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wordwiseguy

Starbucks: Good or Evil?

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Did Starbucks change its provider of baked goods at some point? I only buy their hot coffee drinks in airports or similar, and don't care much for them. But I always used to think of them as having nice cookies, bars and brownies for sale, and now that stuff looks all different and not very appetizing.

Interesting--I have been wondering lately if the baked goods have gotten better in the Chicago locations I patronize. I remember that several years ago the pastries went sharply downhill, dropping local bakers in favor of (I presume) centralized solutions. Lately I've seen improvements--offerings seem a little fresher, the varieties a little more appealing. Excepting the croissants, of course, which are still absolutely horrid.

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Whatever's happened with the baked goods, then, maybe it's not that centralized. I'm with the person who misses the espresso brownies. I could make some up, I guess, but they are too tasty for me to want to risk having a whole batch in the house.

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Hi All, I'm new around these parts but had to chime in on the Starbuck's thing.

I'm absolutely against them. One of my biggest beefs is that is you choose to stay in-store and drink you coffee you are given a take-out cup anyway. Blah blah blah recycled cardboard...I would happily take a mug if it were offered. I don't know if this is only in Canada but I think this is a horrible policy in terms of waste. Equally annoying is the lack of metal spoons, instead opting for plastic or cardboard stirsticks that immediately go in the trash after one use.

Starbucks' is a strange beast: Stores open in very close proximity to one another, cannibalizing sales at each but capturing so much market share it really doesn't matter. In the past they have approached commercial landlords and offered large sums of money for a rental site already occupied by an independant coffee retailer. Highly illegal, and they've stopped doing it but lest you think Starbucks is a warm and happy company think again.

Finally, my biggest concern (although Starbucks is just one of many MNC's doing this) is that they brand themselves as a community space for conversation and a meeting place for friends. This was, at one point, the role of town squares, libraries, schools, and what we call public spaces. Starbucks markets themselves as this public environment not because they're trying to encourage "coffee culture" (as they say in their annual reports from year to year) but because it traps you, the consumer, in a private space where they have complete control over your environment.

As for paying "Fair Market Prices" that may be the case in a few instances but Starbucks is not a Fair Trade Coffee establishment. Their beans are sun-grown and done so with the use of pesticides and chemical treatment. Most Fair Trade coffee is shade-grown and usually Organic(it will be labelled as such), and beyond the lessened environmental impact of this practice, it is a safer work environment for people working in the coffee industry. I read recently that Starbuck's plans to have 60% of their beans come from Fair Trade sources by 2008. This is a good initiative but, and again this may only be in Canada, there are fair -trade coffee purveyors offering this product at a reasonable price right now.

I don't subscribe to the "Big Company - Evil" mentality, I would rather visit the supposed inconsistent coffee shop near my house that's not in the business of selling mints, furniture, CDs, clothing or any other extraneous items...they sell coffee.

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Hi All, I'm new around these parts but had to chime in on the Starbuck's thing.

Finally, my biggest concern (although Starbucks is just one of many MNC's doing this) is that they brand themselves as a community space for conversation and a meeting place for friends. This was, at one point, the role of town squares, libraries, schools, and what we call public spaces. Starbucks markets themselves as this public environment not because they're trying to encourage "coffee culture" (as they say in their annual reports from year to year) but because it traps you, the consumer, in a private space where they have complete control over your environment. 

Welcome, CharityCase!

I don't know how large the Starbuck's are up north, but here in Central California their interiors are too small to be considered as a meeting place for more than 5 people. There's barely room for the customers standing around waiting for their orders, let alone tables and chairs for the community to gather around inbetween the racks of coffee, coffee mugs and other caffeine-related paraphernalia for sale. That's one advantage some of the older local java joints have over Starbucks. They have the interior real estate to truly offer as a meeting place for the community.

The wisest thing Starbuck's has done is offer drive-through service where they can but then that's California and the drive-thru (spelled in a truncated manner becasue we don't have time to spell it correctly with all those extra letters :wink: ) mentality for you.

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As I work for the 'bucks, I can answer some of the questions posed on here. *waits for the large horrific gasp* :biggrin:

First, there are two different types of stores, actual Starbucks and licensed concept stores. Employees of Starbucks are trained by Starbucks - licensed concept store (Safeways, Albertsons...) employees are NOT trained by Starbucks at all.

As for the god-awful blended drinks, I am shamed that we sell them... so I agree with the general thought.

I also agree with the inconsistency of Starbucks... however, I think the trick is getting baristas who care. (Not to sound like some sappy manual :raz: ) My store is mostly locals who know what drinks they want and we start it as soon as they walk through the door - because we have it memorized. However, go to the one down the street and it's way different (even when I hand them my employee card to get my discount)... snobby and so forth. However, in their defense, their worst latte is better than the local coffeeshops around here.

