Sunday, April 02, 2006

Uggh. Starbucks

The barista is chatting to someone about Daylight Savings Time and the effect on the clientele: "These are the 8 o'clock people at 9 o'clock. Or maybe it's the pre-church crowd? But what do I know about church? I mean I've heard" -- sweeping gesture -- "of this deity" -- gesture -- but what do I know?"

There's an astrology column taped to that circular section of the counter where they present the coffee drinks. A man waiting for his latte scans the column and expresses pleasure that he's supposed to have a good day. He's a Virgo he tells us. The barista exclaims that, ooh, he's a Virgo, and an older woman, also waiting for a coffee, says that her son is a Virgo. I read the Virgo message and point out the introductory clause: "It says you're going to have a good day assuming you first complete your duties."

And (referring to a message on a sign seen in this picture):

"Restore yourself." Not -- as I think it would have read a few years back -- "Indulge yourself." "Restore yourself" is less hedonistic, a bit spiritual. He restoreth my soul. But what would you have to be if what restored you -- what brought you back to yourself -- was a vanilla sunshine cupcake and a macchiato crisscrossed with gooey chocolate? Macchiato means "stained," and this plays havoc with the religious imagery "restore" evokes for me. But then it's restore yourself. No deity -- you may have heard of one -- is going to restore you. It's up to you to restore yourself -- to your truly stained condition -- at Starbucks, where God seems rather alien -- something heard about one time -- but astrology belongs taped to the part of the place that is most like an altar, where the barista bestows the restorative liquid upon us.

The quotes are from an Althouse post. I consider her my blogmother (and Frank J. is my blogfather, FYI), in case you hadn't guessed that from my site already. My style is somewhat similar to hers...substantive (I like to think anyway) posts mixed with whimsical posts.

Anyway, back to Starbucks. I know it's probably irrational for me to intensely dislike (I almost wrote 'hate' but that seemed too intense) a coffee shop that I almost never frequent. But I don't like the coffee, and while I like to go to coffee shops to sit and read (which is what Starbucks is evidently all about), I don't see how that type of atmosphere can be mass produced, and I haven't felt comfortable anytime I've gone there. My dislike of the place when I saw two of them while standing in front of another while in NYC (one of my least favorite cities). I started to intensely dislike the place when I heard that they were going to open up several shops in Madrid (something they've since done). I like Spanish coffee shops, and I know that Starbucks will probably replace the ones that exist, or at least keep many Americans from experiencing them while they visit Spain and other countries with Starbucks. I applaud their business plan, and I congratulate them on their success, but that doesn't mean I have to frequent their establishments...a Starbucks-type expansionary plan is different from a Wal-Mart-type expansionary plan, even if I can't quantitatively prove it at the moment.

I'm also bugged by the fact that the same people who oppose Wal-Mart for treating their employees badly and putting local business out of business seem to like Starbucks so much...which has done at least as much as Wal-Mart in it's own industry. At least Duncan Donuts (which has good coffee, in my opinion, even if I don't drink it much anymore) has more franchise-type shops, and less of a corporate structure. That means that even if the stores look the same everywhere, they are locally owned and all the profits stay local.

My dislike is intensified by the faux-intellectualism and funky (possibly new-age?) spiritualism that seems to go hand in hand with can see what I mean from the above quotes from a reliable Starbucks frequenter, but I see the same thing in my own friends that frequent Starbucks.

So, with all these somewhat substantial reasons, I feel safe to point out that Starbucks is extremely biased towards political groups that I don't like, and contributed a ton of money to said groups in the 2004 elections...while Duncan Donuts was biased the other way...this isn't the reason I prefer Duncan Donuts, but it's sure feels good to know that my instincts are backed up financially.

Do you go to Starbucks? Am I totally wrong? Let me know...

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend that will refuse to go to Starbucks, which is fine, but she will then turn around and go to Caribou coffee. While I do not know too much about Caribou and their corporate philosophy in comparison to Starbucks, the differences between the two mega coffee giants, in my mind, are seemingly few. Starbucks sells intelectualism and Caribou sells environmentalism. And while those two items seperate these two corporate giants the fact that they are giants in this corporate world makes my head spin when my friend refuses to frequent one over the other.

    I guess in short it is not what Starbucks is selling (coffee), but how they are selling it. (Be a part of the crowd: drink Starbucks) Some people are comfortable being a part of the Starbucks machine while others wish to distance themselves from that no matter how little the distance actual is.