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Coffee convo

A friend of mine posted this review of Bryant Simons “Everything But the Coffee” which is an interesting and quick read.

I thought reviewer Richard Greenwald had some good observations, but I really disagree with a couple of his notions:

1) The idea of Starbucks “stamping out” the coffee house concept and the “javaman’s master plan” I find simply wrong-headed. Starbucks just recognized and coopted the coffee-house/third-place aesthetic. Pretty simple, and it works in a strip mall as well as in downtown Seattle. That’s actually the genius of it, because when I’m in an outlet mall or waiting for my better half at a strip mall, it’s really nice to get away to a place where I can hear myself think, or even actually do some homework.

2) I really thought his positing that the American Middle Class is too big and mystical to know and yet is hypocritical for their Starbucks patronage, versus the better defined and understood Working Class, was problematic at best. Who do you think goes to Starbucks? Certainly there are middle-class hipsters, Bobos, and suburbanites, but there’s a lot of working-class people that I’ve seen in there. You can’t talk about the Starbucks phenomenon without understanding its appeal to the working class. Why is there a Starbucks drive-through in southern Martinsville, Indiana? Because it makes money….

I occasionally visit Starbucks myself, for reasons listed above and others that I won’t go into here, but I do generally prefer local coffeehouses and libraries for my “third-places.” I think Greenwald’s best observations that should be expanded on are about Starbucks as a spectacle representing something that it isn’t really, and the role of the “self-gift”. But I think he has some predetermined ideals about the working class, the middle class, and Starbucks itself that are leading his thought too much.

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