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What's with Starbucks..... mild rant

In our small section of South Orange County, CA there is a beautiful seaide community called Dana Point. The main drag through this area is one that splits at the heart of town, with one route going one-way North, the other South. There's a Starbucks on the South-bound street.

Recently Starbucks bought out a local coffee chain called Dietrich's. There was a Dietrich's on the Northbound street (physically maybe 2 or 3 blocks away from the Starbucks on the South-bound route). At first it looked like the Dietrich's was just closing, and that must have been wonderful news for the single local coffee place about a block North of it. Now......... the Dietrich's is being replaced by........ of course... a new Starbuck's.

It's not that unususal for Starbucks to have a unit in a shopping center here and also have a counter inside a market in the same center or across the street. I guess they're just so big that they can afford to pick up every available site that pencils out for them, thus increasing their market share even more and effectively blocking out competition.

I'm just really getting annoyed by it.

Feel a little better now...... not much......... a little.

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  1. I'd be less annoyed if their coffee didn't stink.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      I don't understand why I can't get coffee anywhere in my town that equals my cafe bustelo at home in a french press.

      1. re: fara

        Have you ever tried the french press option at Starbucks? I split one with some friends a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with the quality of the coffee, even with the House Blend!

    2. Perhaps the goal is to have a Starbucks every 3rd store.

      1. From what I've heard, Starbucks has determined that very few people will actually go out of their way to stop there. So, they rely on opening stores wherever they're most likely to be "on the way."

        Therefore, Starbucks opening an additional location on the Northbound street makes sense, because (according to their market research, at least) few people driving on that street are going to be willing to go over a block because it will take them off their route.

        1 Reply
        1. I read an article this week that they do not mind competing with themselves and have found that people may not cross a street to get a cup. There was an example in which they have store on three of the four corners in a city (I think they mentioned it was in NYC) and were actively investigating whether to purchase the property on the fourth corner. Could you imagine every corner store at an intersection being a starbucks? Interesting.

          BTW I am a starby's fan.

          8 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            I will never forget sitting in the infamous Starbucks in downtown Vancouver looking across the street to see another person looking at me from another Starbucks. There are two stores kitty corner from each other which was unique.

            1. re: Sacto_Damkier

              Sacto - I was seriously just about to post The same comment - no joke I think on Granville street, right? Very weird.....

              1. re: stellamystar

                Those are the ones on Robson (1099 & 1100 Robson). Not surprising given the sheer number in Vancouver.

              2. re: Sacto_Damkier

                I saw that on my first visit to Vancouver in 1993 or so. At the time it was extremely noteworthy, but now, by today's standards, not so much.

                1. re: Debbie W

                  That's right- this Vancouver claim to fame is now old hat and is seen in many cities- we have two office towers in downtown Calgary that have Starbucks on both the first and second floors (PetroCanada and Bankers Hall, if you people from Vancouver refuse to believe me). Having Starbucks kitty-corner from one another is not a big deal at all anymore.

                2. re: Sacto_Damkier

                  Have you seen the "interview" in the movie "Best in Show" with Parker Posey, where she and her husband describe the very same scenario? Hilarious... because it can be so true.

                3. re: jfood

                  Yes - great article. Was it in the Wallstreet Journal? I found it very insightful, and although it doesn't make me feel any better or worse about Starbucks, I can appreciate the level to which they understand their products relative to consumer behavior. They literally have it nailed down to a science. Their level of strategic planning reminds me alot of what McDonalds has been doing for about three decades. Definitely a case study that should be studied and discussed in business classes.

                  1. re: jfood

                    They do the same thing the world over. Besides, life's too short to cross the street, especially in traffic! And what if you're driving and can't turn around? No, no, we NEED to have SBUX on every corner.


                  2. Not to mention that coffee places in retail locations are almost always Starbucks -
                    Kroger, Target, Barnes & Noble, Meijer, etc. I was happy to see a Seattle's Best in Borders - until I remembered that Starbucks owns that too. Starbucks is okay but I prefer to seek out other places for coffee where possible. To me, it is like McDonalds - ubiquitous and one is the same as another one, therefore Starbucks is decent, but nothing special.

