Starbucking a trend

Posted on August 11, 2009


I really don’t know what to make of Starbucks.IMG_0530

Part of me feels that I should get on a high horse and despise them fro being a corporation but, since actions are meant to speak louder than words, I’m not sure I can look past some of theirs so easily.

For a start, they sell one of the nicest Organic, Free Trade, Dark chocolate bars I’ve been able to find anywhere – and at only 90p too.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Willie’s stuff and this new one called Mulu that I discovered at the weekend – but they come in at £2.99.

They also support some great causes.  I really like what they do with the National Literacy Trust and their book collections and the whole approach to CSR, engaging with those in their own supply chain, such as communities in Ethiopia and coffee farmers too, for my money is exactly what companies like them should be doing.

41TltdOVCqL__SL500_AA280_So what’s the problem?  Why did I laugh so much when Dave Gorman wrote about his bumper sticker “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks” in America Unchained? 

Other than the fact that I actually don’t like their coffee (too bitter a roast for me), I think it mainly stems from reading Howard Schulz’s book, Pour Your Heart into it: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. 

In it, Shulz charts the course of the business and makes two distasteful comments:

  1. That he wants to educate Americans about coffee – based on his experiences in Europe
  2. That it’s all about how many stores you can open and how quickly

Not only did these seem to conflict with each other, his first objective came across as utterly patronising and the second rode roughshod over it anyway the second he decided to expand outside of America and, crucially, across Europe.414JSZBT5WL._SL500_AA240_[1]

(incidentally, he also says they will never sell hot food (like the best-selling rustic stone-baked ciabattas?) because he only wants people to be able to smell coffee)

So perhaps it’s the fact that here is a book where someone sets out their mission and yet the mission is inconsistent with itself?  Perhaps it’s the fact that that inconsistency carries on throughout the whole business right down to a brand that is all about the coffee coming from a company that doesn’t make particularly good coffee?  Perhaps it’s just the decor…