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January 19, 2007 8:25 AM   Subscribe

How much is too much? Here in Manhattan I can choose from exactly 197 Starbucks locations. Currently Starbucks continues to open 5 new stores a day. Its nice to have choices, but is anything sacred anymore? Hell, even National Slow Down Week (courtesy of Adbusters.org) has coffee in the picture.
posted by allkindsoftime (163 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
What I don't understand is Starbuck's popularity, ourageously expensive bad coffee doesn't sound like a good idea to me but their millions of customers don't seem to care.

Why would I pay $2.65 for a large coffee and poor service when I can go to the local coffee shop two blocks over and get a wicked espresso for $1.25 with a $0.25 refill?
posted by Vindaloo at 8:33 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm in England and there's nothing within 50 miles of me, are you sure too much coffee isn't getting you worked up over nothing?
posted by biffa at 8:35 AM on January 19, 2007


Why all the biotching about Starbucks? There wouldn't be so many if people didn't like it and find it convenient to have one close by. It's like people are saying "I don't like it so I don't want anyone else to have it!" What babies.

If there are too many, they will go away on their own. Supply & demand folks.
posted by acetonic at 8:36 AM on January 19, 2007


Nothing is sacred! Not even those pure, innocent New York street corners! How dare you try to address demand, Starbucks. I'm disgusted.

In his memoir, Pour Your Heart Into It, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz says that their biggest complaint, even in Manhattan, was lack of locations. I'd be surprised if that wasn't still the case. People don't like walking even four blocks for their morning joe.
posted by Plutor at 8:36 AM on January 19, 2007


I should clarify that he said lack of locations was the most frequent customer complaint.
posted by Plutor at 8:38 AM on January 19, 2007


I don't see any bitching here. I'm just amazed, like Vindaloo, at their popularity. There aren't any local, small coffee shops where I currently live, but I could still go to a diner and get just as good a cup for a fraction of the price.
posted by spaltavian at 8:38 AM on January 19, 2007


Yeah, the prevalence of Starbucks is amazing. I'm sure everyone has their stories. I know I can stand on a particular street corner here in Dallas and see with my eyes 3 Starbucks next to each other. You could walk to all 3 in 5 minutes.

But I'm not sure that there is anything wrong with the amount of them. I'm certain that if they weren't financially viable, they would be shut down. So the demand is there. It's probably not a good thing from a social welfare standpoint that we are drinking that much coffee and stuff, but that isn't Starbucks fault, it's our fault. That being said, I think it is clearly a travesty that they put a Starbucks in international landmarks like the Forbidden City. If I was staring at the House of Vestal Virgins in the Forum, and there were a Starbucks in the Atrium, I would be certain that end was nigh and Caesar would rise from the dead and slay us all.
posted by dios at 8:39 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is Starbuck's popularity, ourageously expensive bad coffee doesn't sound like a good idea to me but their millions of customers don't seem to care.

Perhaps its the third places concept?
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:40 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think all the concern about coffee and where it comes from and how indie it is says more about the people who get worked up about it and less about Starbucks policy. Meanwhile, Dunkin Donuts is the real Starbucks killer.

(Although the two Starbucks on St. Mark's in Manhattan, where you can walk out of one and see the other, is pretty funny).
posted by Bookhouse at 8:41 AM on January 19, 2007


Picking one Starbucks over another is choice?
posted by The Straightener at 8:42 AM on January 19, 2007


One thing I've noticed is that when Starbucks first started spreading, a lot more work went into their ambience and decor so they could match the feeling of going to a "real" coffee shop.

As they've become more and more pestilential (and as more competition has been killed), they have dropped the pretense and their interiors now seem to be designed more like those of any fast-food chain, with a more subdued color scheme and softer chairs, of course.
posted by hermitosis at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2007


Coffee shops are the new bars. Unfortunately for me, I rarely drink coffee or beer. Now, if they start a chain of good tasting Dr Pepper-like soda shops, I'll be first in line.
posted by drezdn at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2007


Also, has anyone noticed how McDonalds are starting to look more like Starbucks? I think McDonalds is slowly trying to morph into a more "upscale" fast food place, something I don't think they'll pull off until they change their name and logo.
posted by drezdn at 8:44 AM on January 19, 2007


Why all the biotching about Starbucks? There wouldn't be so many if people didn't like it and find it convenient to have one close by. It's like people are saying "I don't like it so I don't want anyone else to have it!" What babies.

They push out smaller coffee shops (making good coffee at reasonable prices) and through volume purchasing have, until the recent past at least, amplified the problems of an exploitative coffee bean market.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:46 AM on January 19, 2007


People don't like walking even four blocks for their morning joe

That kind of help explaining obesity, I guess.

And a morning joe sounds anything but coffee to me...a morning blowjoe ?

I'm certain that if they weren't financially viable, they would be shut down.

Actually it suggest me huge, immense, outlandish, hurricane sized profits. I mean $2.65 for a splash of municipal water filtered with grounded coffee beans bought by containersful and some sugar bought by ship I guess..umhh...
posted by elpapacito at 8:46 AM on January 19, 2007


What I don't understand is Starbuck's popularity, ourageously expensive bad coffee doesn't sound like a good idea to me but their millions of customers don't seem to care. Why would I pay $2.65 for a large coffee and poor service when I can go to the local coffee shop two blocks over and get a wicked espresso for $1.25 with a $0.25 refill?
posted by Vindaloo


Because some people have different taste than you and like the coffee? Because I actually get great service at my starbucks? And normally do? Because the local coffee shop two blocks over can sucks also? Because I don't have a local coffee shop two blocks over?

We haven't had a starbucks sucks thread in a while. They all look the same. Come on, where's the 'they burn their coffee' comment?
posted by justgary at 8:47 AM on January 19, 2007


One problem with Starbucks is not just the fact that there are too many locations. Starbucks has been buying up other (non-coffee related) local businesses and closing them down in order to have the best locations. Techniques like buying a building and closing down leases on popular nightspots puts a big black mark on Starbucks' head in my book.

Another problem is they now promote really boring music on their own label. That Sergio Mendes vs. the Black Eyed Peas album was awful and unforgivable.

Aside from that, their coffee's shitty, but not overpriced compared to over shitty coffee. Last I checked their black coffee and espressos were a dollar and change, which is the same as the Dunkin Donuts nearby and the other nearby indie coffee shops. Buying it per pound is not terribly expensive.
posted by mkb at 8:48 AM on January 19, 2007


They push out smaller coffee shops (making good coffee at reasonable prices) and through volume purchasing have, until the recent past at least, amplified the problems of an exploitative coffee bean market.
posted by Blazecock Pileon


That's more like it. We need a starbucks coffee complaint generator.
posted by justgary at 8:49 AM on January 19, 2007


You can look through the Brandenburg Gate from Unter den Linden and see a Starbucks. At least, you could two years ago. I'd imagine, since it's a fairly tourist-heavy area, that it's still there.

My favorite is the strip mall on the Bellevue side of the pontoon bridge to Seattle that has a Starbucks at either end.

There are only 3 Starbucks locations within five miles of me. I guess my dad living about 550 feet from a Starbucks makes up for it, though.
posted by oaf at 8:49 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


drezdn: I'm pretty sure that McDonald's has explicitly explained their shift in marketing etc. to be more 'premium'.
posted by mkb at 8:49 AM on January 19, 2007


On the corner where I live in Atlanta, there is an Einstein's Bagels (great coffee also), a Caribou Coffee, a Dunkin Donuts, TWO Starbucks (one full-service, one quickie stand), and an indie coffee shop that never seems to be open. These are all within less than 1/4 mile from me, and each other.

Some might say that this is overkill, but I personally think it's wonderful, and it might just keep me living on this corner forever.

In fact, I wish I had a Starbucks in my house. Now that would be awesome.
posted by crackingdes at 8:53 AM on January 19, 2007


Come on, where's the 'they burn their coffee' comment?

Sure. I'd be interested in doing a double-blind taste test of no-whip mochas from a few local shops and any Starbucks of choice. I don't disagree that Starbucks is convenient and consistent, but their espresso really does taste burned in comparison with what others make. Some people seem to like their meat burned to a char. Some like the taste of meat, instead. YMMV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:55 AM on January 19, 2007


In fact, I wish I had a Starbucks in my house. Now that would be awesome.

Ask no more, dream no more, go get one.
posted by elpapacito at 8:56 AM on January 19, 2007


I spoke to a guy a while back who owns two or three small coffee shops. He said that the best place to locate a new coffee place is very close to a Starbucks (even just across the road). Apparently you can piggyback on the enormous amount of location/demographic/whatever research they have done, and there will always be people who don't like the lines or the ambience or the taste of the coffee in Starbucks who will come on over to your joint. No idea if this was this one person's crazy theory or a general rule but I thought it was very interesting, and he wasn't a billionaire or anythign but seemed to be doing okay.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:56 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Chinese might not be so crazy about the Starbucks in the Forbidden Palace.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:56 AM on January 19, 2007


We need a starbucks coffee complaint generator.

