There is a world full of Starbucks haters out there. Some people dislike the latte chain’s so-called corporate responsibility (or lack of it). Others boycott them because they threaten the livelihood of smaller, independent coffee shops. Some feel their “snooty designer coffee” is way overpriced, not to mention way over-the-top on fat, sugar and calories. And others just plain hate the way their coffee tastes. I am not a huge fan of their coffee or fancy beverages either, but I’m still a fan of Starbucks.
There have been countless articles written about people’s growing distaste of the 17,000-plus chain. There is a whole site devoted to Starbucks haters where people routinely sound off about their Starbucks (or “Starsucks” as some not-so-lovingly refer to it) pet peeves. There is even an “I Hate Starbucks” Facebook page whose motto is “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.”
It’s shocking, really, that coffee, of all things, can invoke such emotions and rage. But if you ask some people, it’s not about their coffee, at all.
As one employee noted on StarbucksGossip:
In my 5+ tenure with Starbucks behind the counter I can tell you that most people do not buy drip coffee like you are describing. Most get fatty, creamy, sugar filled lattes and Frapuccinos… they are not there for the coffee. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that people do feel a sense of self-importance and elitism from holding and parading around the cup itself. I’ve often said, “In going to Starbucks every day the importance is not what’s IN the cup, it is the cup itself.” People hold the cup a little higher, closer to their face which says, “Look at me! I drink Starbucks. Do you?”
Others claim the beverages in those look-at-me cups is way overpriced, as Paul Brennen noted:
What is this world coming to? Why do people think that if you pay too much for something, it makes you better than those that don’t? I am so sick of these apple buying starbuck drinking idiots. Just because it costs more, doesn’t mean it’s better. If ”you get what you pay for” is true, then a macbook would be $200 and a coffee from starbucks would be less than $1. I actually feel sorry for these brainwashed fools.
And perhaps, the biggest beef that people have with Starbucks is how they are infringing on the smaller, independent shops. They have been accused of strategically placing their shops right next to the independent ones, undercutting their prices until the independent shop is forced to go out of business, and then jacking their prices back up again. Whether that’s actually true or not, I don’t know, but I do know some people hate (particularly Seattle java lovers) them because of that theory.
Sure, I get all that, but here’s the thing. To me, Starbucks is more than its coffee–thank goodness, because, truthfully, I think their coffee is mediocre at best. Nevertheless, it’s an informal place where I can go in shorts, a t-shirt and a ponytail and not feel out of place or judged. It’s a simple, no-hassles meeting spot for me to catch up with my girlfriends, have a meeting with work colleagues or bring my laptop and write articles such as this one (which, yes, I am doing right now–tall, nonfat mocha latte, extra-hot in hand).
Starbucks is the very venue where the vision for my nonprofit organization was conceived. It helped me gel ideas in those early days of how I could combine my love of running with wanting to serve inner-city teens. It provides a free “office” to meet with volunteers, coaches, donors and board members.
Starbucks also gives me distance from the everyday chaos of my real office (in my house shared with two needy Golden Retrievers and two sometimes-needy teens and pre-teens), and it gives me a secluded spot where I can work even when the power is out at home. No one ever asks for anything while I’m there, and no one expects me to buy more coffee than my bladder can accomodate in exchange for a comfy chair and an electrical outlet.
Starbucks was the place where I met one of my very best friends; it’s the place where my husband told me he got a new job after being laid off for several months. It’s also the spot where I went while dealing with depression, just to get out of the house and get a warm cup of coffee in my hand, and it’s the place where I found out my mother had breast cancer.
In short, Starbucks has been more than a neighborhood coffee shop to get a cup of joe. I understand some of the skeptic’s concerns over this chain, but for me, it’s been a safe haven that has been the hub for many of my life’s important moments. And snooty coffee or not, I still like the way it makes me feel when I go there.