Political Fix (16 January, 2019)

We need to talk about Starbucks

I always thought Starbucks bordered on the pretentious, from their “fair trade” coffee to their idiotic drink sizes. I never took the bait and always just ordered a “small cup of coffee with room for cream” and let the server figure it out. While waiting in line the last time I noticed a deli platter with the statement “humanly raised pork.” I wondered if the pig would agree.

Their Mission Statement claims they “want to be a good neighbor” but I don’t plan on going back.

Why?

Because they got rid of all newspapers, magazine racks, community bulletin boards, and most of their furniture, then lied about why.

I called and visited a couple of Starbucks after learning about their newspaper policy. The manager at the Packwood Creek location gave a pretty lame excuse, saying that the New York Times and local papers were complaining about theft.

Sure they did.

First, please steal our newspaper.

Second, CNN reported, “The New York Times said it was disappointed by the decision, but it believes Starbucks customers who want to read the paper will be able to find it elsewhere.”

Third, Reggie Ellis, the publisher of the Foothills Sun-Gazette, was so annoyed he wrote a letter to the regional director of Starbucks objecting to their decision.

“We were caught off -guard,” said Mr. Ellis, debunking what the manager said at the Packwood Creek location. “Starbucks was a popular place for Sun-Gazette readers.”

The general manager at the Starbucks next to COS was more forthcoming. He said that Starbucks wanted to go completely digital and that anyone with a smart phone or laptop could log on to the Starbuck’s site, while at the store, and read from a curated list of papers.

I don’t really like to be told which papers to read but I thought I would give it a go. My back was already hurting from their new glorified stools and to access the papers I had to handover my email address. Now ironically I get their “Coffee inspiration and need-to-know news” in my in-box every day.

Their website offered such papers as the Wall Street Journal, Barrons, The Tennessean, The Indianapolis Star, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and others. Local newspapers need not apply.

While fidgeting in their super uncomfortable new backless chairs and puzzling over why anyone in California would want to read The Tennessean, it dawned on me – Starbucks didn’t want me sitting there, or anyone else.

CNN said the reason for getting rid of newspaper racks was to reduce clutter. The Packwood Creek manager said that it was because of theft, and the store close to COS said the company wanted to go digital.

Why was I getting three different stories? Because when a company (or spouse)can’t get their story straight that means they are lying.

What Starbucks actually wants is for you to show up, fork over your dough, and get the hell out with your over priced Venti and humanely raised pork deli platter. The company discovered how to secretly convert to a high-profit, fast-food model that had always been there underneath their hipster vibe without even letting their customers or employees realize what was happening.

The Starbucks I was in was normally packed but now during a high traffic hour it was practically empty. Why wouldn’t it be empty? There wasn’t even a place to hang your purse.

I googled what was up with the new “chairs” to see if I was crazy about it being part of their new profit model. It ends up Starbucks started replacing their normal chairs with the modified stools and getting rid of their comfy chairs in 2017.

One social group in Philadelphia was so upset to find almost all of the furniture gone at their favorite Starbucks during their weekly get-together it made news.

Their local paper reported, “A Starbucks spokesperson said removing the furniture was not intended as a deterrent. The store had been feeling crowded, so the managers were merely experimenting with a new configuration, the spokesperson said, adding, ‘We are really proud that the store is a valued community gathering place.’”

So if you want to sit in a chair, catch up with your bestie, keep your money in the community, read a newspaper, or just have somewhere to hang your purse, here is list of cafés that Starbucks hasn’t put out of business that offer a relaxing atmosphere along with salted caramel lattes.

On Main Street in Visalia Tazz Coffee in front of Suncrest Bank is open from 6:30am to 6pm. They have all sizes of tables, bar seats, comfy chairs and newspapers and magazines strewn about the place.

On Center Street is 210 Café that is open from 7am – 1pm that is the poster child of supporting local community and journalism.