I'll complain about the coffee, but their rebranded Saeco espresso machines all around make a pretty damn decent cup of espresso. Megakudos to Starbucks on a good rebranding choice there.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:57 AM on January 19, 2007


Come on, where's the 'they burn their coffee' comment?
It's the 900 calorie lattes that get me.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:59 AM on January 19, 2007


The indie-ness sof it all is very much a cultural complaint, and a valid one. I mean, coffee shops flourished as places where socializing and the arts comingled, to whatever extent the management or the community was comfortable, and thus became an integral part of local writing, art, and music scenes. To capitalize on that trend by keeping the coffee but removing the arts and maintaining a smooth corporate image, you apply strict limitations to the type of socializing that can take place.

I mean, it's nice to know that cities have become places where a soft place to sit and a warm drink and a public restroom (without a TV blaring overhead) can be found readily, and it's convenient for meeting up with people or killing a little time, but the experience is really built on people's dim illusion that the coffee itself (and their enjoyment of it) connects them to some sort of cultural experience, when the "bohemian" culture that inspired that fantasy to begin with struggles in the few shops here and there which still act as oases in deserts of corporate space, and are enjoyed by people who can tell the difference.

I'd rather drink tap water in a real coffeehouse than the finest espresso in a Starbucks.
posted by hermitosis at 9:00 AM on January 19, 2007


A good comment that anyone can post in this thread, as a response to almost any other comment:

"And this is wrong, how?"

Try it! It's fun!
posted by dhartung at 9:00 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Because some people have different taste than you and like the coffee? Because I actually get great service at my starbucks? And normally do? Because the local coffee shop two blocks over can sucks also? Because I don't have a local coffee shop two blocks over?

We haven't had a starbucks sucks thread in a while. They all look the same. Come on, where's the 'they burn their coffee' comment?


Thank you, you saved me the trouble. Why can't Starbucks-haters have the honesty to say "I don't happen to care for the taste"? No, it has to be the coffee that's bad bad bad, and people like me (and zillions of others) who like it are deluded/have bad taste/are in league with the devil. Yeah, your tastes are an objective standard, all right.

And by the way, their espresso is really really good. I've walked way out of my way for it.
posted by languagehat at 9:01 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I started buying from Starbucks regularly when the good local joint near my office closed down. (They were not bought out by Starbucks; their were squeezed out of their lease by the landlord, who has yet to fill the space.) After that, I had two choices: Starbucks, or the shitty local place down the block.

"Buy shitty" isn't a very appealing mantra.

On the other hand, I'm pissed at Starbucks' recent acquisition of Coffee People (via previous acquirers Dietrichs), because they're erasing the Coffee People brand from the face of Portland, and I have some really vital goddam Coffee People memories from my adolescence. And I like their shakes. Fuckin' Starbucks!

*goes to Starbucks for an americano*
posted by cortex at 9:01 AM on January 19, 2007


My husband was recently in our local coffee shop, and overheard the people behind the counter fretting that a Starbucks might be opening across the street. Note: they were doing this instead of helping the line of customers in front of them -- and they were out of coffee.

I would miss the local place if it goes under, as they make excellent hot chocolate, but I can't say it would necessarily be Starbucks's fault.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:07 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Perhaps its the third places concept?

I sat in Starbucks on Wednesday VPN'ing into work and waiting for the mechanic to finish the brake job. Better than sitting in the auto shop for four hours reading a three month old Sports Illustrated and a downmarket car magazine.

My wife's writers' group meets in a Starbucks and has met there for five years.

They push out smaller coffee shops (making good coffee at reasonable prices)

There is little evidence of this. In fact, one study (which I can't find suddenly) found that Starbucks increased sales at indie coffee shops. I think I remember the pattern was that Starbucks was educating people about lattes, and then people start peeling off for indie houses and coffee carts for their own reasons (indie cart is closer, down with eevl corporations, they have massive crush on indie barista).

Here in Seattle, you'd think that Starbucks would have crushed all the indie houses, but they're still here. What's killing indies here? Condoification.

and through volume purchasing have, until the recent past at least, amplified the problems of an exploitative coffee bean market.

OTOH, they now volume purchase fairly traded beans and generally have good practices with purchasing beans. The traditional coffee companies (e.g. Maxwell House), which still buy far more coffee than Starbucks, aren't putting fairly-traded coffee in their bags.

There are many reasons to dislike Starbucks. For me, it's the baristas-on-crank-who-are-SO-HAPPY-TO-SEE-YOU-TODAY!!!! But I can get in and out of Starbucks in about four minutes. At my place of employ (a certain large university in Seattle), I've never been able to get a drink from a coffee cart in less than 15 minutes.

And here, since I can, I wrote this.
posted by dw at 9:08 AM on January 19, 2007


I mean, coffee shops flourished as places where socializing and the arts comingled, to whatever extent the management or the community was comfortable, and thus became an integral part of local writing, art, and music scenes.

last time i went to an independent coffee house, there were a bunch of people sitting around drinking coffee either totally absorbed with their laptops or talking on their cell phones

so much for socializing and the arts
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 AM on January 19, 2007


One good thing about the Starbucks in Manhattan is that the MudTruck Street Coffee van is often parked in front of them.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:11 AM on January 19, 2007


There are 436 Starbucks locations within 50 miles of Seattle. Given Seattle's metropolitan population of 3.9 million people, that's one Starbucks for every 8,945 people.

According to Dunkin' Donuts, there are 1,100 Dunkin' Donuts locations within 50 miles of Boston, or at least there were about six months ago. The company estimates that this means one Dunkin' Donuts for about every 5,600 people.

I used to work at a Starbucks in Boston. It is with supreme distaste that I type their awful name, which, aggravatingly, leaves off the apostrophe for 'stylistic reasons.' They were forever pounding the previous datapoint into our brains, and explaining that Starbucks isn't as pervasive as Dunkin' Donuts yet, which apparently justifies them in their activities.

An interesting fact: the proliferation of Starbucks ubiquity is methodical and intentional, the result of an actual plan to have one on every single corner. This was, they say, conceived by Howie Schulz in the halcyon days of the mid-90's, when he was called in to a store in Vancouver to try to increase the viability of a specific store there, and also to see if the market share might be raised by the introduction of new stores. He was standing in the store, wondering what could be done to make it more profitable, when he notices that the corner exactly opposite, about twenty feet away across the intersection, was vacant and for sale. An idea struck him. It's always been held intuitively that you don't put more than one store right next to each other, since it doesn't seem to make sense; one would think that people would just gravitate to one store, and the other would go out of business. But Howie stood there and realized something deep about the human spirit: people are lazy, and people are stupid. More specifically, if it's easier to pull into this parking lot than that parking lot, this is the one they'll choose; it doesn't matter if it's the same stuff over there, or even if it's a different coffee company.

They went ahead, bought the property, and built another Starbucks right next door to the first Starbucks. And, lo and behold, it worked: the first store did even better, and the second store did an equally steady business! Thus the Starbucks marketing model was born: if ever corner on every street, every niche in every mall, every square inch of every square foot of every square yard of every surface on the planet is covered with Starbucks locations, the market share increases.

Brilliant. Just fucking brilliant. Pretty soon, we won't have room for the first or second places.

acetonic: "Why all the biotching about Starbucks? There wouldn't be so many if people didn't like it and find it convenient to have one close by. It's like people are saying "I don't like it so I don't want anyone else to have it!" What babies."

Hey, you're right. Good point. By the way, we're all going to go jump off of a cliff. You should come along; it's an activity that tested very well in this market, and investors have proven to be optimistic about its growth this quarter.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm really mystified by this whole glorification of indie for indie's sake.

I mean... I have been in many indie coffeeshops that were quite lovely. But I have also been in a few where the atmosphere was just... not really that pleasant. And/or the coffee was weird. Case in point, the indie coffee shop close by, that I mentioned above. I would like to support them, I really would. But they're always closed, for no apparent reason, especially on Sunday's, which seems like an ideal time to go get coffee. Also, it's strangely dark in there, the people behind the counter are often awkward... and strangest of all... they have no bathroom, making stays of more than an hour unpleasant for those of us who haul water bottles around with us (and drink lots of caffeine).

Really... if I want to sit outside Starbucks and talk shit about politics and philosophy, and you know, the revolution and stuff... or read Sartre... or I don't know... is that somehow less authentically "bohemian"? And for those of us who are Americans, are we really still trying to be bohemian anyway? Really?

I guess my question: does glorifying "indie" have an actual point? And would you go out of your way to frequent indie coffeeshops if the experience was actually worse? And if so why?
posted by crackingdes at 9:13 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


sorry, Dunkin' Donuts link
posted by koeselitz at 9:13 AM on January 19, 2007


Why can't Starbucks-haters have the honesty to say "I don't happen to care for the taste"?

I think they do (I certainly did) but there are a number of other issues on the plate unrelated to personal taste that get ignored, when all the subjective back-and-forth is more in-your-face.

Like how the news media focuses on the leather-clad bears in the local gay pride parade, as opposed to the boring PFLAG or same-sex parents who work 9-5 and, in their way, help make the country run, that sort of thing.