                    I am actually surprised that Starbucks hasn't infiltrated the gas station market yet. It is probably on their radar screen though.

                    1. I'm not so much "pro" starubucks, but, to me, they are much better than other ubiquitous options. I know some people truly dislike the coffee, but I'll drink it over any of the other mall chains and such, any day.

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: kindofabigdeal

                        actually I am amazed at the variations between coffees at different Starbucks locations. Mochas taste different at different locations and so do frappacinos.

                        Also the food they sell is different around the world and even varies between locations here in Florida.

                        Generally Starbucks food is not great, but their lattes are fine enough.

                        1. re: smartie

                          Funny thing is that MacDonalds and Burger King got higher marks on their coffee.
                          In my burg, Petaluma, Starbucks is the ony coffee only place open Sunday afternoon and evenings. Now I am starting to frequent a couple of old style 24 hour diners. I don't need the yuppie ambience, but occasionally I do need a good strong cup of coffee and homemade pie (beats a scone any day in my book).

                          1. re: drmimi

                            Don't know about Burger King, but here in Vancouver, McDonalds does have a better cup of coffee than Starbucks. Haven't had a good cup of coffee at a Starbucks unfortunately.

                            Nothing Starbucks offers is spectacular, from the coffee to the pastry to the sandwiches. What irks me, as people have already commented previous to me and way more eloquent than me, is how Starbucks kills independent coffee houses that do want to offer something different. Starbucks has become the standard that most will have "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality. Unfortunately, most of these can neither beat them or join them, when one Starbucks opens in the neighbourhood.

                            Personally, it depresses me to see that many Starbucks in a city or in every city. It's wholesale homogenization of the cityscape.

                            1. re: jayes

                              Starbucks does not kill independent coffee houses! People who get their coffee from Starbucks kill independent coffee houses. If the independents cannot compete, too bad. Sounds pretty harsh, but this is a free market. Blame the customers!

                              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                With all the respect in the world, this is completely inaccurate. The idea that Americans are free actors, making choices based on personal taste only, is absolute fallacy. We have been brainwashed for generations by people who know more about our patterns of behavior than we do ourselves. The trendy libertarian idea that it's all a big free market and it's all about consumer choice is just not accurate. Not that we're zombies, but we're not nearly as autonomous and free-willed a people as we believe, not by a long shot.

                                The market (and marketing) advantages available to large corporations are numerous and well-documented. Corporations have billions of dollars to devote to advertising, marketing, market research and product development; small independent companies do not. This is a HUGE advantage. The people who run Starbucks have very precise procedures for identifying and exploiting consumer behaviors, as do all other successful corporations. The gap between the "advertised quality" and the "actual quality" of most goods consumed in this country is vast. That's corporate money and manipulation talking, and we've all been taken for a ride for a long time now.

                                The independent coffee house is an endangered species in this country, unfortunately, and it ain't because Starbucks serves really good coffee, that's for sure.

                                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                                    People do have a choice with their money. Imagine a neighborhood with a stable community and an independent coffee shop with a stable clientele. If a Starbucks moves in, people there have a choice - do I get my latte from Mike's Coffee or Starbucks. Also, other residents who may not have liked Mike's Coffee now have the option to drink Starbucks.

                                    If Mike's Coffee provides a better value than Starbucks, Mike will probably keep his customers and continue to thrive. Mike may lose some customers, but if Starbucks introduces new people to gourmet coffee, Mike may be able to draw them back in the future plus more.

                                    If Mike's Coffee is just OK and his business thrived simply because there was no competition, he will likely go out of business since his captive customers will now have another choice.

                                    The worst case scenerio is for Starbucks to enter a community, undercut the competition, put them out of business, then jack up the prices once everyone is gone. The free market will then take over at the high prices since the opportunity cost is lower and the economies of scale are small for coffee stores. I would bet that Starbucks probably encourages MORE independents by exposing the masses to gourmet coffee. It still comes down to the customers and it is a cop-out to just "blame the corporation".