Do I like working for Starbucks? Yes... I get paid fairly well and get all sorts of perks (No pun intended :laugh: ) and I have great regulars and great co-workers :biggrin:


Edited by Megaroo (log)

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Megaroo, thanks for your insight on Starbucks. I do try to be considerate to the counter people when I am in one of the stores and they let me. 'Bucks is not my first choice, but I do go there probably once everymonth or so. I do drink their Tazo tea and have my favorites. In the afternoon, i like the mint.

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Put me down in the evil category. They are worse than a cockroach infestation. Interviews with their CEO suggest that they want to TRIPLE the number of stores in the United States! TRIPLE! WHERE!?! There's already one at every corner here in Chicago. I do my best to avoid them and will go to Caribou if the situation requires (they at least try a LITTLE harder to fit into the neighborhood) but I'll walk the extra block or four to get to the independent if I can.

I guess my biggest problem is that I, for some reason, associate Starbucks lemmings with the mind-less souls who have had their brains cannibalized by reality television; all marketing all the time and a mediocre product (if you're lucky!). When I go into a coffee shop I don't want the soothing sounds of the lastest 'adult hipster' cd playing over the cheap speakers and the cd placed in front of my eyes at every turn. I don't want to pay $10 for a pound of coffee. I don't want a new board game, or a new french press, or a new stuffed animal. I MIGHT want a new coffee mug, so I'll give them that. I certainly do NOT want to pay $1 and freaking 75 cents for a FREAKING BAGEL (without cream cheese). And more (perhaps MOST) importantly I don't want 'grande' or 'vente' I just want a freaking LARGE FREAKING COFFEE. And you know what? Perhaps I'm a cheap bastard, but I want FREE REFILLS. I'm paying $1.76 for a cup of coffee, the least you can do is give me a refill to soothe over the pains of the monetary beating I've just endured.

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I have mixed feelings about Starbucks. While I agree they did enlighten many people about coffee, they also introduced people to disgusting concoctions like gingerbread this and raspberry white chocolate that.

That given with the super fattening frappachinos they push and their super caffine infused roasts its pretty disturbing.

I personally prefer to patronize smaller coffee shops that know how to pull a shot and foam milk so it doesn't taste like sand..

On the other hand, if I need a coffee and there is nothing else around I will patronize a Starbucks for an overpriced latte. But usually as a last resort.

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Here in New Orleans, we have tons of coffee and always have. We are either the #1 or #2 coffee port in the world and one of the largest coffee roasters on the planet. People here drink coffee all day long, hot or iced, cold weather or hot, and we have not seen the attack of the Starbucks that many of you seem to be afflicted by.

After reading the Times-Picayune article--and after dredging up memories of a few encounters with New Orleans coffee houses--I'd wager that it's because New Orleanians already had plenty of really good coffee close at hand, as your comment above suggests. Starbucks opening in New Orleans is kind of like carrying coals to Newcastle.

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I have mixed feelings about Starbucks.  While I agree they did enlighten many people about coffee, they also introduced people to disgusting concoctions like gingerbread this and raspberry white chocolate that.

Excuse me, there is NOTHING disgusting about a gingerbread this. I will, however, agree with you about anything containing white chocolate.

In the meantime, what does your favorite Starbucks concoction say about you?

I put in "tall pumpkin spice latte, no whip" and got this:

"Behold the Oracle's wisdom:

Personality type: High Maintenance

You pride yourself on being assertive and direct; everyone else thinks you're bossy and arrogant. You're constantly running your mouth about topics that only you would find interesting. Your capacity for wasting other people's time is limitless. Your friends find you intolerable, that's why they're plotting to kill you.

Also drinks: Water. Bottled, chilled, with four ice cubes, a twist of lemon, in a crystal glass. Can also be found at: Trendy martini bars"

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

K

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On the larger "Starbucks: good or evil?" question, put me down as answering "Yes."

Good for all the reasons others here have already listed, especially in treating growers and staff decently and educating the public about what good coffee can be like.

Unfortunately, Starbucks isn't good coffee. It's horribly overroasted--the chain didn't get the nickname "Charbucks" for nothing.

As for their predatory locational choices: In Philadelphia, Starbucks has not only the local indies, but two other chains to contend with. One, Cosi, beats them hands down on both ambience (their shops have lots of comfy furniture to slouch in and a funky-casual decor that encourages lingering, as any good coffee place should) and quality of the coffee (though it's as overpriced as Starbucks'). And they serve sandwiches and pizza, using bread baked in wood-buring ovens in each store (the bread is unlike any other I've had--I'm not quite sure how to describe it; the sandwiches are a tad expensive, though). The other is a homegrown outfit, Bucks County Coffee, which IMO has the best coffee of the three and is not as outrageously priced. (But let me second the observation that if those higher prices translate into better wages for the staff and better prices for the grower, then they're worth paying.)