It's more exciting to focus on the coffee-sucks! coffee-great! grunting, rather than discuss the impact a large corporation has had on issues like public space, buying power, and homogenization of choice. Those issues aren't sexy for argumentative types.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not a coffee drinker. Starbucks just skeeves me out. I can't walk into one without feeling twitchy and uncomfortable. I'm starting to feel similarly in the redesigned "upscale" McDonald'ses, too. Remember when fast food joints were decorated in oranges and reds, colors selected by psychologists to make the patrons hurry and eat faster? Now they want you to linger. They want you to hang out and relax. They want to be your friend. This says "creepy uncle" to me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:13 AM on January 19, 2007


Sure. I'd be interested in doing a double-blind taste test of no-whip mochas from a few local shops and any Starbucks of choice. I don't disagree that Starbucks is convenient and consistent, but their espresso really does taste burned in comparison with what others make. Some people seem to like their meat burned to a char. Some like the taste of meat, instead. YMMV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon


Everyone has different taste. I simply don't get people who hate starbucks coffee telling other people who like it how awful it is.

As far as driving local shops away, I don't live in one of those communities. I don't have the local cool coffee shop. They didn't drive away what was never here. So if starbucks wasn't here, there'd be nothing. I wish my town could take a few starbucks from nyc. Forget one on every block. I'd like two within 20 miles.

If anything, starbucks has created a coffee scene in my town. An independent (good) local coffee shop would actually have a chance here where before I doubt they would have been noticed.
posted by justgary at 9:14 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


last time i went to an independent coffee house, there were a bunch of people sitting around drinking coffee either totally absorbed with their laptops or talking on their cell phones

so much for socializing and the arts


You're just going to the wrong indie.
posted by dw at 9:14 AM on January 19, 2007


Everyone has different taste. I simply don't get people who hate starbucks coffee telling other people who like it how awful it is.

I didn't bring it up until you did. :)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:18 AM on January 19, 2007


From the anything link, "Starbucks is a symbol of lower-middle-class culture in the west."

Really?? I feel like it's more of an upper-middle-class thing. At least it seems that way down South.
posted by LordSludge at 9:21 AM on January 19, 2007


In pre-Katrina New Orleans, a city with a gazillion coffee shops, Starbucks only had four stand-alone locations, not counting official or quasi-official university or hotel locales. In post-Katrina New Orleans, a city that still has a zillion coffee shops (and two ready to open in my 'hood any time now), there are a whopping three stand-alone Starbucks locations. The explanation I've heard for the lack of places here is that Starbucks won't use chicory, favored by the locals, and their coffee isn't dark/bold enough generally.

In any case, Starbucks' quality control has gone completely downhill as its opened in Krogers, Targets, et. al., ad naseum.

The only good thing about the overload of Starbucks stores in NYC is that you can find a place to go to the bathroom when walking around. Otherwise, they make a visit to your fine city considerably less interesting. I'm not all in favor of Buy All Local campaigns, for local places can suck too, but there should be considerably more balance.
posted by raysmj at 9:23 AM on January 19, 2007


I don't disagree that Starbucks is convenient and consistent, but their espresso really does taste burned in comparison with what others make.

I really haven't found that. Most of the indies I've been to use overroasted coffee, too. (Americans really do like their coffee beans roasted to near charcoal.)

The problem is that I don't know of any place that makes espresso from Vienna roast.
posted by dw at 9:24 AM on January 19, 2007


There was an interesting article in the Times a while back about Dunkin Donuts in Manhattan. They can run a franchise out of minimal weird-shaped spaces, because the donuts are made centrally and trucked around all day.

Maybe this article?
posted by smackfu at 9:25 AM on January 19, 2007


From the first linked article: If you stand on the corner of Regent Street and Wigmore Street in central London, you are within five miles of 164 branches of Starbucks. This is a fact that is liable to provoke sudden dizziness, followed by a deep, soul-corroding fear for the future of humankind, sending you scuttling to your bedroom to throw yourself, sobbing, underneath a pillow

Oh, the humanity! Oh, the melodrama!
posted by pardonyou? at 9:25 AM on January 19, 2007


"I'm really mystified by this whole glorification of indie for indie's sake."

Same here. we have a few 'indie' coffee shops around here, and for the most part, they all suck pretty bad. It's the 'indie' place that actually has the burnt coffee taste. At least the folks at starbucks remember who I am and get my drink right. I'd rather pay the extra $1 and get what I ordered instead of whatever haphazard mix the pierced 'indie' shop barista slopped together. Seriously, our indie places are the most inconsistent places ever.
my favourite non-Starbucks place around is called "Java Town" - It's actually an old Java City location, and still serves Java City stuff. Mission City Coffee isn't half bad either.
I'd trade them all for a few Caribou Coffee locations. or a Dunkin' Donuts.

"last time i went to an independent coffee house, there were a bunch of people sitting around drinking coffee either totally absorbed with their laptops or talking on their cell phones

so much for socializing and the arts"

That seems to be true here in the Silicon Valley as well. When I lived in Seattle, it seemed to be quite a bit different. Same with Austin, TX.

I think that the topic of coffee shops is an interesting on because it really depends on where in the country you are. I've heard great things about the shops in Portland, OR but haven't been there in many years.
posted by drstein at 9:25 AM on January 19, 2007


I once read an article about how a certain toilet paper uses dyes that, when the machines are cleaned, can run off into the water shelf and cause a destabilization in the doodle bug population.

I quit using that toilet paper because when I wipe my ass, I want to make sure I do it in a socially conscious way.
posted by dios at 9:27 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


justgary: "I simply don't get people who hate starbucks coffee telling other people who like it how awful it is."

Never mind the coffee-- I don't drink coffee, anyhow. (Although one might notice that the coffee at Starbucks is heroin-grade, as far as its effect on one's system goes.) Let's talk about their filthy, glucose-encrusted, diabetes-inducing pastries. Have you ever before encountered a scone (a scone, people! a fucking scone!) so sweet that your blood vessels collapse at the sight?

I sincerely believe that, like McDonald's, Starbucks knows and covertly controls the chemical effects of their products in order to enhance their profit margin. The combination of an extreme amount of caffeine with food items that seem to have been manufactured by way of sprinkling crumbs on blocks of super-refined sugar is not only extremely destructive to the body; it leads to the kind of immediate, intense, and ineluctable addiction that has people creating lifelong habits after a few moments in one place. It becomes clear when one works at Starbucks that almost no regular comes in for the 'atmosphere,' which is always and by regulation minimal. They come in for their fix.
posted by koeselitz at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2007


I think it is clearly a travesty that they put a Starbucks in international landmarks like the Forbidden City.

This clearly indicates that you've never visited the Forbidden City right after 18 bruising hours of air travel with no sleep. Ah, sweet life-giving Forbidden City Starbucks.....

I simply don't get people who hate starbucks coffee telling other people who like it how awful it is.

Why not? People act the exact same way with "starbucks coffee" replaced by every single other thing in the universe.
posted by escabeche at 9:29 AM on January 19, 2007


Wait 'til Phase 2.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:31 AM on January 19, 2007


I quit using that toilet paper because when I wipe my ass, I want to make sure I do it in a socially conscious way.

is that why you wipe your ass here?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:31 AM on January 19, 2007


Oh, and the "we're mellow about people walking in and using our bathroom" policy alone makes the omnipresence of Starbucks a very good thing. Compare the officially public bathroom in Penn Station with the one you can use at the lower-level Starbucks, and you will never mock the Green Lady again.

When you use their bathroom, do you feel obligated to buy a coffee? I do, but I can't justify this stance and apparently it is an unusual one.
posted by escabeche at 9:32 AM on January 19, 2007


Oh, and we have the yuppie stores, clean and well-lit stores that are independent or owned by regional chains (PJs and CC's) AND the ones with rude or out-of-it collegiate folk or hipsters behind the counter. You have a choice. Some people like dark and rude, grimy and nearly falling apart. I don't understand why, but it's their choice. What I still find, however, is that even their coffee here is typically better and slightly less expensive than Starbucks', especially than that found in discount and grocery stores and whatnot. And at the better independent ones, the owners support local organizations, neighborhood groups, all that, which is crucial in post-K New Orleans.
posted by raysmj at 9:33 AM on January 19, 2007


Muy caliente! Ay caramba!
posted by lalochezia at 9:33 AM on January 19, 2007


I am sure you are all wondering what Lewis Black thinks of this.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:34 AM on January 19, 2007


To the extent that Starbucks creates a cafe culture in a neighborhood, then it's good for all cafes. The market for places to sit around for three hours for $2-3 you pay for the coffee is far from saturated!

But indie places that want to compete will need to provide the same level of service and comfort of Starbucks. And now I'll shill for my fav indie cafe, the Chapterhouse in Philly. Good coffee, pretty and clean space, nice music, calm atmosphere, free wifi, and all the national geographics you could ever want to read.
posted by footnote at 9:38 AM on January 19, 2007


I've heard great things about the shops in Portland, OR but haven't been there in many years.

They're pretty good. So much as I bemoan the loss of Coffee People, that's swapping one corporate entity for another at this point. In the mean time, people flock to Stumptown, Red and Black, CoffeeTime, Rimsky's, Common Grounds, and etc and so on. The death of the independent coffee seller—and of the idiosyncratic cultural space—has certainly not arrived, 65 Starbucks in the 5 mile radius of my downtown apartment notwithstanding.
posted by cortex at 9:42 AM on January 19, 2007


do you know what i miss? ... having coffee at an ordinary diner type place like roger the chef's or speed's ... which wouldn't mean anything to anyone who wasn't from battle creek ... not bohemian ... not middle class ... just some place to hang out and drink coffee ... regular or decaf
posted by pyramid termite at 9:42 AM on January 19, 2007


esabeche, I no longer ever feel obligated to pay for something in order to use a bathroom. I'm rarely called on it, but if they do, I let them know that they would be forever cemented in my mind as the company whose safeguarding of their precious bathroom came at the expense of all my future business.

