My God….It’s Full Of Starbucks

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:29 pm

I dropped by my local grocery store for a few items this afternoon, and was accosted near the bakery by a pert young Starbucks employee with a tray, who glided out from behind the walls of her Formica fortress to ply me with free samples. “Would you like to try our new Dulce de Leche Latte?” she asked me, holding her tray a little higher. The burnished metal surface was peppered with diminutive, Dixie-cup-sized containers bearing the familiar mermaid logo, each one topped with a strangely frilly dollop of some sort of whipped-type topping and drizzled with a caramel-colored syrup, presumably of the caramel variety. I begged off.

I’m not 100% sure why I spurned her sugary wares. It’s not like I hate the Starbucks corporation or anything. After all, they almost single-handedly saved my life on our trip to the UK last summer, when the air conditioning in our hotel broke down and the only place to find succor against the persecuting heat of a London summer was in the many, many Starbucks located….well, everywhere. In London, no establishment smaller than a Royal Museum of Somethingorother seemed to offer climate control of any sort. The fact that these particular oases also offered good coffee and decent scones was only the dusting of cocoa on my cappuccino.

So it’s not the product that turned me off. I think instead it was the delivery. I’m not prone to taking things from people–particularly complete strangers–who try to force whatever it is upon me. My initial impulse is to decline. This is one of many things that make a trip to Costco so vexing for me. Here I am, harried, misanthropic and a little claustro, trying to negotiate this rabbit’s warren of hyperthyroidal commodities, collect my purchases and make it back out of there in as little time as possible. Meanwhile all around me, cow-eyed somnambulistic moochers are thrombosing the aisles, wandering aimlessly from item to item like smoke-dazed honeybees in a flower shop and forming massive, grease-slicked clots of impulsive greed around the free sample tables. I always daydream about bringing my own shopping cart; diesel powered, tank-treaded, with an electrified cow-catcher welded to the front. Hell, to the back and sides as well.

So I was personally predilected against this sort of tactic to begin with. To make matters more complicated, it’s not only the strategy behind this one retail interchange that gave me pause. This game plan has been duplicated in macrocosm by the coffee stand’s mother ship, because this is the second Starbucks to be built, not in my town or even on this block, but in this very piece of property.

Starbucks 1

Here is the Starbucks kiosk recently constructed inside my grocery.

Starbucks 2

And here, some 120 degrees to the right and perhaps 100 feet in the distance, is the Starbucks coffee shop that has been here at least as long as we have lived in the neighborhood, just under six years.

This is not the point where I start screaming about corporate America spamming our pristine commercial landscape with metastatic copies of itself. (Not that I don’t think that’s exactly what’s happening; just that this isn’t the point of this particular post.) I can in fact completely understand the logic behind putting a coffee stand inside the store. The sign for the Starbucks over yonder is almost invisible from this angle: the shop happens to reside in the same building as a drug store, which was there first and presumably retained the right to keep the overhead signage space for itself. (And ooo, how that must have pissed off the Java Juggernaut!) Starbucks already had a presence in the store in the form of a small Seattle’s Best Coffee (an independent coffee company Starbucks acquired a few years ago) stand embedded in the bakery. But their equipment was old–almost as old as the nonagenarian running the thing–and produced lousy coffee. I saw very little in the way of sales taking place at the SBC counter. By convincing the grocery to let them move over to a standalone kiosk right by the doors, I’m sure they are raking a tidy sum in impulse stimulant sales.

This pattern is repeated just about everywhere that can actually support a retail gourmet coffee industry, which at this point would appear to mean approximately sixty percent of the available planetary landmass. It comes as no surprise whatsoever to see mirror-image coffee shacks kitty-corner from each other on busy intersections around the globe. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make them money. I’m sure it makes good business sense.

What it doesn’t make much of is common sense. I guess I’m just depressed by the thought that we as a consumer society are so flighty, so scatterbrained and yet so prone to suggestion that this sort of tactic works. To admit that we are willing to buy–if it is dangled in front of us–that which we wouldn’t have bothered to walk a hundred paces out of our way for is more than disheartening. It’s a little disgusting.

I think I’ve decided on some weird level of my consciousness that I am not going to buy any coffee from that stand, that if I am going to blow three dollars on a cup of coffee when I’m three blocks from home that I will at least expend another three calories in the process of acquiring it by going to the shop across the lot. Better yet, maybe I’ll hop across the street and down a couple of blocks to the Olympic Coffee shop. They have better coffee anyway, plus free WiFi instead of the usurious TMobile service offered at the ‘Bucks. Even better yetter, maybe I’ll just suck it up and go home, where I have all the coffee I could possibly want, plus all the other comforts of home.

As a white middle-class male in the richest country on Earth, my opportunities to prove my valor and self-discipline are few and far between. As a result I have to take these opportunities when they present themselves, lame and flaccid though they may be. This would appear to be one such instance. Excelsior! 😛

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