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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Coffee, Coffee Everywhere

Again I've commented on a post of Stanley Fish's--a critique of Starbuck's and other such emporia--in The New York Times Select pages. It came out so good that I couldn't help but post it here. Sorry.

As I've let this controversy sit for a couple of days, I've had to modify my initial support for this column (#12). The fallacy of Mr Fish's argument is that he forgets that, even during the good old days, the consumer was always responsible for his own cream and sugar. (Except, of course, at Dunkin Donuts. In Rhode Island, for example, ordering a "coffee regular" gets one a cup that has already had a few splashes of cream and several shovelsful of sugar added. That's livin'.)

The legitimate point he raises concerns the shifting of labor in many venues of the American economy from the vendor ("May I help you?") to the consumer ("It's on aisle five.").

I'm no fan of the modern coffee shop. (My wife vehemently disagrees with me on this.) I agree with Professor Fish concerning the waiting--no matter how simple the beverage--with no comfortable area in which to wait. It would be a fascinating experiment to set up a camera in a Starbucks and document the intricate fandangoes people go through while waiting for their brew. It usually begins somewhere near the ill-defined slot in the counter where the drinks are delivered and ends somewhere near the Mens Room door.

He's also correct when it comes to the tiny counter with the myriad of substances with which one is supposed improve a drink a team of baristas has already labored on with an effort that would have done Sisyphus proud. For anyone with any manners or any sense that other beings exist in the world, it can be a test of patience. For anyone else, it must be like digging for the puck in the corner at a hockey game.

The ultimate thing that I have against Starbucks and many other such outlets has to do with the coffee itself. It's bitter. So bitter that it needs all these other ministrations just to make it drinkable. When all's said and done, give me Dunkin Donuts's coffee every time.


kimy said...

yeah I agree...I too think their coffee is bitter but there are so many other reasons to avoid starbucks. I admit to having tasted their coffee a few times. but never from design and I can proudly claim I've never given starbucks any of my hard earned 'do-re-mi' not even when in the company of others who obviously aren't as filled w/ righteous indignation as I over their shenanigans. but it does seem like distortion and outright lying is de rigueur these days! we have starbucks lying about the %-age of free-trade coffee it uses (it's minuscule); the fact that despite saying they are progressive the are as anti-union as the walmart or mcdonald's and how they say one thing but do another (check out the article in the seattle times from earlier this year on the difficulty unions are having trying to organize in order to secure some basic worker benefits! despite stating they provide health insurance for their employees a paltry 42% actually have it - it's costly or the workers don't qualify are most often why) and then of course there's that whole world domination thing-y they have going!!) around my house we call them 'starfvcks' ...yeah, rude, what can I say.

Len said...


I'm not surprised at the level of ethics displayed by Starbucks. Their ubiquity shows them to be McDonald's for a new generation. I've only recently become aware of the Fair Trade issue, and it's part of the reason that I've switched to Newmans's Own for my own grind at home.

Thanks for the info. It'll help in my fight against going there again. Ever.

kimy said...

most welcome for the extra info...anything to help others in the fight against the empire