I mean, as a polite, non-dangerous, non-foul person, I don't think it's asking a lot.
posted by hermitosis at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2007


(Although the two Starbucks on St. Mark's in Manhattan, where you can walk out of one and see the other, is pretty funny).

You can also see a Barnes and Nobles. Inside is a Starbucks.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2007


So, uh, can I say that - and I know this boggles - there are actually folks on MetaFilter who don't really care that much? I grasp the pro and anti points pretty well. I wouldn't go out of my way to go to a Starbucks, but if there happens to be one - like at the Joyce Kilmer rest stop of the NJ Turnpike - and I stop to take a piss, I'll buy a shot of espresso. It's not really a political act, it might just be a cup of coffee.
posted by fixedgear at 9:52 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why would I pay $2.65 for a large coffee and poor service when I can go to the local coffee shop two blocks over and get a wicked espresso for $1.25 with a $0.25 refill?

If you go to the local shop, you don't get to walk around for the next half-hour with a cup proudly bearing the Starbucks logo. And no-one will know how good your taste is, and how much disposable income you have.

/ doesn't even drink coffee
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:53 AM on January 19, 2007


While I certainly don't always feel good about being at a Starbucks, they make for great neutral meeting places.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:54 AM on January 19, 2007


I guess my question: does glorifying "indie" have an actual point?

To take this outside of the world of coffee, there are several reasons why going to an independent shop is better for the community.

1) It increases local business. For example, printers, when a chain needs new signage, they will tend to print it themselves, or generate that business where-ever their corp. office is. An independent business will tend to get their work done locally, putting money they make back into the local economy.

2) Local businesses tend to pay more in local and state taxes. Through a thing called the geoffrey loophole, chains are often able to filter money out of the local stores into their corp. coffers and avoid paying income taxes. This means shopping at chains affects your own tax bill.
posted by drezdn at 9:55 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not a coffee drinker. Starbucks just skeeves me out. I can't walk into one without feeling twitchy and uncomfortable.

I'm not a coffee drinker either. But that same skeeve is the reason for this thread.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:58 AM on January 19, 2007


They come in for their fix.

Well, duh. It's a drug. It's a drug over at the indie shop, too.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:06 AM on January 19, 2007


My latest Starbucks experience was walking into a Starbucks during finals week, seeing the line stretch out the door, and deciding to try the local place across the street instead. Over there, there was no line, the coffee was cheaper, the girls were much cuter, the service was friendlier, and they gave me a $2 bill in change. I'm never going back.
posted by SBMike at 10:06 AM on January 19, 2007


Man, I came into work without my Starbucks fix and this is what greats me when I log into my favorite waste of time?

There should be more Starbucks locations! Starting with the corner of this building. And it should be one that does breakfast sandwiches too!

PS Hippies suck.
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on January 19, 2007


Oh, and the nearest coffee place to where I work is a 7/11. That is what you are inflciting on me you damn hippies! Not some groovy beatnik hangout, but RANCID 7/11 COFFEE. You expect me to put up with that? Now shut up before I choke you with your devil sticks.

* Needs a proper coffee.
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on January 19, 2007


Speaking of market saturation, I couldn't find a definitive Starbucks-per-capita figure for the U.S. as a whole, but this article claims there's a Tim Horton's for every 15,000 people in Canada, which would make Tim's, collectively, more popular than Starbucks in most individual U.S. states. I used to joke that you'd really know Tim's had taken over the country when they started opening kiosks inside other donut stores.

The BBC article above also claims that there's a donut shop for every 300 inhabitants of Hamilton, and I can believe it. When my Australian ex-girlfriend first came to Canada, her first reaction to the place was disbelief at how many donut stores there were.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:16 AM on January 19, 2007


Thomas de Zengotita frames this all very succinctly, I think, with his notion of Justin's Helmet:

"If you look at this from the point of view of an individual leading an individual life, having these options is more a good thing than a bad thing, although in almost every case there's a kind of diminishment of authenticity, a kind of ethical or aesthetic diminishment of your existence at the same time."


I think Starbucks make ok coffee. I pick based on the "is close and serves pretty strong coffee" algorithm, and sometimes Indie wins, sometimes Starbucks wins. Not patronizing Starbucks != Stickin' It To The Man.
posted by everichon at 10:22 AM on January 19, 2007


There was a cartoon in the New Yorker (I couldn't find it to link it) a while back, that shows a middle aged couple at a small table and he's saying "Are we in this Starbucks or the one down the block?"
posted by Xurando at 10:31 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like Starbucks.
posted by killdevil at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2007


I somehow managed to go to NYC and leave my camera's charger at home, some 10,000 miles away. I procured a similar charger (for a laptop or something) from Circuit City, and spent hours and hours on end in a Wall St Starbucks waiting for my battery to charge before walking to Brooklyn. At the end of my stay I returned to Circuit City hoping to return my charger, armed with an excuse along the lines of "oh, the plug didn't fit my European camera after all", when the very-down-to-earth customer service lady took one glance at the product, exclaimed "You just don't wannit!?", and promptly refunded me in full.

I'm not sure what the significance of this story is, but I can tell you that in places closer to home I would probably have been kicked out of the cafe much sooner to make space for fresh paying customers, and I would have had to jump through a lot more hoops to get my charger refunded, assuming I could return it at all.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2007


Their anti-competitive practices with respect to real estate, such as exclusive, above-market lease agreements with national property management companies, are sort of problematic.

However, business practices aside, the individual stores provide a useful "third space" in lots of suburban U.S. places where there wouldn't otherwise be any sort of social spot to linger. Maybe 150 Manhattan locations is excessive, but I like the idea that I can hit Random Strip Mall #342 in exurban Maryland and find a spot to meet somebody, check my email, and drink strong coffee (which may not be the world's best, but it's surely an improvement over traditional American Sanka or McDonald's-type caffeinated swill).
posted by killdevil at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2007


At least the folks at starbucks remember who I am and get my drink right. I'd rather pay the extra $1 and get what I ordered instead of whatever haphazard mix the pierced 'indie' shop barista slopped together. Seriously, our indie places are the most inconsistent places ever.

Amen to that.

Other than being really the only choice I go to starbucks because I love their venti mochas, the service is great, they know me by name, if there's a line they sometimes have my drink made before I get to the front, and I get random free drinks.

I recently spent a day in nyc and since finding the best coffee houses wasn't on my agenda it was nice to have a starbucks every other block for a quick pick me up and a bathroom. Plus, I knew their venti mocha would taste the same as the one back home.

Sure, there's some people who go to starbucks on name factor only, but some people go because it's the best option. If I were in new orleans I would pick CCs, but I'm not, so starbucks it is.
posted by justgary at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2007




Never mind the coffee-- I don't drink coffee, anyhow. ... Let's talk about their filthy, glucose-encrusted, diabetes-inducing pastries.

Thanks for your honesty about not drinking coffee. And you're absolutely right about their pastries: they suck. But people who buy pastries in a store that specializes in coffee deserve what they get. Buy your pastry at the pastry store down the street, doofus! ["Doofus" remark not addressed to the extremely non-doofus koeselitz, obviously, but to Generalized Strawman Pastrybuyer.]

in almost every case there's a kind of diminishment of authenticity, a kind of ethical or aesthetic diminishment of your existence at the same time

Whatever else he's talking about I don't know, but as applied to Starbucks, it's bullshit. My authenticity has survived years of enjoying their coffee, thank you very much.

And as long as we're bandying anecdotes, here's one to counter SBMike's: The first time my (already addicted) brother persuaded me to try Starbucks, near the Von's more or less on the border between Santa Barbara and Montecito, I was very dubious. (Yeah, the whole "too many Starbucks... indie is better..." line of crap.) But I dutifully ordered one, and on my way out to the car I managed to drop it and spill the whole thing. I sighed and went back in to get a replacement, and they wouldn't let me pay for it. And the coffee turned out to be delicious. Thanks, Starbucks!
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2007


I spent a while travelling around europe last year (I'm a brit by the way). In the countries where they have a "café culture" (italy, austria, france, hungary, etc) the starbucks are few and often deserted compared to the other cafés around.

In my own opinion, it's incredibly overpriced - you're paying a lot of money basically for the beans that they in bulk and cost them very little anyway, plus the machine that makes it which probably pays for itself after the first morning's work. I think they will follow the mcdonalds story - massively popular franchise initially, stagnation and then over-familiarisation with them, some press horror-stories, then waning popularity. Not for a while yet, give it 10 years.
posted by BigCalm at 10:48 AM on January 19, 2007


Here's the article containing everichon's quote from de Zengotita.
posted by teleskiving at 10:52 AM on January 19, 2007


I think they will follow the mcdonalds story- massively popular franchise initially, stagnation and then over-familiarisation with them, some press horror-stories, then waning popularity.

Wow, I didn't realize McDonald's was losing popularity! The things you miss when you don't keep up with the news...
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on January 19, 2007


But languagehat: doesn't it annoy you, even just a tiny bit, the lack of an apostrophe in their name?
posted by koeselitz at 10:56 AM on January 19, 2007


I sincerely believe that, like McDonald's, Starbucks knows and covertly controls the chemical effects of their products in order to enhance their profit margin....

