Monday, May 14, 2007

coffee anyone?

I have never been in a Starbucks. As ubiquitous as they are, I have never crossed the threshold of one of them. I seem to have an innate aversion to Starbucks for some unknown reason. The company is by all accounts a good corporate citizen of the world. The coffee it uses is produced in an environmentally conscientious manner. Its employees get benefits that many other businesses would not provide to less than fulltime workers. The products it sells are apparently meeting the demand of its millions of customers everyday. The fact that its products—coffee in its many variations and flavors—are overpriced in relation to other enterprises engaged in the same market doesn’t seem to deter its customers from spending whatever is asked of them. All in all, a very successful, profitable, growing, and well run business that is the envy of much of the corporate world.

So why do I get an uneasy feeling whenever I see a Starbucks store? Is it that there are so many of them with many more on the way that makes me cringe a little every time another one pops up out of nowhere? In Seattle, where the company originated, there are Starbucks stores within mere blocks of each other. There are now over 6000 Starbucks in the country and the aim is to have 10,000 or more within a couple years. Am I the only one who gets the feeling that Starbucks is taking over the world? Before long we are going to be either drowning in coffee and lattes or buried under a never ending pile of coffee beans awaiting shipment to the Starbucks next door.

I guess I just like the idea of buying a cup of coffee from a locally owned and operated business and not from suffocating behemoth that is driving out the local enterprises. Before long I expect to see only Starbucks and Wal-Marts end to end as far as the eye can see. Between the two of them they will control the world. Oh, wait a minute, they already do, don't they.


Wiccachicky said...

I don't drink coffee, but I have sort of a similar reaction to Starbucks. My partner loves them, but I hate that we have them within a couple blocks of each other here. In New York, there would be one every block, sometimes on opposite corners of the same street!

Zhu said...

I kind of understand. I was born in France, although I do live in Canada now. France has, as you may know, a tradition of small coffee shops in all city. Coffee is cheap (2$ or so) and these places usually have a lot of character.

A couple years ago, Starbucks settled in France. It first opened an outlet downtown Paris. Then another one. Last time I've checked, there were about 18 in Paris and were about to settled in other big cities.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-american or whatever, I just think some places are just a bit too ubiquitous.

Like in China where Tiananmen Square is surrounded by KFC and McDonals...