                                    1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                      Actually, your premise ignores two crucial factors:

                                      1. The mountainous amount of research data covering human behavior and the manner in which we make choices, especially as regards our responses to advertising.


                                      2. The absurd lack of a level playing field between large corporations and small businesses, one that gets ever more disproportionate every year.

                                      But I've already covered that. And I guess this isn't really the place for Psychology 101 or Marketing 101 courses. So I'll sign off. ; )

                                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                                        But your premise ignores the most important factor, that human beings are capable of thinking and are not mindless drones. It is too easy and simplistic to dismiss the behavior of people as being of one mind controlled by big, bad corporations. If it was possible to get many people to buy a crap product through advertising, GM would be the most profitable company on the planet. It is much more difficult - but more accurate - to accept the fact that people like Starbucks and are not part of a conspiracy theory. We have met the enemy, and he is us.

                                        1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                          You over-simplify my point. Never mind....

                                        2. re: uptown jimmy

                                          "I think therefore I drink coffee" - Rene Descartes as interpreted by Jfood

                                          It is unfortunate that some believe psychology/marketing 101 trumps economics/intelligence 101. Jfood disagrees with that notion.

                                          We have an independent and a Starbs in town and both thrive. There are those of us who are loyal to the independent because he just makes a better cup. I am also a BIG fan of starbs and drink regularly out of town.

                                          I agree that Starbs has tremendous data and knows the demographics of the site and the market share and price point required to make the numbers work. That's the supply side of the equation.

                                          On the demand side is you and me and the rest of America. Some people decide that starbs is a better deal/product than the independent and others do not. The combined demand creates the price and quantity sold.

                                          I refuse to buy into the robotoid big bad corporate theory and throw away the human as a thinking rational man. And I order a "large coffee" no matter which store i walk into.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            In reply to everyone in the conversation.

                                            Can't both be at fault and deserving of credit as well? We should keep in mind that Starbucks is largely responsible for the nationwide coffee culture. Sure, there would be good coffee in the NW without Starbucks, but not in suburban Texas. There are probably as many indy places that have starbucks to thank for creating a market as there are indy places put out of business by starbucks. Let's not pretend like if it weren't for starbucks there would be someone passionate about coffee on every street corner. And, to be honest, there's a lot of bad coffee at indy shops. Starbucks as a corporation certainly does a lot of good (good to their employees, good to their farmers compared to most, "greener" than most corporations, good to the community) That is, they don't have the negative effects that some huge corps do.

                                            Do they strive for growth and mass appeal over a better quality product (perhaps even using a little manipulation)? definitely, and for that reason they're not perfect, but it doesn't make them evil either.

                                            I get starbucks when I want coffee out but there's nothing local and/or better, but I sure don't get anything with espresso. I will NOT pay that price for a machine to make bitter espresso when it costs no more to pay a barista to make something good.

                                      2. re: uptown jimmy

                                        Free market economy is not a trendy libertarian ideal. Our country was economically founded on it long before there were libertarians. There are people in this world who take responsibility for their actions and there are the "sheeple" who do whatever someone else tells them to because they insist on being children instead of responsible adults. If you don't want to be influenced by advertising, turn off your TV, turn off your radio and inform yourself. Word of mouth is still the most effective advertising one can get...and it is FREE. There have been a number of restaurants I have tried because I saw people talk about them on here. Corporations had nothing to do with that. I will direct you to episode #217 of South Park for some interesting commentary on the coffee shop issue......

                                        As far as the Starbucks issue...I think they are going to end up killing themselves by becoming too large. People will eventually get bored with them and will go for the better coffee. But then again, I believe in the free market economy. One thing they have going for them, is the bigger locations serve like public meeting rooms. I know my moms group meets at Starbucks once a month. Its not because we like coffee, it is because it is the only place like that where we can get something to eat and drink and have a meeting. There are always a few other groups having meetings there too. Until someone else comes along, we'll go with Starbucks.

                                    2. re: jayes

                                      Here in a very small town in Westchester, Starbucks made moves to open a store and was quickly discouraged by local government. They respected the wishes of the town and moved elsewhere. If a local government doesn't want them, it's up to them to make it known.

