Shall we order an over-priced latte and discuss?
Me too! And when I was recently chastised by a friend for frequenting the ubiquitous caffeine empire I was forced to confront them. My buddy's opinion is a popular one among many progressive leaning types and for her it is not complicated. She is a firm believer in the importance of independent shops and believes Starbucks to be franchises of the devil (according to her 6% of each cup goes directly to the upkeep and maintenance of hell).
I understand her basic sentiment and remember back to the days when so many independent coffee houses were closing, as Starbucks made its seemingly relentless march across the country. There was certainly a bit of over reach and a Mongolian empire type sentiment for a while there. I even boycotted the evil caffeine empire for a few years in the late ‘90’s when they were being really aggressive. But I look back now to all the other things I was tacitly or consciously tolerating (sweat shop labor, racists cops, third world hunger, etc.) and Starbucks seems pretty benign.
It also seems to me now that Starbucks has calmed down and matured a bit (though not all the slowed growth was their idea). In many parts of the country, my neighborhood included, Starbucks is cheerfully co-existing with many independent coffee houses and everyone is happy and well caffeinated. I'm not saying I think Starbuck's is without major problems, I just think they're doing a lot of things right as well. So today I'm going to play the caffeine devil's advocate...
Here are 10 reasons I love Starbucks:
1. They are a g ood co-working space
At most Starbucks if you’re not disruptive, you can stay till the cows come home (to get milked for tomorrow’s lattes). They provide decent seating options, outlets, free wi-fi and coffee refills are cheap. If you’re not productive it's not their fault!
2. Their coffee is like a familiar, if not overly exciting friend
I've been going to Starbucks for many years now and our relationship is stable and steady, like a good if not spectacular marriage. I know that my double tall whole milk latte is gonna get the job done. That doesn’t mean I don't love stepping out for an artisanal coffee made by a tattooed, kinda mean barista at an independent place just as much. It's just different.
3. They treat their employees very wellStarbucks offers a benefits “special blend” package to its workers that independent coffee houses just can't. For people who work over 20 hours a week this includes health benefits, 401k and a unique educational program that allows them to be fully reimbursed for online courses at Arizona State University. Knowing this can make shelling out $4 -$5 for cup of coffee a little more palatable. Starbucks spent over 300 million dollars on health benefits for their employees last year (take that Wal-Mart!).
4. They are a safe place and a home a way from home
As a teenager coffee houses were my sanctuary, my community center and my hideout. I have many fond memories of ditching school to go read novels while sipping a half mocha, half hot chocolate (I was young!). Starbucks (and coffee houses in general) still serve these purposes for me: providing a place to take a break when I'm tired or overstimulated, just enough sociableness when I don't want to be home alone and a facility when nature calls.
5. Seasonal drinks and holiday cups!
I live in a part of the country that doesn't get the four big seasons so Starbucks helps us know if we should drag out the Christmas lights and get festive or put on flip flops and head to the beach. Many people I know really look forward to certain limited edition, season drinks and anticipation is one of the things that makes life worth living (especially if it's combined with caffeine and sugar).
6. They are way better then most other airport coffee.
I think there must be an FA mandate that says all coffee served in airports must taste burnt and bitter, otherwise the terrorists win. Traveling can be tough enough without having to drink really terrible coffee.
7. The secret menu
Who doesn't love being in on a delicious secret? My current favorite is the adffogato frappacchino.
8. They stay open late (compared to most independent coffee houses)
The hipsters who run independent coffee houses usually have to get to band practice or thrifting and close by 6 pm. My Starbucks stays open till 9 and is one of the few non bar options to hang out in my hood.
9. The company was founded by broke, do-gooders
The company was founded by two teaches and a writer. They met at the University of San Francisco, knew Alfred Peet (of Peet's Coffee) and loved coffee. Howard Schultz was the one who turned it into an empire, so if you want to get mad at anyone, he's your guy (though he seems pretty decent so maybe just focus on Trump for now?).
10. The original Starbucks mermaid/siren was topless and suggestive (see above)
Since then she's been a Disneyfied and cleaned up her act a bit, but still…
What do you love and/or hate about Starbucks?