Which immediately springs to mind....

STUART MACKENZIE: It's a known fact, Sonny Jim,
that a secret society of the five wealthiest people,
known as the Pentavirate, run everything in the world,
including the newspapers and meet tri-annually at a secret
mansion in Colorado known as "The Meadows."

TONY: Who's in the Pentavirate?

STUART MACKENZIE: The Queen, the Vatican, the Gettys, the Rothschilds and Colonel Sanders, before he went tits-up. I hated the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes, and that smug look on his face. "You're gonna buy my chicken. Oh!"

CHARLIE MACKENZIE: Dad, how can you hate the Colonel?

STUART MACKENZIE: He puts addictive chemicals in his chicken making you crave it fortnightly, smart-ass!
posted by dw at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I spent a while travelling around europe last year (I'm a brit by the way). In the countries where they have a "café culture" (italy, austria, france, hungary, etc) the starbucks are few and often deserted compared to the other cafés around.

That's just it -- Starbucks constitutes nothing less than an indigenous American café culture, one that popped into existence ex nihilo in the 80s and 90s. In that sense it's a very good thing.

What's interesting is how profoundly American it is... regardless of where in the world you happen to visit a Starbucks location. Scrupulously sanitary stores, brightly lit and air-conditioned, giant and unwieldy portion sizes, drink menu items containing 800 calories, etc.
posted by killdevil at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2007


I try to support more local establishments where they money stays in the community.
posted by stbalbach at 11:07 AM on January 19, 2007


You can also see a Barnes and Nobles. Inside is a Starbucks.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim


If only. They serve starbucks coffee, but it's not a starbucks. My venti mocha taste completely different.
posted by justgary at 11:12 AM on January 19, 2007


There are 436 Starbucks locations within 50 miles of Seattle. Given Seattle's metropolitan population of 3.9 million people, that's one Starbucks for every 8,945 people.

Uh, no. The current metro population is 3.2 million. That's about 1 for every 7339.

And 50 miles doesn't quite get Olympia, so the ratio may even be lower.

/pedant
posted by dw at 11:19 AM on January 19, 2007


just checking:
starbucks always bad.
more starbucks more bad.
colbert was good, now bad.
china satellite-killer bad, our flag on moon good.
sex 12 times a week bad.
got it!
posted by Dizzy at 11:19 AM on January 19, 2007


I try to support more local establishments where they money stays in the community.

Hey, for many MeFis Starbucks _is_ a local establishment.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:23 AM on January 19, 2007


I'm glad someone mentioned Tim's in Canada. Tim Hortons has the best black coffee - which is the only beverage I buy at coffee shops - that I can find from any other franchised store. My apartment has two Starbuck's and a Second Cup within a 5 minute walk, but I will take my car to drive to the Tim's drive thru if I am craving a fix.

What I've learned though, is the best black coffee is server at tiny, obscure asian restaurants. What is up with that?
posted by utsutsu at 11:25 AM on January 19, 2007


everichon writes "If you look at this from the point of view of an individual leading an individual life, having these options is more a good thing than a bad thing, although in almost every case there's a kind of diminishment of authenticity, a kind of ethical or aesthetic diminishment of your existence at the same time."

Authenticity is for suckers.

killdevil writes "That's just it -- Starbucks constitutes nothing less than an indigenous American café culture, one that popped into existence ex nihilo in the 80s and 90s. In that sense it's a very good thing."

Amen, brother. You know where I could get a cup of espresso growing up in the 80s in Milwaukee? Nowhere. Starbucks fucking created this market, and more indies have been along for the ride than have been displaced.

stbalbach writes "I try to support more local establishments where they money stays in the community."

What the fuck? You think they're flying the baristas in from Seattle each morning?

utsutsu writes "What I've learned though, is the best black coffee is server at tiny, obscure asian restaurants. What is up with that?"

Just a guess: it isn't ordered very often, so they have to brew it fresh?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:33 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Remember the scene in Clockwork Orange (book & movie) where Alex and his droogies go to this bar to drink fermented milk pulled out of the nipples of nude mannikins? Am I alone in seeing this as some kind of weird foreshadowing of Starbucks?

In terms of its unsubtle infantilization of the customer (or pandering to that if you will) with a plethora of milk based products as well as in other ways (such as hiring an amazing corps of exceptionally attractive but healthy looking ideal future mom Barbie Baristas), I think it is, but not in its relationship to gangs. Unlike 7-11s, which where I live are often explicit gang turf, and appear to have capitulated to the point of concluding a separate peace with the gangs, Starbuck's seems to be anathema to gangs-- and it's not like they aren't encountering gangs as they push into gentrifying city neighborhoods, either. It's only a matter of time before gangs notice that Starbuck's, by bringing people on foot into the street early and late with their long hours (classic Jane Jacobs), is making it harder to do the things they like to do, and start attacking Starbuck's-- if they are not doing so already. I wonder what corporate policy to deal with gangs is at Starbuck's? Howard Schulz wouldn't be the visionary he so evidently is if there isn't one, and I'd bet it's sophisticated, too.

Starbuck's undoubtedly promotes gentrification very strongly, dw. If I were a little real estate developer specializing in condo conversions of sound old apartment buildings in a decayed but now revitalizing city such as Philadelphia or parts of Chicago, I can't think what intelligence I would prefer to advance notice of future Starbuck's locations. I would be very surprised if Schulz doesn't have quite a bit of his personal money in a postion to take maximum advantage of the tiny real estate boom a pioneering Starbucks produces, and equally surprised if such locations are not chosen partly to produce those booms.
posted by jamjam at 11:43 AM on January 19, 2007


I feel sheepish about the quote I picked; "authenticity" hasn't meant much to me since high school. What I really meant to say is, I like Sbux just fine, and when I go there, I do so knowing that it's inextricably bound in this stupid-ass, unkillable discourse.

I usually consider same for about 1/3 of a minute, till my attention is diverted by something shiny.

Finally, Zengotita's book is not about authenticity, it's not subject to easy summary, and you should all go read it.
posted by everichon at 11:52 AM on January 19, 2007


I could still go to a diner and get just as good a cup for a fraction of the price.

I can tell you're not from the Midwest.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:54 AM on January 19, 2007


But people who buy pastries in a store that specializes in coffee deserve what they get. Buy your pastry at the pastry store down the street, doofus!

No, I want the owner of the coffee shop and the owner of the pastry shop to see an opportunity to give me convenience, which I'll happily pay extra for.

I'm glad someone mentioned Tim's in Canada. Tim Hortons has the best black coffee - which is the only beverage I buy at coffee shops - that I can find from any other franchised store.

That's because of the nicotine.
posted by mendel at 12:02 PM on January 19, 2007


Come to think of it, the one thing I truly do not understand about Starbucks is that the vast, vast majority of its employees actually seem to be happy to be working there. Either that, or they're all out-of-work-but-quite-skilled actors.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:03 PM on January 19, 2007


Ok two things. One: my anecdotal experience is that indie coffee-shops have been nicer to me as a customer-person than Starbucks (or other, smaller chains) – it can vary but there isn't usually that vague sense of service-worker oppression. (I am Starbucks-neutral.) And two:

Let's talk about their filthy, glucose-encrusted, diabetes-inducing pastries. Have you ever before encountered a scone (a scone, people! a fucking scone!) so sweet that your blood vessels collapse at the sight?

I sincerely believe that, like McDonald's, Starbucks knows and covertly controls the chemical effects of their products in order to enhance their profit margin. The combination of an extreme amount of caffeine with food items that seem to have been manufactured by way of sprinkling crumbs on blocks of super-refined sugar is not only extremely destructive to the body; it leads to the kind of immediate, intense, and ineluctable addiction


addiction? oogh. Here is what I will slam Starbucks and, really, most coffeeshops ever for: their pastries suck. I blame the rise of the coffeeshop for the decline of the American pastry. Coffeeshop pastries are bland and 80% of the time they are crazy stale and man, I just don't know.
posted by furiousthought at 12:11 PM on January 19, 2007


Come to think of it, the one thing I truly do not understand about Starbucks is that the vast, vast majority of its employees actually seem to be happy to be working there. Either that, or they're all out-of-work-but-quite-skilled actors.

That's because nobody has told them they're just fast food employees.
posted by bondcliff at 12:14 PM on January 19, 2007


everichon writes "Finally, Zengotita's book is not about authenticity, it's not subject to easy summary, and you should all go read it."

OK; I'm about halfway through this interview, and I'm definitely intrigued.

The Card Cheat writes "Come to think of it, the one thing I truly do not understand about Starbucks is that the vast, vast majority of its employees actually seem to be happy to be working there."

Well, they provide relatively nice benefits, and benefits are available to part-time workers (the majority of their staff). Health plan availability at 20 hours/week is pretty unusual. They've got some of the lowest turnover in the food service/restaurant industry.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:15 PM on January 19, 2007


The best coffee in NYC is at Samad's deli, at 112th and Broadway. The best. Period.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:16 PM on January 19, 2007


Here is what I find deliciously ironic:

The people that I know who are anti-Starbucks, pro-indie/bohemian coffee/art house kind of people--all two of them--are also huge Apple/IPod fans. And just a couple of weeks ago, we had a bitchfest about how impossible it is to find a good independent record store anymore (Tower, Virgin, etc. all having shut down). Apparently they were all driven out of business by the downloading iPod fans. Stupid giant and successful corporations who run the indies out of business.....
posted by dios at 12:27 PM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know who else frequents indie coffeehouses? That's right, strawmen. Strawmen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:32 PM on January 19, 2007


mr_roboto, you may be right about that. It is most certainly fresh, but beyond that it is just fantastic. I am thinking specifically of a couple of family owned and operated places that I frequent.

