>open letter to starbucks.

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>dear starbucks,

why must you appear on every street corner in every major city and commercialize the coffee shop industry? it eliminates the atmosphere that the coffee-drinking culture has tried to hard to establish. coffee shops are arenas of community. they are calm, unique and the perfect environment for relaxation and conversation. they are not what you have created them to be. you have turned them into a fast-paced, impersonal corporation. you are about pleasing those who have to pull their Blackberry away from their ear so they can receive their latte at the snap of a finger. there is no community. instead there is a suit and tie and a wall street journal so everyone can read about how well your stupid stock is doing.

how about you tell everyone why your stock is doing so well? who wouldn’t want to buy shares of a company who pulls a 60% profit margin? SIXTY percent! one would think a company like yours could afford to slip a little more dinero to your farmers in central and south america, africa and indonesia. and what’s even worse, you try and play it off like you’re doing the world a service by selling Fair Trade coffee, but what the world doesn’t know is that you’re only investing about 4% of your total coffee purchases in Fair Trade.

side note: Fair Trade is rather frustrating for me. there is Fair Trade, and there is “fairly traded” coffee. you already know and understand this, you shades, but let me explain my frustration. let’s say there are four major coffee farmers in Brazil: Farmers A, B, C and D. let’s say Farmer A grows the best coffee in the region, so he gets paid the most money. Farmers B, C and D cannot compete with Farmer A, so they call up Fair Trade, pool their beans, and have FT pay them more money for an inferior product. That is how Fair Trade works, so even though Farmer A might have a significantly better product, they’re not getting a payment to match it. “fairly traded” coffee eliminates middle men without a label and directly pays Farmers A, B, C and D the money they deserve for the product they’re farming. it’s simple economics.

while we’re at it, one might wonder why an establishment with such a mighty profit margin can’t afford to make better coffee. selecting between “dark” and “charred” is not something i enjoy doing. the “smoky” finish you boast is not something to be proud of – i highly doubt that it is even intentional. why don’t you take that extra money and dabble in the best coffee there is to offer while paying the farmers the price you’re forking over to the FT label for that average business. heck, why not even pay more? its better coffee right? why not splurge a little? invest some money that will increase the quality of your product instead of building another location across the street from the one that’s already there.

however, i’m not sure it’s even about the coffee anymore. i would also like to thank you, starbucks, for turning away from your coffee and toward marketing and merchandise. i’m glad that once a week i can visit your “cafe” and receive a free itunes download with my coffee purchase. it brings me great joy to go to your website and see that your brewing equipment and travel mugs are listed ahead of the sections of your site regarding the coffee you “proudly serve” all over. thick sarcasm here.

lastly, a personal account: i braved one of your many kansas city locations so that i could blog a bit before a meeting. i ordered my iced tea and sat down with my laptop only to find out that wifi is only free to starbucks card members who have used their card in the last 30 days. i just flat out don’t appreciate that guys. i was a paying customer, but that wasn’t good enough. i have to be a starbucks subscriber of sorts. how can you not afford to provide free wifi? thats a joke. because clearly you can. you just choose to make life that much more difficult for those of us who desire a place to relax and enjoy.

just a few thoughts to consider from yours truly. i realize that these words are falling onto hearts of stone, but perhaps the individuals who actually frequent my blog will start to ask some questions for themselves. maybe instead of walking to the nearest corner to hit up the mcdonalds of the future you’ll actually seek out a place that both needs and deserves your money more.

down with starbucks. long live the independent cafe.

-ap.

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