevin told me: “Ordering a Dunkin’ Iced Coffee ‘regular’ means they mix in three sugars and three creams, and the end result doesn’t look far off from what he has in this photo. However, I recently wrote another piece about a second set of Affleck coffee photos that are frankly befuddling. The thick, unmixed layer of liquid sugar at the bottom makes my teeth itch. There’s a chance he has some flavor swirls sitting at the bottom, but I think those would have colored the coffee a bit more,” he wrote. “The two most likely possibilities in my mind are that an employee simply forgot to mix the drink (unlikely since it’s for Ben Affleck) or that Ben ordered a large iced coffee with at least six sugars and asked them not to mix it so he can get a hit of pure sweetness at the end of his beverage.”
I think we can agree that six sugars is greater than or equal to “a shitload of sugar,” so that point seems correct. Kevin does not, however, believe Dunkin’ keeps Ben Affleck’s order nationwide, nor does he buy into the sponcon theory: Affleck, he pointed out, often uses his paparazzi strolls to showcase T-shirts from a local Boston apparel company called Sully’s Brand, after the owner sent him shirts during the filming of The Town. “[I suspect that] Ben likes helping out a small hometown company and likes the taste of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,” Slane said. “Besides, if he is getting paid by Dunkin’, there’s no way he would get caught by paparazzi drinking Starbucks, right?” Touché.
When I posed the same questions — Do you have reason to believe that (a) Dunkin’ keeps Ben Affleck’s order on file, and/or (b) that his iced coffee habit is part of an elaborate sponcon deal? — to Allie Jones, writer and gossip expert, she was also skeptical. Even if these things (the order on file, the sponcon deal) were true, she mused, who would really benefit? “I think Ben gets more out of these pap photos than Dunkin’ does … they make him seem normal (even though celebs are never, ever normal),” she said. “I think [the order-sharing theory] could be true, but why? So they could prepare it more quickly? I think Ben has plenty of time on his hands these days.”
And speaking of Starbucks: It’s true that in another life, when Affleck was dating/pap-walking with the Saturday Night Live producer Lindsay Shookus, he was frequently spotted frowning outside many a Manhattan Starbucks with that company’s iced drink in tow. Jones was blogging for the Cut then. What, I asked her, are we to make of this fact, and the fact that in the de Armas–Affleck era, he frequents both Starbucks and Dunkin’? “If you look back at these photos from the Shookus era, it was clearly Lindsay driving the Starbucks runs,” she said. “Whenever Ben was alone, he’d get Dunkin’. (There’s one photo of them together at a Dunkin’ to-go in the airport and she looks extremely sad about it.) Now, it seems like Ana is not much of a coffee drinker, or at least not particular about her coffee, so Ben gets to make the coffee decisions. I think this bodes well for the relationship. (Ana should decide everything else though.)”
There comes a scene in many movies about investigations where our hero must stop herself: Is there truth to any of this? Does it even matter? I had a moment like that: Am I overthinking this whole thing? Is Ben Affleck photographed drinking coffee relatively more than other celebrities, or is it just that I care more about Ben Affleck than most other celebrities, therefore I notice it more? So I consulted a Los Angeles–based pap: Is Ben Affleck pap-ed outside of coffee shops relatively more than other celebrities? “Yes,” this pap, who preferred to remain anonymous, told me. “Always Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.” Of the deluge of Affleck–de Armas images, he said: “I think they both are enjoying the early stages in their relationship and are happy to be photographed.” Phew. Back to work.
For reasons of due diligence, I asked Ben Affleck’s publicist: Does Ben Affleck know about any Dunkin’ order-sharing? Is he paid to be photographed with it? Is his order even an “iced coffee with a shitload of sugar?” She did not comment. For reasons of further due diligence, I asked Dunkin’ outright: Does the company know and share Affleck’s order with its various locations? “Hi Hunter,” a spokesperson for the company wrote via email. “Hope you’re doing well! Please see below for information from Dunkin’ regarding your Ben Affleck questions.” The below said: “We are grateful for Ben Affleck’s continued loyalty to Dunkin’ and are proud to offer his favorite choices that keep him running. Dunkin’ does not track Ben’s whereabouts or alert franchisees of any preferred order.”
But if Erin Brockovich has taught me anything, it is that companies lie with abandon. I called a Dunkin’ location in Hollywood, explained the circumstances of my inquiry, and the man who answered the phone replied: “I cannot respond to that question.” I asked him, “So not yes, and not no, just that you cannot respond?” He said yes, and I said thank you, and we both hung up.
So, finally, I asked David Carliner, a friend and former Dunkin’ employee who worked at a Boston-area location from September to December 2013, to weigh in. Was he trained in Ben Affleck’s order? Had he even heard of Ben Affleck’s order? “I was not told this,” he said. So maybe the blind item was incorrect. “In case this is helpful, I was trained at the Dunkin’ in Downtown Crossing near Haymarket, and then worked at the Chinatown one outside the Orange Line. It’s possible that it’s an area he’d be less likely to be in and therefore didn’t get that instruction?” Interesting. See how God doesn’t dramatically slam closed a door without tastefully opening a small window?