                                      That said, I work in Nyack NY and we have an independent coffee house (the Runcible Spoon) and a Starbucks. I get my coffee from the Spoon out of convenience, because it's next door to my office. But when I have the time and want an attitude-free experience, I walk the 2 blocks to Starbucks.

                                      1. re: marmite

                                        Where I live, there are at least two locally-owned coffee brewers that are thriving. When the first one opened, people weren't really into lattes. But as the coffee frenzy in the US grew, so did they. Now they have 5 locations around town. The second independent has 9 franchises along the East Coast. Starbucks has three in town - one in the mall, one in B&N, and one next to a grocery store.

                                        1. re: mojoeater

                                          Actually, the B&N cafes are owned by Barnes and Noble, they just sell Starbucks, just like they sell Coke or Pepsi.

                                          In my central Illinois town, we had zero coffee shops before the B&N opened. Now there are three Starbucks and at least 12-14 independants. Starbucks coffee grew this market.

                                      2. re: jayes

                                        I LOVE BK coffee! I would much have it over the house blend at Starbucks (although I like a good chai tea from Starbucks) BK coffee will definitely get my day started....or give me a quick pick me up for 1/2 the price and so much more the enjoyment.
                                        --note..I am a Starbucks fan too!

                                      1. re: alias wade

                                        I'm thinking of The Coffee Beanery which shows up in a lot of malls around me, Seattle's Best (which I know is owned by SBUX, but it's not as good) and other places run by corps. like aramark (Javacity for example) that pop up in malls/airports.

                                    1. Starbucks havent saturated my area of NJ. Closest one is 25 minutes away. Dunkin Donuts seems to have most of the market share. But you cant count NJ as being typical.

                                      1. It could be worse! There's a spot in downtown Seattle where you can stand in the doorway of one Starbucks and actually see three other stores. Although the quality of the product in downtown Seattle is far better than what you find elsewhere in my opinion. (The Starbucks within-a-store such as Barnes and Noble or grocery stores almost always produces a less consistent product and I think this is because the staff does not get the regular Starbucks corporate training that stand alone store staff receives.)
                                        You still can't beat Peet's for best chain coffee. I just wish there were a few more of them, but no so many that the quality suffers...

                                        1. There's a Starbucks in China's Forbidden City. What I read was that the locals were so incensed by it that Starbucks had to take down its sign (but it is still operating, to my knowledge).

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: gloriousfood

                                            When the Starbucks in the Forbidden City first opened in 2000, it faced a great deal of criticism from the Chinese media. That year, according to the People's Daily, 70% of the respondents to a sina.com poll stated that they opposed a coffee shop in the Forbidden City. Interestingly enough, according to CNN.com, in a poll given that same year by the museum itself to its visitors, over 50% of respondents favored the Starbucks outlet.

                                            The initial controversy eventually died down. More recently, however, the issue was revived by CCTV anchorperson, Beijing Youth Daily columnist, and blogger Rui Chenggang, who posted a comment in his blog describing the Starbucks outlet as "trampling over Chinese culture" and calling for its removal. I don't believe the issue has been resolved yet.

                                            It's a very interesting debate, and I think both sides have valid points. In this clash between the Starbucks marketing machine and the Chinese media machine, it will be interesting to see who eventually wins out.

                                            Here are some interesting articles and blog posts covering both the controversy in 2000 and most recently:


                                            1. re: Condimentality

                                              Thanks. I've read a couple of these articles and they were interesting. I just returned from the Forbidden City and did not catch the Starbucks there or smell any coffee-like aroma, so it must be pretty low key, as one of the pieces pointed out. I'm not in favor of having a Starbucks in the Forbidden City (note, I have no problem w/Starbucks in China in general), but it's there, it's a done deal, and now it's left to see what will happen to it. Having been to the Taj Mahal and the pyramids, I can only imagine what it would be like if Starbucks or Peets or any chain opens up there. Like you said, it's an interesting debate.

                                          2. Here's a story that I found very interesting from our local alternative weekly: http://www.wweek.com/story.php?story=...

