Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Starbucks rules.

Sometimes I think I am hopelessly schizoid. I am at heart a anti-commercialism kind of gal, a member of the organic food coop, a patron of the locally-owned bookstores and video stores that I have to walk defiantly past Blockbuster and Barnes & Noble to get to, and I am proud to say I've never shopped at a Walmart. In the conservative financial services world I work in, I'm usually the closest to a hippy chick around.

On the other hand, I love the Gap and Old Navy, regularly upgrade my personal electronic devices, and am a hardened devotee of Starbucks. As one of my brother's friends once put it, "I hate Bierkenstocks. I can't live without my kitten heels." So at the coop, I was always he out of place chick in the Gap leather jacket.

I recognize that Starbucks has a record of obliterating local Mom & Pop coffee houses. Our food coop (of course) once featured a story in the member newspaper about a couple who studied artisan baking, put together a business plan to open a bakery, was just about to sign a lease on an ideal location on the west coast, when Starbucks swooped in and offered the landlord multiples of the asking price. Story ends with their move to Brooklyn and opening of a bakery and eventually three retail locations. (Since publication of the story, at least one if not all of those locations have closed, and yes, they were all located in neighborhoods with Starbucks. I don't know yet how I feel about that, because in at least one location, they've been replaced by another "Mom & Pop" local coffee/bakery takeout/cafe that is doing extremely well. Kudos to them - the capitalist in me approves.)

But still, I give myself permission to love Starbucks, because:
- They offer soy milk, and many other places don't. I don't drink regular milk so I go where I can get the soy.
- They offer endless iced choices, all available decaf. Since I had to give up caffeine, I've discovered how difficult it is to find good decaf iced anything.
- Their staff is always friendly and courteous.
- They are actively involved in community development, both at the local store level, and in the countries where they purchase their coffee.
- They are constantly being commended for positive employment and hiring practices, including employee benefits. The anti-Walmart.

And... They called me yesterday to let me know that last week's problem with my card was a computer error. They replaced the card ($25 instead of the $20 they owed me) and bought me another free drink today. Throughout the entire ordeal, they were professional and pleasant.

Now if they could only sell CDs for competitive prices...


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