Nitcotine in Tim's coffee? I doubt it.
posted by utsutsu at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2007


Delocator lets you map local/indie coffeeshops in your neighborhood, and add your own entries.

I don't think Starbucks is evil incarnate, but I'll only go to one if there aren't good indie choices in a certain area. (I'm also trying to cut out those high-calorie lattes for the new year and get more tea instead, and I really prefer places that give me loose-leaf tea.) (Derail into a tea-snob thread!)
posted by lisa g at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2007


Only because nobody's linked to it yet ... New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks
posted by Alt F4 at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2007


Speaking of restrooms, 5 more public restrooms a day! Providers of 197 clean public restrooms in Manhattan! And if one is occupied, you can just go across the street. Doesn't sound all bad to me. I don't drink much coffee (can you maybe guess why?), and I don't hang out in Starbucks, but I have been very relieved and happy to find them in cities that are foreign to me.
posted by Eringatang at 12:42 PM on January 19, 2007


The Card Cheat, when I was home in Dublin (from where I live in Toronto) at Xmas they had Tim Horton's doughnuts & pastries in my mother's local Tescos supermarket. I was quite amazed.
posted by jamesonandwater at 12:45 PM on January 19, 2007


The baristas at Starbucks are really easy.

The independent baristas always seem to be on lithium.
posted by four panels at 12:54 PM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it, the one thing I truly do not understand about Starbucks is that the vast, vast majority of its employees actually seem to be happy to be working there. Either that, or they're all out-of-work-but-quite-skilled actors.

Or zombies.

That said, I'm going to go to Starbucks, I think, because this paper isn't going to finish itself on time, and it isn't going to finish itself at all if I don't stop reading MetaFilter have some caffeine. This town really needs a Tim Hortons so I can get a double-double fix. That, and their coffee is just good.
posted by oaf at 12:58 PM on January 19, 2007


I would welcome a Tim's in my burg. Mmmmm...donuts. I will say this about Starbucks: I don't like their donuts. much.
posted by everichon at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2007


You know who else frequents indie coffeehouses? That's right, strawmen. Strawmen.

And you know who frequents Starbucks? That's right, green strawmen. The color of cash and corporate greed. Starbucks strawmen are obviously worse. I mean, they're green. Green man.
posted by Bugg at 1:08 PM on January 19, 2007


Starbucks related: In my office building Starbucks has a regional training office for store managers on the floor below. Currently, the bathrooms on my floor are being renovated so we have to go to another floor to use one. The bathroom by that Starbucks training center is usually filthy.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:12 PM on January 19, 2007


On the taste of Starbucks - my limited experience of North American coffee is that virtually every espresso I drank was very dark and overroasted. I conclude not that American espresso sucks, but that there is clearly a style, perhaps based on the famous dark south Italian espresso, which people are going for. I personally don't like it that much, but I'm not going to condemn people who do. Starbucks didn't seem better or worse than the average cup I got. (I got a great double shot from Peets at JFK, believe it or not).

Where I live (New Zealand) Starbucks has been around for several years, but doesn't seem to be making much headway. But we an awful lot of independent cafes spang up over the last 20 years, so we had our espresso boom before the chains came in. Pretty much everywhere that sells coffee has an espresso machine if it sells coffee at all. And the local taste in coffee is for a somewhat lighter roast.

I imagine that anywhere that does not have an established espresso tradition will be successful for Starbucks, which is why the UK has so many. Hell, I went to Starbucks in the UK, because it was the only game in town where I was living.

Potentially Starbucks is a good thing for the competent espresso provider, because a) they grow the market of espresso drinkers for you and b) they are a foil for you to differentiate against - be cooler, be better, be whatever. I deplore the homogenous urban landscape but there are clear limits to how far it can go before more nimble and specialised businesses attack the monoculture.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:14 PM on January 19, 2007


Good things about Starbucks: decent and reliable filter coffee at an average price (at least at stand-alones in SF -- it's the espresso & specialty drinks that are expensive); clean and wheelchair accessible bathrooms; clean seating areas with good lighting; good service; good employee policies (health insurance (unlike independents, that can't afford), good internal complaint procedures for employees); social atmosphere; "blue" corporate policies in terms of issues like domestic partner benefits for employees and decent financial support for LGBT issues, women's issues, Democratic Party, etc.

Bad things about Starbucks: terrrible god-awful inedible pastries; potential impact on worldwide coffee markets; repetitive stress injuries for employees; possible impact on locally owned businesses/gentrification/etc.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:30 PM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good things about Starbucks: decent and reliable filter coffee at an average price (at least at stand-alones in SF -- it's the espresso & specialty drinks that are expensive); clean and wheelchair accessible bathrooms; clean seating areas with good lighting; good service; good employee policies (health insurance (unlike independents, that can't afford), good internal complaint procedures for employees); social atmosphere; "blue" corporate policies in terms of issues like domestic partner benefits for employees and decent financial support for LGBT issues, women's issues, Democratic Party, etc.

Cheers to ClaudiaCenter, I will take starbucks on a 100-1 ratio over walmart.
posted by hexxed at 1:37 PM on January 19, 2007


Apparently they were all driven out of business by the downloading iPod fans record label stupidity.

Fixed that for you.
posted by justgary at 1:49 PM on January 19, 2007


I have no problem with Starbuck's (I'm using the apostrophe and I don't care). I like my beans burned to a crisp, brewed at a boil, and served in a soup tureen.

However, at the risk of having my Canadian citizenship revoked, I must say that I cannot stand Tim Horton's coffee.

I do find it interesting that Tim's has managed to avoid the opprobrium suffered by its American cousin. I think Canucks still have the image of Tim's as a blue collar, corner coffee shop where groups of grey hairs converse over crullers. In fact for most of us the local Tim's is a pre-fab suburban shack whose interior we glimpse only briefly via the drive-through window. Did I mention their coffee sucks?
posted by Urban Hermit at 1:54 PM on January 19, 2007


ClaudiaCenter: "Good things about Starbucks: decent and reliable filter coffee at an average price (at least at stand-alones in SF -- it's the espresso & specialty drinks that are expensive); clean and wheelchair accessible bathrooms; clean seating areas with good lighting; good service; good employee policies (health insurance (unlike independents, that can't afford), good internal complaint procedures for employees); social atmosphere; "blue" corporate policies in terms of issues like domestic partner benefits for employees and decent financial support for LGBT issues, women's issues, Democratic Party, etc."

I was impressed with these as well. They only go so far-- that is, if you sign up for the health benefits, you only see about half of your paycheck, which meant about 4.50$ for me-- but it's more than most offer entrance-level workers.
posted by koeselitz at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2007


morbid curiousity: who or what is the Starbuck presumed to be possessive of this chain, that we know the apostrophic omission is real?
posted by cortex at 2:26 PM on January 19, 2007


No, man. Their name is a colloquial reference to the space dollars that their stock was originally traded for when they colonized Venus. Starbucks, dude. Starbucks.
posted by COBRA! at 2:33 PM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


morbid curiousity: who or what is the Starbuck presumed to be possessive of this chain, that we know the apostrophic omission is real?

I'm not sure if you were being facetious, or to what degree, but the name refers to this guy. The apparent story behind it is here.
posted by Urban Hermit at 2:48 PM on January 19, 2007


Come to think of it, the one thing I truly do not understand about Starbucks is that the vast, vast majority of its employees actually seem to be happy to be working there.

good pay and health benefits for part-timers will do that.

The "hating Starbucks" thing is I think mostly a "Paris Hilton" style strawman: people trying to prove their sophistication by piling hate on an easy target.

A certain strata of society has declared that no matter how over-the-top, mean -spirited or just plain inaccurate your attack on these victims may be, it's ok because Paris/Britney/Starbucks/"rednecks"/whatever is just SO awful that they can't possibly contain themselves, and doesn't that just prove what smart, wonderful people they are?
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:22 PM on January 19, 2007


Not facetious at all;—never read any Melville, to my, well, socially demanded feigned mild embarassment. To my credit, I did not conclude it was a Battlestar thing.

I'm still iffy on the presumed-missing-apostrophe thing, then, however. Not that is isn't a reasonable conclusion, but the name might instead be seen as a declaration of affinity to that Dickian first mate as pluralized archetype: "Starbucks! The world belongs to the Starbucks!"

But probably not.
posted by cortex at 3:29 PM on January 19, 2007


No, probably not. But the exclamation-pointed hyperbole is certainly Melville-esque:

Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme!
posted by Urban Hermit at 3:49 PM on January 19, 2007


Starbuck's undoubtedly promotes gentrification very strongly, dw.

But that's not exactly true, and that wasn't even my point. My point is that these indie coffee houses sit in old buildings, and in Seattle anything less than 20 years old is probably going to be knocked down for a new condo. I'm surprised the Space Needle hasn't gone condo yet. This has zero to do with Starbucks.

