I ♥ Starbucks

It's inevitable. If you read any news article, blog post, or blog comment thread concerning coffee, Starbucks eventually comes up as a point of discussion. For instance, take this article from Business Week that talks about the coffee generation gap. And, especially in comment threads, you will quickly find that people are quick to argue and insult and pontificate about their coffee preferences, usually boiling down to the "I hate how Starbucks coffee tastes and I can't afford a $4 cup of coffee" people vs. the "I love all of the yummy drinks Starbucks has and if you drink anything else you really don't know anything about coffee." These are the sort of arguments that could drive an innocent reader batty.

Just today, I was reading a post about how green (or not) Starbucks is. The author of the post gave a great rundown of the ways that it is and isn't green, acknowledging the larger issue that the whole coffee industry has much room for improvement in this area. Of the six comments, three of them actually discussed the article. One of them snidely touted an indie coffee shop in his/her area as more green than Starbucks would ever be, which sounded less like he/she was concerned about green issues and more like he/she was buying into (and bitter about) the "corporations are evil because they hurt small businesses" mantra. The other two jumped immediately to the "Starbucks tastes bad and costs too much" arguement - one of them proclaiming "Starbucks is a horrible economic choice."

I'll just lay it out there: I love Starbucks. And not just because my sister manages one.

I've loved coffee and coffeeshops since high school. I am someone who does like the taste of Starbucks coffee, though I recognize that some people do not. I have had some of my best food-service/customer-service experiences at Starbucks, and I am such a coffee addict that I appreciate having a reliable coffee source no matter where I might travel. I love that they have recently signed on with Product Red, that they give me space to meet up with friends, that they have given me the space to endure hours upon hours of studying and paper-writing. I love that they have helped bring to the mainstream an alternative to going out to bars and clubs; that they have truly helped resurrect the practice of "going out for coffee."

As far as money goes, to that person who proclaimed Starbucks to be a bad economic choice, if we're going to be honest about it, any cup of coffee that you purchase (rather than brewing your own) will always be a bad economic choice, if you're basing your analysis on what the cup of coffee really costs vs. what you have to pay for it. This is true of nearly all eating out. (And don't even get me started on that stupid KFC ad that tries to prove otherwise...) Making the choice to buy coffee at Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's, or wherever means that you are making the choice to buy coffee at a high markup. That's just the nature of the game. I would expect that in our current economic climate, every food-based business is losing business due to people who realize that cooking and eating at home is a better move if you're trying to save money.

Granted, everyone who claims that they can't afford a $4 cup of coffee is also mistaken about coffee and pricing. A regular cup of Starbucks coffee will put you back less than $2, and most (if not all) of the rest of their drinks (at least in the "tall" size) are less than $4. If you are spending $4 on a coffee at Starbucks, you have made a conscious choice to do so. It means that you have ordered a huge and customized drink that, to be honest, probably contains far more calories and sugar than you should probably be consuming in one drink.

But here's the thing: even if you were to deem my choice to by coffee at Starbucks a bad economic choice, or even if I were to deem someone's choice to buy venti frappuccinos as unwise and less-than-healthy, it doesn't change the fact that we all, as consumers, have these choices to make in the first place. If you want to try to convince me to stop drinking coffee at Starbucks (or wherever I happen to drink it), you need to do better than flinging inaccurate prices at me and telling me that you think the coffee tastes like acid. And so, to all of the irrational Starbucks-haters out there, I want to say that you are entitled to love whatever coffee you love, and you are entitled to spend whatever money you want on coffee wherever you want to spend it, but I like Starbucks and don't feel bad about it! :)


  1. I don't drink coffee. I don't like coffee. But when I serve coffee it's always Fair Trade coffee. Now that's a whole other economic choice discussion.

  2. Indeed it is! And I wish that more people were having that conversation than arguing about Starbucks.