New York seems to have a love/hate relationship with the branded beanery Starbucks (their seasonal Peppermint Mochas sure are tasty, but their sterile generic storefronts keep the siren's call muted). While the local mom and pop collects our $3/day coffee allowance, there are plenty lining up at the corner 'Bucks for their daily buzz. Alas, there is now a book to appease the haters and the adoring herds of the establishment.
Taylor Clark has gone and written a 304-page tell-all about the company called Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture. The Observer has a review of the even-keeled tome, which is written with a tone somewhere between the aforementioned love and hate. So how did a relatively small business out of Seattle, that was hailed for giving part-time employees full health benefits...become the bane of city-living existence? It succeeded.
When New York’s first Starbucks opened in 1994, it wasn’t greeted with alarm, as phase one of an insidious plan to colonize the city. In that innocent era, Starbucks, with a mere 425 stores—compared to more than 14,000 today—still enjoyed a reputation for being kind of hip and even a little bohemian (O.K., upscale bohemian).
Now the storefronts represent gentrification, greed and uniformity -- a homogenized outlet in which to procure overpriced novelty drinks (and the latest Josh Groban holiday cd!), often transforming a neighborhood into a Starbucks-themed MC Escher painting. However, people still go (whether they'll admit it or not) -- just as they go to the Duane Reades and the Chase banks of the neighborhood. Starbucks changed the face of the cafe to the point where "Americans barely bat an eye at paying $4 for 'pitchers of milk and espresso'.” While Clark tells of the sweet and sour sides...we thought of more cons than pros -- so think twice about where you dip your biscotti! Some food for thought after the jump...
The cons: • "the 100,000-plus network of low-wage employees and the Third World tobacco-coffee farms supplying its beans impact on communities and local culture."
• Only a small percentage (about 3.7%) of Starbucks coffee is Fair Trade-certified.
• "Phase Two".
• Ten more reasons here.
The pros: • Mostly liberal quotes on their coffee cups.
• Seattle's Starbucks Center is green certified.
• Did we mention the Peppermint Mochas?
Some "fun" facts: There are over 170 Starbucks in Manhattan alone, and the average customer comes in 18 times a month! There are currently more than 24,000 coffee shops in the nation, whereas in 1989 the US had a total of 585. And think twice about crossing the coffee-pushers, once the company put out a warrant for a man's arrest after he paid for a coffee brewer but accidentally took the wrong (more expensive) one home.