Those who know me know that for a long time I wasn’t a fan of Starbucks. Actually, that was a bit of an understatement because I hated their fracking guts. I hated the overpriced and unremarkable coffee, the pompous nomenclature of sizes and drinks, and the overall attitude that ‘we’re better than your local coffee shop’. Going in there felt like the odd times when I would find myself completely out of place at a frat party — everyone seems like they belong there, except me.
But several years and many lattés later, I bleed green as a loyal fan of Starbucks. Now, I don’t spend $400 a month like some crazy people, but I can rely on ‘Big Green’ (yes, I just coined that name) to get me where I need to be caffeine-wise.
Here are some practical, but perhaps underrated reasons why I like Starbucks as a brand. Note that “taste of coffee drinks” is not on this list because after all, it’s just coffee. And mostly milk, at that.
1. Hidden Menu Items — Yes, there are hidden items, which I think is awesome for any food chain to allow/encourage. The best-known item is the hidden size “Short”. “Tall” isn’t the smallest size after all, and if you only crave a small dose of ‘the other vitamin C’ (Caffeine), try asking for a Short Cappucino, which incidentally has the same amount of espresso as a Tall. You can also get Pumpkin Spice, Peppermint or other ‘seasonal’ flavours all year round, if you ask nicely. Plus the baristas will make you anything you want, so just make shit up and see how it comes out.
2. Free Bathrooms — Free as in beer, free as in speech. Every New Yorker knows the value of finding a clean, functional bathroom when you’re on the go, and with so many Starbuckses around the City, it’s good to know I’m never too far from relief. In fact, just yesternight I ventured blindly out of fancy-pants SoHo and onto otherwise-ghetto Canal St. to find a Starbucks bathroom. Mission Accomplished.
3. Something for the Kids — Yes, coffee is mainly an adult drink as kids are hyper enough. (Plus, that whole working for a living seems to drain a brother, school, not so much) But taking your kids to Starbucks is not out of the question as they serve a multitude of crazy drinks that have no coffee in ’em at all. Most sell teas and juice as well, making it much more accessible as a pit stop destination for everyone.
4. They won’t throw you out. — Again, maybe it’s a New York thing, but if I ever need to get off my feet, make a phone call, write something down or just hide from the street for a second, I know I can pop into a Starbucks without spending a dime. Considering how many of them have plush armchairs, it’s great to know that they won’t throw you out. Or at least, I’ve never been thrown out or even asked “are you gonna buy something?”.
5. They take Canadian Dollars — Ok, so now that the Looney is worth more than the Buck it’s a slightly different story, but the fact remains that they accept foreign currency! Even in New York, the most international of all Yankee ports, this is not a common practice. To this day, the strangest thing I’ve seen in Starbucks is when a fella ordered a Short drip coffee, black (ie, just regular-ass coffee) and paid with a Canadian $100 bill. Blew everyone’s mind, including my own.
6. Massive Design Culture — Obviously Starbucks invests in design and knows the value of having cohesive graphics, interiors, music and other branding elements. They’ve also lent their name to coffee machines and supermarket products, all with the same sense of style and control. Want to know more? Check out the recent Be A Design Cast with Klindt Parker, Design Manager at Starbucks.
7. Gentrification — It is common knowledge here in the New York that if there is a Starbucks in your ‘hood, it’s a pretty nice area in which to live. The constant flow of polite and well-to-do urbanites means that shadier characters are likely to find new stomping ground. In fact, a Starbucks can help grow nearby businesses, including other mom-and-pop coffee shops! The opposite of this, as you might guess, is a McDonald’s or a KFC — if they open one near you, it means the circus will soon be in town.
Can you think of other reasons to like Starbucks? Leave a comment if you can.