Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Kafi ho gaya yeh abhi!

I chanced upon this post which kind of epitomizes what is wrong with corporate America, and what is wrong with the attitude of 'bleeding-heart-liberals' (in Sumeet's words) all around.


The problems I have with this post:

1. Like complete idiots, the fine folks over at Starbucks decided to sue a mom-and-pop coffee store for a name sounding similar to theirs, though the logo is different, and it is legitimately based on the name of the proprietor. So much for the warm and fuzzy image they try to convey. Lawsuit-happy companies are making a mockery of copyright and other laws. Suing each other out of existence was never easier, was it? "Poor Sam Bucks" is all I can say.

2. This blogger says that "Starbucks has been known to enter into neighborhoods, and destroy mom and pop coffeeshops, all over the country. The coffee is priced at the higher end of the spectrum and at the end of the day, you get the same few flavours everywhere you go."

It's not like Starbucks points guns at people's heads asking them to drink their coffee. Standardized flavors, higher prices and yet higher sales? Where do I sign up for that business model?

So, they serve average coffee in a comforting yet bland ambience. Which means that they do a limited set of things and they do it well. They are pricey, but they are comforting to people who aren't up for a change in the coffee they drink anywhere in the US. I drink Starbucks fairly often - especially since it is the brew of choice in the company café, and it's present at most airports.

The funny thing is, I don't want to.

Nothing against the "corporate soul-sucking machine", but I like the ambience provided by local, non-chain coffee-shops a lot. Sometimes they are proprietor-owned, and many of these places have a quirky style all their own. The servers are hospitable in a non-sanitized, non-corporate kind of way with less plastic smiles. The coffee is different, and better most of the time.

However, it isn't easy to find one open late. I sometimes like taking a book after dinner and sit in a corner of a coffee-shop, reading and observing people around. Sometimes, I'm with friends and we need to find a place to hang out and chat. (No, I'm not really into the pub scene all that much).

Slight problem: the only coffee shop open in my area after 8 PM is the local Starbucks (open till 11, drive-through is open 24/7). On Fridays and Saturdays, Victor's is, but they have a nice sign saying that people with laptops and such shouldn't linger for more than an hour in the case of it being crowded. Thanks for being so nice to your customers.

See, Starbucks is trying to serve a need. Your friendly neighborhood coffee shop will definitely get people coming in, but they need to figure out a way to differentiate themselves. Better and more varieties of coffee is one thing. Live music, like at Kiva Han in Pittsburgh or Victor's here is another. Craig Street Coffee in Pittsburgh IMO was the best. They had a great deli with amazing sandwiches, and you should have seen the rush there at lunch-time. The hot chocolate there was to die for.

Of course, longer hours for night-owls like me will help.


thedq said...

I think Starbucks is more for its ambience than coffee. I remember times when my frineds and i found only starbucks open at 1 am. Nice place to sit comfortably and chat. Im not too much a fan of their coffee though, and prices too.

Ajay said...

I prefer the non-chain places for ambience, especially places in univ. areas. They are edgier and quirkier. But that's just me.Starbucks is too sanitized. That's not a bad thing, but the rough edges around some places make them more appealing.