What is it about Seattle and Starbucks?  I’m a homegrown Seattleite and was working at UPS when the only Starbucks stores were in Seattle.  At that time they were shipping their beans in great quantities to all the mom and pop coffee shops around the country as they made a skeleton map of all the stores they would later put out of business.

Photo via www.bullseyefinance.com
Photo via http://www.bullseyefinance.com

Besides being the evil empire of coffee, we Seattleites know the pain that Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz dealt us when he sold our beloved Super Sonics to Clay Bennett; a man with obvious intentions to relocate the team.  How does he rip our heart out and still offer us comfort sips?

Photo via www.bostonglobe.com
Photo via http://www.bostonglobe.com
Photo via www.f12-mana3001.wikispaces.com
Photo via http://www.f12-mana3001.wikispaces.com

There is a funny quote from Howard Schultz’s book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul.  It is, “There is a word that comes to my mind when I think about our company and our people. That word is ‘love.’ I love Starbucks because everything we’ve tried to do is steeped in humanity.”

Is he for real? I mean you understand his success.  He’s a brilliant talker and motivator, but come on.  Was it love to rip the heart out of a community by first trading our beloved Gary Payton and then getting rid of the team altogether?  Was it love to open up shops right across the street from all of the successful local coffee houses and then put them out of business?

Photo via chelseescoffee.com
Photo via chelseescoffee.com

I went back to Seattle this year after 5 years away and I was saddened to see a carnival line always winding out of the Starbucks stores.  I was even sadder to see myself in those lines.  I mean it was one of the things that I was looking forward to when coming back to the US after 5 years in India… Starbucks.  Why?

Photo via www.rockbook.hu
Photo via http://www.rockbook.hu

We used to be a cool city.  When I was growing up we had Alice and Chains, Sir Mixalot, Nirvana.  We were the birth place of Jimi Hendrix.  Now we are the birth place of the Death Star.

Image via www.starwars.wikia.com
Image via http://www.starwars.wikia.com

Now that Seattle has legalized marijuana you’d think that we could move on from the Starbucks craze, and force relocation to Portland or somewhere, but coffee is a drug that we just can’t seem to give up.  Besides the headaches that come from withdrawal you’d think that it would be an easy recovery, but day after day, we line up like sheep for our three dollar initiation into the new morning.

With the crowds, we can’t pretend that it is hip or cool anymore – and it’s not – but still we need it.  In Seattle you’ll find a carousel of other popular shops, such as Tully’s and Peets, but the Starbucks line is still where people want to be.  I mean, Peets is stronger and Tully’s is smoother, but Starbucks still gets all the business.  I’m starting to think that they are putting a little more in the coffee than just that particular drug.

Photo via www.everystockphoto.com
Photo via http://www.everystockphoto.com

I’ll admit that I tried and failed many times to give up coffee.  The last time I tried was 14 years ago, and I had given it up for two years.  I started again when my dad had open heart surgery and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital for recovery.  I would sneak down to the cafeteria and hide in the corner and melt the hospital brain freeze away in glorious cups of brew.  It was the scythe to cut through whatever emotional turmoil I was going through.  And after I left the hospital I made a solemn vow that I would never give up coffee again.  I’ve kept that vow for the last 12 years.  Commendable?  Well, anyways.

I would never ask another person to give up their coffee, but I have to wonder:  What is it about Starbucks?

 

For the weekly writing challenge to use the 5 nouns Skeleton, Scythe, Carnival, Carousel, Crowd

Featured photo via http://www.commons.wikimedia.org

17 Comments

  1. I will be very interested to read people’s responses. I, for one, am very glad that I have never drunk coffee. The smell and the taste don’t interest me in the slightest!

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  2. Great post! I still try to go to small cafés, and bring my mix of beans to work and make a good café presse. I admit I do like Starbucks but try to avoid it as much add I can. At a Second Cup the o other day I had a chai latte and it was not as good as the ones I had at the retreat on Toronto.

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  3. You should see neroes here if you think Starbucks is bad. Here Starbucks is for the wannabe coffee drinker but too week to cut the mustard as it’s just not up to par with neroes 🙂

    A surprising yet amusing post x

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  4. Great selling is an art, I think. To have just the right ear for what the street is telling you, and above all to be able to instigate a message the street is eager to hear. All about zeitgeist? But fashions die, and no matter how high the wave you ride sometime it has to hit the beach.

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  5. I lived in Seattle before this craze. Living in New England, it’s almost as easy to find a Dunkin Donuts as a Starbucks, but it’s sad that it takes one huge chain to fight against another. The little guys, even the little chains have been pushed out. Same as hardware stores, stationary stores (which I used to love) and just about any store in any market that Amazon wants to dominate. The sad thing is that we bring this on ourselves.

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  6. My take on Starbucks is that it is like any business, they perceive our deeper needs and pay lip service to those needs to get us in the door, never really understanding what everybody really needs, yet the cold reality is that they are in it for the $$$. When they begin to become big then it becomes a game of beat your competition, and sheeple follow, because circumstances make it to where they can’t support the small guy, cause the small guy just doesn’t have means to compete with the big guys, the mom & pop places don’t have the buying power of the bigger corporations, and so they have to offer less and hope that they get enough to keep going from day to day. I have seen whole tomes written on the ills of our consumer society, and Starbucks is another example of the problem.

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  7. I’m a big fan of Tully’s. I live in Bellingham, and Woods coffee is taking over Whatcom County. It’s not bad coffee, but it’s Bellingham’s Starbucks, and I don’t appreciate finding either one on every corner.

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  8. It’s the Baristas. They are well trained, constantly upbeat and appear to be satisfied employees. Never the less, I drink enough coffee to give both Starbucks and the little guy (yes there still are some in Seattle) business.

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  9. I happened to go to a starbucks today. There is some kind of grand bourgeois illusion that they pull off in each of their shops. There is somehow the sense of luxury, of a treat, even though the quality of their stuff is actually kind of low. It’s weird

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