Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Bryant Simon

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0520269926

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Everything but the Coffee casts a fresh eye on the world's most famous coffee company, looking beyond baristas, movie cameos, and Paul McCartney CDs to understand what Starbucks can tell us about America. Bryant Simon visited hundreds of Starbucks around the world to ask, Why did Starbucks take hold so quickly with consumers? What did it seem to provide over and above a decent cup of coffee? Why at the moment of Starbucks' profit-generating peak did the company lose its way, leaving observers baffled about how it might regain its customers and its cultural significance? Everything but the Coffee probes the company's psychological, emotional, political, and sociological power to discover how Starbucks' explosive success and rapid deflation exemplify American culture at this historical moment. Most importantly, it shows that Starbucks speaks to a deeply felt American need for predictability and class standing, community and authenticity, revealing that Starbucks' appeal lies not in the product it sells but in the easily consumed identity it offers.




















selling, but as places for thinking and talking.26 Oldenburg would basically agree, although he is more interested in smaller-scale community than the more grandiose project of democracy. But, he would concede, the process of bringing people together is similar. In third places that work, people who wouldn’t otherwise meet get to know and eventually trust each other. For this to happen, there has to be conversation; there has to be talk. Sociologist Elijah Anderson shared similar concerns and

Jersey, a shore town a couple of miles south of Atlantic City. A man started talking about his plans to develop condos in Atlantic City. But he blurted out he would have to sell them to New York Jews, not Philadelphia Jews, because Philly Jews, he bellowed, knew all about Atlantic City, a city I understood him to say with an African American majority. Then he asked everyone in the coffee shop if they agreed. Two did, and one wasn’t sure. I didn’t vote. I didn’t know what to say or how to raise

sidewalk in front of my house) featured Andy Roddick, the tennis star and the youngest American ever to climb to the top of the 03chapter.qxd 6/3/09 7:47 PM Page 112 112 / Everything but the Coffee world rankings. He said, “Having two older brothers is a healthy reminder that you’re always closer to the bottom than the top.” In case anyone disagreed with Rapp, Kweller, Roddick, or any of the other coffee cup philosophers, the company denied responsibility for the content. “This is the

of its drinks, Starbucks laid out its stores to operate as live, three-dimensional environments for selfgifting. University of Houston professor Jackie Kacen, who conducted the studies on gender and self-gifting mentioned in the opening, pointed to Starbucks’ melodious soundtrack, soothing color scheme, and homey fireplaces. They evoke calm, comfortable feelings, she said. By contrast, “You don’t get rap music and screaming twelve-year-olds there.” “But,” I asked, “how can coffee—coffee loaded up

recounts a late-night meeting with a prostitute in a dingy casino-town motel room. There is no bravado here, but the story does contain a graphic, though not gratuitous, reference to anal sex. Alarmed by the content or maybe the song’s dark tone and painful realism, Starbucks reportedly refused to sell the CD in its stores. (Company officials said they didn’t have rack room for another disc.)23 05chapter.qxd 6/3/09 7:41 PM Page 164 164 / Everything but the Coffee Not long after Starbucks

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