None of these chains appear to have put a serious dent in the business of the dozens of local independent coffee houses, all of which offer something distinctive (besides the coffee) that enables them to stay afloat. (Many of them serve coffee from a great local roaster, La Colombe.)


Edited by MarketStEl (log)

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I have mixed feelings about Starbucks.  While I agree they did enlighten many people about coffee, they also introduced people to disgusting concoctions like gingerbread this and raspberry white chocolate that.

Excuse me, there is NOTHING disgusting about a gingerbread this. I will, however, agree with you about anything containing white chocolate.

Ok, Ok, I apologize for saying your gingerbread drinks are disgusting. Maybe I should have said "Gingerbread coffee drinks are not to my liking :biggrin:

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In the meantime, what does your favorite Starbucks concoction say about you?

I

Well, since you asked.

I though about my recent visit to Starbuck's. It was caused by a burning need for the nearest wifi connection, and had little to do with their drinks-but as I was there, and I am a confirmed coffee fiend, I got a large (I don't say the words, I don't type the words) black coffee. I wanted it in a real cup, but that is just one more thing that they don't do at Satrbucks. Now, ladies and gentlemen, the results of our scientific survey:

Personality type: Lame

You're a simple person with modest tastes and a reasonable lifestyle. In other words, you're boring. Going to Starbucks makes you feel sophisticated; you'd like to be snooty and order an espresso but aren't sure if you're ready for that level of excitement. People laugh at you because you use fake curse words like "friggin'" and "oh, crumb!" Everyone who thinks America's Funniest Home Videos is a great show drinks Black Coffee Large.

Also drinks: V8

Can also be found: On the couch at home

1) I am nothing if not complicated

2) I do, in fact, have modest taste generally-although what I choose to modestly taste is usually of extremely high quality.

3) Uggh, wrong. Starbucks is the coffee equivelent McDonald's. I don't order their espresso because it is made by (I am generalizing here-there are exceptions) someone who doesn't have a clue how to operate the machine and often, more often than not, pulls a poorly done shot that does not taste good.

4) No one laughs at my language. Ever. Sadly, I talk like a sailor on leave and "friggin" has never crossed my lips. I should, at all times, have my mouth washed out with strong soap.

6) I have never seen an episode of America's Funnies Home Videos. In fact, I have probably watched a total of 10 hours of Network TV (excluding news and major sports) in the last 5 years.

So there. I order black dark roast because it is safe and I am pretty sure to find something in my cup that I can enjoy. Even Starbucks has a hard time screwing up dripped coffee (although they often hold it too long, and they have no clue how to make a decent iced coffee-but that's another rant for another day).

It is a great place to get a free NY Times though, as in my local (in the middle of suburban sprawl) plenty of people buy them, but don't take them home because they really aren't trying to read it anyway-it is just another coffeehouse prop.

Edited to say that website with the survey is hilarious. Just start punching in drinks that are consumed by the people that you loathe. With the exception of the one for large black coffee :wink: they are all spot on. All iced mocha drinkers are strippers, for example. Who can argue with that?

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Personality type: Lame

You're a simple person with modest tastes and a reasonable lifestyle. In other words, you're boring. Going to Starbucks makes you feel sophisticated; you'd like to be snooty and order an espresso but aren't sure if you're ready for that level of excitement. People laugh at you because you use fake curse words like "friggin'" and "oh, crumb!" Everyone who thinks America's Funniest Home Videos is a great show drinks Black Coffee Large.

Also drinks: V8

Can also be found: On the couch at home

That's some friggin' horse pucky. Seriously, what does a guy have to drink around here to get some respect. Like you I would never use the word "vente" in a sentence. Oh, wait, I just have...but not really...it was for demonstrative purposes only!

I will admit to being a simple person with a reasonable lifestyle. Going to Star*(cks doesn't make me feel sophisticated, in fact I usually feel a little dirty afterwards. I wouldn't like to be snooty - in fact I'm too good for those snooty pretentious f*&kwits at Starf**ks. I only use 'fake' curse words in polite company but when I am in a Starf**ks I'll keep in mind that swearing like a sailor will earn me 'cred' points with the staff. Stupid f**king a**hole bastards. And the fact that those who like AFHV drink black coffee does not necessarily imply that those who drink black coffee like AFHV; in fact, any person who would be so condescending is probably the type of snooty pretentious 'sophisticate' who has been lobotomized by reality television.