I live in a working class, bordering on white trash neighborhood here in Seattle. In 2000, they put a drive-through Starbucks in the gas station and a Starbucks in the grocery store. A year later, they put a Starbucks in a strip mall up the road. Meanwhile, the other grocery store gets a Peet's.

Six years later... still working class. A few condos, a few teardowns, but still the same housing stock with the same welders and grocery clerks and union men and mechanics. No new coffee houses or fancy book stores. The Peet's is gone as well.

I remember what a big deal it was when Starbucks came to the Rainier Valley, but you can't say it's the reason why the area started to gentrify. The old housing stock and closeness to the Amazon HQ had more to do with it. And the light rail work. And, you know, the relatively straight shot down over Beacon Hill to the Starbucks HQ.

Here is what I will slam Starbucks and, really, most coffeeshops ever for: their pastries suck.

Amen and amen. Frosted cardstock is tastier. Though their new breakfast sandwiches (which seem to be a Seattle-only thing) aren't half-bad.
posted by dw at 3:56 PM on January 19, 2007


Vancouver's got tons of Starbucks too. The most famous one here is the one at Robson and Thurlow - it was built kitty-corner to the other Starbucks at Robson and Thurlow as they were going to close the first one down. After the second was built and was doing good sales from day one, the business at the one across the street didn't waver an inch, so they left it. It's really weird to see two identical stores facing each other 40 feet away. Maybe the customers feel some strange affinity with the store that they started with.
It's like that on Commercial Drive, which has some awesome coffee already, so of course Starbucks had to open there as well. More often than not, it's pretty quiet. Most of the denizens of the Drive seem to prefer the original Italian places, and the fact that Starbucks was built on the opposite corner to Continental Coffee1 which just seemed to be insulting. When the SB's was opened, the local media went around to Continental, and Caffe Calabria2 (across the street) and asked if they felt that their business was being threatened by the big chain moving in nearby. One of the owners just looked at the interviewer and laughed, and looked around at his full shop.

Pictures of the Starbucks found at starbuckseverywhere.net which is a little freaky to look at, especially since there are 14 Starbucks per square mile in Vancouver (according to one source).

1. been there since 1979. roast their own fair-trade beans.
2. opened 1976.

posted by Zack_Replica at 4:24 PM on January 19, 2007


zack: I think that happy hippy San Francisco is a lot worse. Go to their website and just check out zip 94111 for example.
posted by drstein at 4:30 PM on January 19, 2007


I started drinking coffee when I was on vacation in Costa Rica in high school... no coffee has tasted the same since, not even Starbucks. I drink the free coffee at work, because it's free caffiene, but frankly, when I get done with it, it's mostly coffeemate and sugar.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:56 PM on January 19, 2007


I like Starbucks just fine, but the best coffee, by far, that I have ever had was at a little dive of a latin American(i'm not sure if it was colombian or cuban or what) place in downtown Miami, where I ordered a Cafe Cubano more or less at random and was somewhat bemused when it came out in a very tiny mug. But I must have drank about 4 of them, and came back every morning for more the entire time I was staying there.

Why can't you get Cafe Cubano's anywhere else in the country? They're fantastic.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on January 19, 2007


dw - you probably work at the same "large university in Seattle" that I attend. Don't you find all the on-campus coffee absolutely horrible? (save for Parnassus in the art building; it is teh win).

I'm all for supporting the underdog, and the idea of living in Seattle and going to Tully's is appealing to me. But their coffee has been, in my opinion, underwhelming.
posted by rossination at 5:19 PM on January 19, 2007


Best in Show had a great bit about meeting in Starbucks (YouTube link, scroll ahead to about 2:35).

"I remember when I met you I was drinking a grande espresso."

"And I thought that was so sexy." Parker Posey is too funny.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:20 PM on January 19, 2007


You know you've been a Metafilter member awhile when you can remember the last three threads that endlessly debated the merits/evils of Starbucks.
posted by docpops at 5:47 PM on January 19, 2007


Here in Oregon, there are more indie coffee outlets than there are public toilets. The reason, I think, that they are less sought out is the sheer inconsistency of the product. Some cups are so sublime they make a Starbucks look like swill, other times you get a cup of warm, dark spit served up by a walking circus sideshow. Not sure what the best long term option is.
posted by docpops at 5:49 PM on January 19, 2007


Real, actual strawmen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:12 PM on January 19, 2007


I find it hard to understand the hate for Starbucks.

Sure, they're ubiquitous and therefore perhaps a bit gauche. Perhaps their coffee isn't as good as Stumptown's.

But it's not like they move into the neighborhood and ruin the competition with their low, low prices. Nor do they oppress their workers. On the contrary, being a Starbucks employee is a fine job which includes benefits even if you don't work full time. There's also a real chance for advancement. It's not unheard of to start working at a Starbucks and in a few years end up managing your own store.

If you have to hate, hate on Walmart. At least they deserve it.
posted by mullingitover at 7:02 PM on January 19, 2007




Here in Oregon, there are more indie coffee outlets than there are public toilets. The reason, I think, that they are less sought out is the sheer inconsistency of the product. Some cups are so sublime they make a Starbucks look like swill, other times you get a cup of warm, dark spit served up by a walking circus sideshow.

So you have the public toilets covered, but how are the coffee outlets?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:40 PM on January 19, 2007


stbalbach writes "I try to support more local establishments where they money stays in the community."

mr_roboto writes: What the fuck? You think they're flying the baristas in from Seattle each morning?

That's kind of a bullshit response; both the indie joint and the Starbucks have to pay local baristas, the difference is who's taking home the net profits and where they're buying their ingredients.

I have no particular beef with Starbucks and I mostly agree that they've done more to create the market than to destroy competition, and that both their service and their coffee is more consistently tolerable than any randomly chosen indie. But they don't come within miles of the good indies. Personally I like to spend money at local shops that also buy locally roasted coffee, so as much money as possible sticks.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:22 PM on January 19, 2007


Ask the local indie baristas how they like their health care coverage.
posted by mullingitover at 8:25 PM on January 19, 2007


See I go for the sublime cups served by the walking circus sideshows – that's ideal. But actually I choose coffeeshops by how nice they are to sit down in and coffees by how much change it'll leave me for laundry so don't follow my example.

Though their new breakfast sandwiches (which seem to be a Seattle-only thing) aren't half-bad.

Nah there's at least one place in Portland (NW 23rd) that serves those and they are pretty tolerable, about equivalent to something you'd get at an Einstein's Bagel Co. or something.

The Best In Show intersection in Vancouver is very funny, and Tim's was awfully disappointing, Canada-wise.
posted by furiousthought at 8:34 PM on January 19, 2007


The thing about Tim Horton's coffee is that it's very good bad coffee. Give me an extra-large triple-triple, and I'm good to start my day.

The thing about Starbucks' coffee is that it's very bad bad coffee. Their hot chocolate, on the other hand, is lovely. And Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick do I miss the Chantico. (Or, as it has been called elsewhere, liquid Denzel). I'm sure it was full of all sorts of horrible junk, but holy fuck did it pack a chocolate wallop.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:43 PM on January 19, 2007


As the proud domestic partner of a starbucks employee, I'd like to point out that they provide excellent health care.
posted by odinsdream at 8:54 PM on January 19, 2007


right now, i get my daily cup of coffee from a vending machine ... it's some kind of "dark gourmet blend" and it's 55c for a 12 oz cup ... it has caffiene
posted by pyramid termite at 8:58 PM on January 19, 2007


i am a barista at a starbucks...and it is like any other job---some good parts, some bad. it can be tricky sometimes having to figure out how to meet all the corporate expectations and maintain an upbeat attitude no matter what happens during the day (and let me tell you, having to clean a bathroom where some grown man has spread shit on the walls doesn't foster much love for the customer).

prior to working for the bucks, i worked at a local coffeehouse which prided itself on being "pro-worker" and socially responsible. and yet, it took me going over to the "dark side" to earn a living (consistant) wage, good health care, have a boss who is mature to handle the day to day tasks of operating a store, and work in an environment where your co-workers are your "teammates"

for those of you so ready to hate on starbucks, stop spending your bloody money there. buy beans from a roaster you like locally (or online, as lots of indies are offering this option) and make it at home.
posted by ms.jones at 9:21 PM on January 19, 2007


This is it. Starbucks is a pretty innocent business, as global corporations go. But it's a symbol for the levelling and homogenising and expansion of US-centric Western culture. Starbucks the symbol stands for a lot of sad and regrettable things, but Starbucks the employer, Starbucks the coffee and Starbucks the business are ok if not great.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:43 PM on January 19, 2007


(and let me tell you, having to clean a bathroom where some grown man has spread shit on the walls doesn't foster much love for the customer).

oh, god ... i've been there, done that ... (the cleaning, i mean) ... some people you really gotta wonder about
posted by pyramid termite at 9:57 PM on January 19, 2007


I think joe's spleen has the right of it. If Starbucks had been an early globalizer they might have been able to set a good example for others to follow. As it is, they get lumped in with all the other heavy-handed chains that will eventually make every street in America look the same. Everyone grabbing their Starbucks while they head over to Wal-Mart, grabbing a snack later at McDonalds and getting together with their friends at TGI-Fridays....blech.

Here in the Southern part of San Francisco, Starbucks is thankfully scarce. The Mission district is full of independent coffee shops. Some do serve evil swill but there are also gems: Ritual Roasters, one of the homes of "Web 2.0" also serves fantastic coffee.