The Corner Bakery Café in Packwood Creek, 4021 S. Mooney Blvd., has what Startbucks used to have with the leather chairs and low coffee tables offering newspapers. They also have tables and booths for their restaurant section.

Mavericks Coffee Company at 238 W. Caldwell roasts their own coffee brand and supports local journalism and community events. It is open from 6am to 5:30pm, closed Sundays.

For the complete indoor /outdoor café experience is Wildflower Café, in Exeter, at 121 E Street. They are open 6am – 2pm every day.

Honorable mention goes to Watsons Health Food on Main Street in Visalia. They are more of a restaurant than café but I don’t see anyone getting kicked out for lingering over a drink and reading a book. They have shelves of local magazines and papers and have been a Visalia institution for 70 years, besides the fact they have delicious and healthy food and outdoor seating.

Then there is the teeny weeny Four Creeks Coffee at 630 Atwood, down the street from Lifestyles Gym and next to the Visalia Learning Center. Besides offering local papers Visalia Unified special needs students work the café at the counter making sandwiches learning life skills.

So what happened to the old Starbucks where I used to write my Christmas cards or relax during my daughter’s play rehearsals?

Howard Schultz, one of the founders of Starbucks, was inspired on a buying trip to Italy. He noted that coffee bars not only served excellent espresso, they also served as meeting places or public squares. He saw that the 200,000 cafés in Italy were an important element of Italian culture and society and wanted to replicate it in the United States.

That goal seemed to have gone the way of his presidential bid.

Maximizing profits is not revolutionary for a corporate chain, but Mr. Ellis spoke the truth when he said that when such a popular watering hole eliminates newspapers it hurts local journalism. In his letter to the regional director he stated, “Coffee and newspapers have long enjoyed a shared morning ritual for many busy Americans trying to stay abreast of local, state, national and international news. In an era of claims of ‘Fake News’ and ‘alternative facts’ newspapers remain one of the few trusted sources for news and information.”

And what message is Starbucks sending to the younger generation?

Alexandra Feller, a student at Linfield College in Oregon and intern for the Valley Voice, said, “I find that many of my peers are becoming more involved in national politics, at least on a surface level. But, when it comes to local politics there is less passion. I think this can be attributed to the fact that we care about what we are told to care about through advertising. And there is just less advertising for local politics. Yes, local politicians advertise on local television, but who watches that anymore?”

Ms. Feller continued to say that discussions with her friends make her think that information on local elections is not easily accessible.

“I would definitely say that the lack of young people involved in local politics is a combination of bad information, and a misunderstanding about how they could benefit from making well informed votes. But information is scarce. One place that is a sure fire way to know about local politics is the newspaper, which you can usually find in the local coffee shop.”

Since Starbucks– a dominant coffee shop in many towns– is taking away newspaper kiosks, it is curious how people will stay well informed on local politics and events.”

 

3 thoughts on “Political Fix (16 January, 2019)

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  1. It is nice to look at how to support our local coffee places that often have better coffee selections, which taste better than Starbuck’s often burn and acidic coffee. Component Coffee in Visalia (Planning Mill’s old location) is another great Visalia spot. I can’t say much about whether they have a lot of newspapers out – I am one of those people that does consume news digitally, but don’t want to be “told” what I should be reading by a curated list.

  2. Component Coffee does not support local journalism or journalism at all and has no community bulletin board. The coffee shop has the potential to not just be a place for for people to gather but a source for local news. Opportunity lost.

  3. So, I’m supposed to use all the right ‘pronouns’ when addressing someone; but you refuse to order coffee by the names that Starbucks has decided to call their drinks? I think it’s stupid as well, but I go along instead of making the barista guess what I want.
    Also, I’m guessing that the ongoing homelessness problem, was the reason for removing seating, not to mention all the bad press that Starbucks has gotten over people hanging out but not buying anything from the store?
    It’s tough having to constantly be “woke”…”get woke or go broke” as they say in our new ‘cancel culture’.
    No thanks

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