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Ok, Starbucks isn't the root of all evil but it's no paradise either. At least at every Starbucks, you know what you're getting. It's a consistent cup of over-roasted coffee. Sometimes you may be lucky and get the occassional Starbucks drip coffee that is decently brewed. I must shamefully admit that when I was in college, I developed a wicked Starbucks iced mocha habit because I didn't know any better! :biggrin:

On another vein, if anyone is in the Montgomery County, Maryland area they MUST go to Mayorga Coffee in Silver Spring, MD and Rockville, MD. The owner roasts his beans locally and it's the best damn cup of coffee I've ever had in my life. His coffeehouse has a great atmosphere as well.

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:laugh: Behold the Oracle's wisdom:

Personality type: Asshat

You carry around philosophy books you haven't read and wear trendy wire-rimmed glasses even though you have perfect vision. You've probably added an accent to your name or changed the pronunciation to seem sophisticated. You hang out in coffee shops because you don't have a job because you got your degree in French Poetry. People who drink Triple long espresso are notorious for spouting off angry, liberal opinions about issues they don't understand.

Also drinks: Any drink with a foreign name

Can also be found at: The other, locally owned coffee shop you claim to like better

I find this very timely since we are having a very civilized and philosophical discussion about Vancouver coffee houses over in the Vancouver Forum.

Huh...I've never been called an Asshat before, but I think I like it. :laugh: Of course, I can never order my preferred coffee, a triple long, long, long-just-let-it-run-for-f*&cks-sake-espresso at Starbucks because they are now automated and can only run one espresso shot at a time. Plus, when I ask for said beverage the staff looks at me like I'm speaking in tonques (which I may be doing since this would usually be my first coffee of the day). Unfortunately my local coffee shop is a Starbucks, but I am proud to say I have only set foot in it half a dozen times and I've lived in my neighborhood for 4 years. I make better coffee at home with lights off

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All this talk about good and bad, and, yet, as an institution it is impossible for Starbucks to be a moral agent. There's no question it's product quality is shitty, since it represents one of two dominant roast-types available in this country. The reason Starbucks sells more flavored drinks than nonflavored is because they're essentially in the dessert business, which is a convenient way around actually having to deal with their shitty espresso. Not to mention, it is overpriced (i.e., most coffeeshops that carry Danesi espresso charge less than Starbucks).

IML


Edited by ballast_regime (log)

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I liked my output:

Personality type: Clueless

You don't go to Starbucks much; when you do you just tag along with other people since you have nothing better to do. You would like to order a Tazo Chai Crème but don't know how to pronounce it. Most people who drink vente white chocolate mochacino are strippers.

Also drinks: Wine coolers

Can also be found at: The mall

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Evil!

Simply for the funky-looking noodle salad in that square container that I see at every single one of the the stores the DC area.

Large intestinal worm-like noodles, green in color and mixed with funky mushrooms and some sort of snap pea or something. I can picture them becoming carbonated sitting on that shelf, waiting for someone to make the mistake of trying them...

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I liked my output:

Personality type: Clueless

You don't go to Starbucks much; when you do you just tag along with other people since you have nothing better to do. You would like to order a Tazo Chai Crème but don't know how to pronounce it. Most people who drink vente white chocolate mochacino are strippers.

Also drinks: Wine coolers

Can also be found at: The mall

I got the same thing. And they're right -- I can probably count on one hand the number of times a year I walk into a Starbucks.

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Evil!

Simply for the funky-looking noodle salad in that square container that I see at every single one of the the stores the DC area.

Large intestinal worm-like noodles, green in color and mixed with funky mushrooms and some sort of snap pea or something.  I can picture them becoming carbonated sitting on that shelf, waiting for someone to make the mistake of trying them...

Oh, thanks for the reminder, morela! I forgot about those. Yes, they are horrible!!! They look like something someone's evil kid made out of Play-Doh. The whole thing looks like it would taste clammy, cold and wet in your mouth. Ick.

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That Starbiucks oracle is da boomb. Really funny stuff.

The bad news. I am....

Personality type: Ass-clown

You tell people that you're an executive at your company. You think that your repeated references to being "addicted" to caffeine make you seem intriguing and dangerous. People think you're a sucker because you spend 60% of your annual income at Starbucks. Everyone who drinks tall quad shot latte ends up addicted to crack.

The good news is that my sweetheart drinks grand caramel latte's and thus... she is a stripper (wait 'til she finds out!). Always wanted to try dating a stripper and now I am.

As for the accuracy of the Oracle... I proudly identify myself as exactly what I am (not an executive), know I'm not "addicted" to caffeine because I've been addicted to damn near everything else already and know the difference... actually earn 20% of my annual income at an independent coffeehouse and all the $$ I spend at the 'bucks is when I'm on business travel and it gets expensed.

I still have to get around to trying crack - somehow I missed out on that one before it became trendy :laugh:

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... but that is just one more thing that they don't do at Satrbucks.

Saw this typo and immediately thought, "huh. Satyrbucks." Now that's a concept I could get behind! Probably a good place to take one's stripper girlfriend...

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