And my new favorite is a nationally recognized micro-roaster named Blue Bottle which is starting to supply cafes here in San Francisco. It is and amazing flavorful roast and some of the best coffee I've ever had. I drink it every morning at a small mom-and-pop bakery (the proprietor is nearby rolling dough) called Piccino before I catch my train. The barista, who makes a perfect espresso, starts preparing my double latte when he sees me walk in the door.

With Starbucks not around we have the freedom to invent and to choose I think rather than depend on the whims of a corporation. I'll pass on Starbucks, thanks.
posted by vacapinta at 10:07 PM on January 19, 2007


Oh, for San Franciscans and Oaklandites reading this thread, someone's compiling a list of where to get Blue Bottle.
posted by vacapinta at 10:14 PM on January 19, 2007


I'm not a Starbucks hater -- I go there occasionally, since it's on my meal plan -- but if you think hot chocolate from Starbucks is good, try Dunkin Donuts'. Starbucks' will try to separate if you leave it alone for five minutes, but Dunkin Donuts' is pure heaven.
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:15 PM on January 19, 2007


dw - you probably work at the same "large university in Seattle" that I attend. Don't you find all the on-campus coffee absolutely horrible?

Oh God yes. 15 minute waits, and then the first sip is watery, like they added coffee extract (not coffee) and didn't stir. The ones in Health Sciences are the worst, but the HUB stuff was pretty terrible, too. And the girls there spend far too much time hitting on customers and each other to actually pull a decent cup.

And for all the bitching upthread about the charcoalification of Starbucks beans, Tully's coffee is either flavorless or painfully bitter.

The coffee concession on campus used to be held by Torrefazione, but then they got bought up by Starbucks and Tully's quickly filled the void. But I don't think they've spent one minute on campus training the kids how to make a shot of espresso.

(save for Parnassus in the art building; it is teh win).

Haven't been there. Maybe I'll walk over there tomorrow.
posted by dw at 10:26 PM on January 19, 2007


And Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick do I miss the Chantico. (Or, as it has been called elsewhere, liquid Denzel). I'm sure it was full of all sorts of horrible junk, but holy fuck did it pack a chocolate wallop.

Just don't think about the calories.
A six-ounce cup of Chantico contains 390 calories, 20g of fat and 50g of carbs.


That means a tall Chantico had the same number of calories (780) as a McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a small order of fries (760).
posted by dw at 10:31 PM on January 19, 2007


At least the folks at starbucks remember who I am and get my drink right. I'd rather pay the extra $1 and get what I ordered instead of whatever haphazard mix the pierced 'indie' shop barista slopped together...
Other than being really the only choice I go to starbucks because I love their venti mochas, the service is great, they know me by name, if there's a line they sometimes have my drink made before I get to the front, and I get random free drinks.


I work for Seattle's Best, which is like Mini-Starbucks. (Though we try not to say the "S" word too much, truth is we're owned by them. They're sometimes referred to simply as "The Mothership.") Part of the reason your indie-baristas are inconsistent is that they are not bashed about the head with CORE VALUES and STANDARDS every five minutes. As much as it personally pains me when our district manager comes in and gives a lecture that we, as a store, have been steaming the milk 5 degrees too high and with one ounce too much foam, the fact is that since we have a specific formula for each and every drink we make, your mocha is going to taste the same every single time you come in.

We're good to our regulars for many reasons: we like to encourage repeat business, for one. For two, we're often really bored and/or fed up with the attitude from customers who have weird or insane demands. On a slow day, my regulars get free food, extra artistic whipped cream displays, and the occasional intelligent conversation. I know them all by name and usually by drink and yes, I do my best to have the drink ready by the time the customer has reached the counter, and not just because it gets me a better tip.

As for the random free drinks: large chain stores can afford to throw away money. In my store, nothing is inventoried for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. There are also coupons for "service recovery," which means I can scan in any drink I want, scan a coupon, and chalk it up to ensuring a return visit from the customer, which is what the big chains are all about. The economy of small stores doesn't allow for such wasteful practices, but on the other hand, I'm also positive that they don't throw away nearly as much food or coffee in a day. (If I told you how much coffee we dump down the sink, your eyes would bug out of your head.)

As for the confusion to why anyone would be happy work for the Bux, I work in a Mini-Bux and I will never, ever quit my job. As I am employed through Borders, Inc to work in Seattle's Best, I get amazingly good health-care for a service industry job and my employee discount is a sweet, sweet thing. Add in the ability to borrow nearly any book in the store for up to two weeks and I really can't *afford* to work any place else. Even libraries don't give benefits like I get. (I know, I have friends who are librarians who drool over my PPO and Dental.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:05 AM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet...

Starbucks actually bought out Seattle's Best (which predates the Bux by a decade or two) as part of the "Starbucks everywhere" plan. Starbucks has an exclusive contract with Barnes & Noble which prevents them from putting Starbucks stores into Borders stores. (Incidentally, started by the Borders brothers. No apostrophe.) So, when Starbucks wanted to expand to ensure that every coffee purchased in a major bookstore in the US was a Starbucks coffee, they came up with the plan to buy out the #2 coffee chain to put in the #2 bookstore because just as Borders gets a lot of business from being NOT Barnes & Noble, there is a distinct market for the "anti-Starbucks."

Most of our customers aren't savvy of this and gush over the quaint practice of referring to cup sizes as small, medium, and large and how REFRESHING it is that we refer to customers by name and not by drink. They're just so SICK of Starbucks, they say. Little do they know.

Of course, there are also plenty of customers who DO know and when I try to explain to them that no, they can't use a Starbucks gift card in my store, they get very impertinent and remind me that they're owned by the same company. I try to explain about the exclusive contract with Barnes and Noble and that this is a Borders store, but they don't care. They just want a free latte. I don't give in. I occasionally even charge them for double syrup because they annoy me.

(Fact of the matter is, even if I wanted to just take their damn card, our card reader doesn't recognize it, making it completely worthless.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:12 AM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


dw - you probably work at the same "large university in Seattle" that I attend. Don't you find all the on-campus coffee absolutely horrible? (save for Parnassus in the art building; it is teh win).

Hey, I used to work there! I too remember Parnassus having pretty good coffee. Is the Allegro still in business? That used to be excellent high-octane espresso . . .
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:37 AM on January 20, 2007


dw writes "Just don't think about the calories.
"A six-ounce cup of Chantico contains 390 calories, 20g of fat and 50g of carbs.


"That means a tall Chantico had the same number of calories (780) as a McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a small order of fries (760)."


Oh, when they had them up here in Canuckistan, they were only available in very small cups, slightly larger (and different look) than the paper espresso cups. I think something like 3 ounces.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:03 AM on January 20, 2007


People know I like coffee, but I don't proselytize about quality or roasting or indie-this-that-and-the-other.

So people buy me Starbucks' (Starbuck's? Starbucks's... no, definitely Starbucks') gift cards as presents. Cool. Thanks, people. I currently have ~ $60 in $5-20 gift cards in my wallet (that thing can hardly close at this point).

So I walk into Starbucks and order from the vapid, attractive clerks. Card and caffeine is exchanged in a minimalistic, low-key transaction. Slight facial tic while eyeing their menu. What the hell does venti mean? Americano? Really? My order is called out and people turn to see who ordered plain coffee in a Southern California Starbucks. I have no extra adjectives attached to my coffee. I feel a sense of shame.

Suddenly I'm on the curb, the cup and its lid insulating me from any sort of visceral heat or smell. I sip grimly, burning my mouth, loading up on caffeine. The sky is grey. I'll be back again tomorrow.
posted by empyrean at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2007


That economies of scale allow Starbucks to be better able to give good benefits to part-time workers doesn't mean smaller businesses that try but are unable to match them are evil. And it doesn't argue for buying from Starbucks over the goods of small businesses. It only means the incentives in place for small biz health insurance are screwed up, for one, and argues more in favor of finally getting some national health care program in the only democratic nation of any standing not to have one.

It argues against relying on the goodness of a consumer giant with every advantage over the business with the potential to do more for its neighborhood, that keeps its money at home, etc., and is owned by locals who will stay at home and have a stake in community affairs (you know, the Jeffersonian ideal of independence and democratic values, all that, only not involving farming). And what happens if the company's health care costs keep increasing, which I believe they have? What happens 30 years down the line? The answer is not Starbucks for All, but health care reform.
posted by raysmj at 11:24 AM on January 20, 2007


I wouldn't drink that coffee asspiss if you gave me a car made of diamonds and blowjobs. All day.

Yep, that's mine.
posted by dozo at 2:26 PM on January 20, 2007


(derail)

You know, I've often wondered about small businesses not being able to provide benefits. Couldn't, say, a dozen indie coffee shops band together, and buy a group policy covering all of their employees?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:38 PM on January 20, 2007


Insurance firms generally will not provide group life/health insurance to organizations formed specifically for the sake of attaining life/health insurance. Anti-selection and all that. While this wouldn't necessarily be the situation with a collection of small businesses, you can imagine the greater difficulty of pulling something like that off in light of industry skepticism.

Small group insurance doesn't make the insurance folks good money. Claims experiences is very hard to predict. Risk aversion says stay away.
posted by cortex at 4:41 PM on January 20, 2007


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