Tuesday, July 22, 2008

People I Strongly Dislike: Starbucks Junkies

I'm not here to rub salt in anyone's wounds, but just how funny is this recent news that bamas are petitioning Starbucks to keep stores open?

Now that Starbucks Corp. has disclosed the 600 locations it wants to shutter, a phenomenon is taking hold: the Save Our Starbucks campaign.

In towns as small as Bloomfield, N.M., and metropolises as large as New York, customers and city officials are starting to write letters, place phone calls, circulate petitions and otherwise plead with the coffee company to change its mind.

"Now that it's going away, we're devastated," said Kate Walker, a facilities manager for software company SunGard Financial Systems who recently learned of a store closing in New York City.

Online, several "Save Our Starbucks" petitions have popped up for stores across the country, including locations in San Diego, Dallas and New York City.
If I didn't know any better, I'd swear these folks sounded like fiends. Seriously, are we gonna see a re-enactment of this classic scene[1] in burbs coast-to-coast? I sure hope not.

I mean, seriously folks, it's just figgin' coffee!!! It's not "freedom". It's just a freakin' cup of Joe, marked-up astronomically to pay for that John Legend background music and those cushy sofas. When you strip away the calm lighting and "baristas", coffee is still just beans filtered with water. You can, and should, get the same thing at 7-11 for a fraction of the price.

I read a very good book a few months ago called Punching In by Alex Frankel. In addition to revealing the secrets to success for companies like The Gap, UPS, Home Depot, and The Container Store, the book talked about how Starbucks develops a cult-like following of customers by making their own employees cultlike. There's the whole "large/small vs venti grande" thing, the ambient lighting, the mood music, the green vs black aprons, the never empty stores, etc. Given the fact that only about 8% of Starbucks' revenue actually comes from straight-up coffee, it's clear that folks are buying the overall experience moreso than the drink itself.

So much of the typical visit to Starbucks is so intricately planned out and analyzed, it's amazing that the whole thing comes off as being even remotely "organic". For anyone interested in this sorta M.B.A. 101 insider info, I'd strongly recommend peeping that book.

The ultimate irony here is that Starbucks used to be boycotted when they broke into a neighborhood. That familiar green, black, and white logo usually is the forebearer of gentrification, or at the very least, corporate greed spilling over to spoil people's perceptions of true "Americana" (ie: Mom and Pops stores). So, while I understand why some folks are complete Stans for their mochafrappachinolatte with two shots of soy, I can't feel too bad. I mean, come on, what's next? Boycotting to keep Walmart afloat? Please.

Reality is, Starbucks is nothing more than another greedy corporation that grew too fast, too soon, and didn't anticipate such a sharp economic downtown. Now they're paying for that greed. Period.

I'm sorry Starbucks customers, but just maybe this is the sorta economic reality check you needed. Coffee is coffee. Save 3 bucks and cop yours at Wawa like the rest of us.

Question: Are you a Starbucks junkie? Is your local crackhouse closing? What's your drug of choice?

Cities, Customers Launch 'Save Our Starbucks' Efforts [WSJ]

More People I Strongly Dislike [AB.com]

[1] Man, what a movie!

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