It’s been all over the news (at least the news I’ve been reading) this week how Starbucks closed everywhere for “anti-bias training”. This was prompted by an incident where two guests at a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested for, apparently, loitering. It happened that those two gentlemen were African-American, so it quickly became yet another instance of being arrested simply for the color of one’s skin.
There’s been much commentary about how these sorts of training things are really ineffective. True, perhaps, but you have to give Starbucks credit for at least making the effort without prompting – unlike some other businesses one could mention.
And really, it wasn’t the corporation’s fault. *One* barista called the police. Starbucks could have just told them that their services were no longer needed, and they should seek employment elsewhere. And what about the two police officers? It should have been obvious that there was no reason to arrest anyone. Is the Philadelphia PD going to have more mandatory training on “How to Handle Situations Where an Arrest Is Not Clearly Warranted”?
Personally, I suspect some of people’s griping about Starbucks is residual – and irrational – hatred of the corporation itself. Starbucks was the first real coffee shop chain to go national (as far as I can recall), and all the hipsters and coffee snobs from the Pacific Northwest were jealous. They griped about how Starbucks was selling overpriced coffee and driving local coffee shops out of business. Funny how there didn’t seem to be any coffee shops of the Starbucks variety in the first place. Sure, you had luncheonettes and Dunkin Donuts. But they weren’t places where you could nurse a latte for an hour while working on your latest novel. And now, there actually are more independent coffee shops around.
Another common gripe (since that first one isn’t very relevant anymore) is that Starbucks over-roasts (i.e. “burns”) its coffee. I have two things to note about this. First, take a look at Starbucks’ menu. It’s all “lattes” and “cappuccinos” and “Americanos”. A latte is espresso and milk. An Americano is espresso and hot water. The vast majority of their menu is espresso-based drinks. And guess what? Espresso is the darkest, most roasted of coffee forms. It’s naturally going to taste “over-roasted”. Secondly, how many people order a “plain coffee” at Starbucks? They’ll always add in milk (of one sort or another) and flavorings. You need a strong, dark roast to cut through all that and give you some sense of coffee flavor.
Me? Yes, I’m a Starbucks regular. There’s one a half mile away from where I live. Across the street from that Starbucks there’s an independent coffee shop. There’s another one around the corner from that Starbucks. But they are both closed by 6 pm. The Starbucks is open to 9 pm. If I want an after dinner “dessert” coffee on a weekend, where else am I going to go?