Skip to content

Reflections of a working writer and reader




In a review of Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture, by Taylor Clark, Stephen W. Beattie notes that “part of the philosophy behind clustering (having more than one store in the same location), as Clark attests, is the goal of making the chain unavoidable to potential customers.” Altogether sounds like an interesting book on the corporation and the mind behind it, and reminded me yet again why I don’t ever go in those places:

One of Clark’s great strengths in Starbucked is in exposing the almost fanatical level of calculation that goes into every corporate decision, from the colour of the walls to the layout of the stores to the music on the stereo, “which changed in mood throughout the day to reflect the needs of customers in each ‘day part.’” While Schultz speaks in artificially elevated, New Age language about the vaunted “Starbucks Experience” and about Starbucks as a mythical “third place,” separate from home and work, where customers can retreat to rejuvenate their spirits and to feed their souls — Schultz claims that the chain was “built on the human spirit” — the entirety of the company is the result of relentless planning and constant focus groups, the quizzing of potential customers about their “need states” and their “lifestyle segments.” The soulful experience that Starbucks patrons putatively crave is the result of a carefully micromanaged plan that systematically erases any kind of individuality or the flaws that allow for uniqueness. The “Starbucks Experience” is the apex of cookie-cutter corporate sameness.

3 Responses to “Starbucked”

  1. Lizzy says:

    Sometimes I chuckle to myself knowing that, because my religion prohibits coffee, I never have to worry about finding a mom and pop’s coffee shop in a sea of Starbucks’. I also am grateful to have, thus far, avoided Walmart, in all it’s corporate intrusiveness.

    Thanks for the post. This book sounds like a must read!

    jb says: Hi Lizzy. If we could somehow get around the coffee problem, a religion that prohibits any contact with Walmart could see me bringing up some of my mother’s old spiritual texts from the cellar.

  2. Jim Murdoch says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever been in a Starbucks. I’ve been in a few Costas. I suppose they’re the same. If I have (been in a Starbucks) it obviously was not the life-changing/enhancing experience they would like it to have been. I feel cheated.

    jb says: Listen to your feelings, Jim.

  3. David says:

    Starbucks is hell of a place, but sometimes the last refuge for those who are on the edge of their lives. The first time I have been to it was Frankfurt, and only had a coffee. Then I went to Japan and it seemed like they’ve been all over the place. Due to allergies I stuck with them and found their bakery rather good, and got what I expected: The bill of my life.

    Then again, they have shops wherever you go: Nuremberg, Vienna (we paid 7 Euro for a coffee with ice — not ice-cream), Budapest.

    But I guess the last one is most interesting: There is no Starbucks where I live — regardless of those 130.000 “poor” people.