Monday, January 11, 2010

even knowledge that's sound can get watered down, truth can get sucked out the car window

One of today's posts on The New York Times Style and Design Blog was on the so-called "new face" of Starbucks.  It talked about, and described, three locations of the newly renovated Starbucks, and how they are trying to fit more in to the community they're located in, upon finding that their mass cookie cutter approach was no longer garnering it success.

Before I go any further I should say that I am not a fan of Starbucks. I enjoy one of their drinks (their seasonal peppermint mocha, thank you for asking), but it is rare for me to indulge. I think they are the Wal-Mart of coffee, and no matter how expensive they are, or strange their cup sizes, it cannot hide that it is one of the greatest examples of capitalist manipulation of coffee producers. I much prefer my local coffee shop, or at least a Bridgehead.

So back to the article. I appreciate their effort to assimilate in to a community, it is important in older sections of cities to maintain the "heritage look", and I really don't like the silver box look seen in many cities. However, no matter how much it changes it's appearance, or how hard it tries to get consumers to buy in to the lifestyle they promote, that will never change their business practices and the bottom line of the company. As the article mentions, it does kind of feel like "corporate trickery" and I think that it can definitely mislead less critically minded individuals.

It's entertaining to me that Starbucks feels it needs to do this in the first place. If people don't like it as the green mermaid giant that it is, and passing off as a local coffee shop is one of the few ways it can sell itself, that sends me a striking statement. I know that people I talk to, at home and at school, are recognizing more and more the need to support local business, and try to do so as much as possible. I personally make an effort to do so. It may just be the people I know, but if this becomes more of a socio-economic movement, I'm happy to predict that Starbucks is going to be shit out of luck. They are going to have to do a hell of a lot more than just give their stores face lifts to get back the customers they're losing. I suggest they start with fair trade coffee and work from there. Or close altogether. Both work.

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