                                            I personally am not a fan of Starbucks - I've had some really bad regular coffee there, but when stuck somewhere unknown, I will stop for an Americano. Their food is terrible and loaded with terrible ingredients. To each their own though...

                                            1. Starbuck's goal is to have 40,000 stores world wide. There has never been a chain with 40,000 stores -- even McDonald's only has 20,000.

                                              When I have a choice I try to choose a good local coffee house -- in Ann Arbor, that's Sweetwater's, in Ithaca it's Gimme Coffee. On my trips to Paris, I buy enough coffee at Brulerie des Ternes in Rue Poncelet to last me for a few months when I get back.

                                              But I will admit that when I lived in Tokyo, I was a Starbuck's regular. For one thing, the coffees there were twice the size as other Tokyo coffee shops. For another, my latte tasted achingly familiar in a city where everything could be so strange. My closest Starbuck's, in Roppongi, was non-smoking, had a nice bathroom and a view from upstairs. So there are reasons to choose Starbuck's beyond just coffee.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: brendastarlet

                                                When I lived in Tokyo, I also frequented S'bux for take-away coffee. "Grande Americano" is the same in any language, thank god. But I was disturbed to see S'bux near the Peace Park in Hiroshima--and across from many of the major shrines and temples in Kyoto.

                                                And amen to those who prefer their cup of joe attitude-free. Though I buy local, organic produce from the local co-op to which I belong and shop local (and handmade) for most of my sundries, I'm still a sucker for a fast, attitude-free Americano at a S'bux.

                                                1. re: tokyorosa

                                                  That Grande Americano - one of the best-tasting deals there... Always my first choice at Starbucks... Yes - please leave room for cream...

                                              2. Funny I bet some of the folks that rant about buying locally regarding produce,only going to small family owned restaurants, etc, and rant against the evil "chains", I bet are some of the same folks who love & defend Starbucks...

                                                kind of a double standard.

                                                1. I read an article about Starbucks a while back, and it said that the reason they build on every corner is because they would rather compete with themselves instead of another coffeehouse. If a starbucks has to close because of another starbucks, then thats okay. It makes sense if you think about it. But i do agree that they are EVERYWHERE and its getting crazy. I remember when I had to mail order their coffee!!

                                                  1. JC Beans is WAY better. Poor JC Beans.

                                                    Chowhounds I request that everyone travels down here to pretty little Dana Point (make it a vacation!) and go to JC Beans every day.

                                                    You'll have fun, get a tan, and enjoy one of the last great local coffee shops south of the Orange Curtain.

                                                    1. I can't read this entire thread but I do have something to say about Starbucks.... it's like water. Yes, water. You can go to your tap, and pour yourself a glass of water... what's it cost ... ½ a cent? Maybe a penny. You go to the airport - maybe they still have water fountains but more than likely you'll go to a kiosk and purchase a bottled water for $2.50. It's all in the packaging and perception. Well that's Starbucks for you. Packaging and perception. So if you go, don't complain. Make your own - french press - buy some syrup blend your own latte whatever.

                                                      I live in Asheville - big fight about Starbucks coming in and killing the mom & pop coffee shops. Well they did come in - some free standing some in the local supermarket - They do okay - and the mom & pops are still going strong ... well some of them are... some have turned into Chinese sushi bars.... Oh well... people just love spending money on packaging and perception. It's the American way.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: jberryl

                                                        Actually seems more like saying something about "the American way" than about Starbucks. They do what they do, its clear, its there for everyone to see. As noted, rather intelligently, in a thread about Starbucks and the "killing" of the "mom&pop" coffee shops (honestly, mom&pop coffee?....mom&pop general store, sure...)...Starbucks is, in large part, responsible for the "gourmet" coffee market in this country. Most people wouldn't have a clue what a latte is if not for Starbucks. Before Starbucks came to the town in which I went to college, there was one "upscale" coffee shop and one coffee cart run by three guys who had moved to town from Seattle (after having learned about coffee largely from Starbucks themselves). That was it for coffee in that town. Now, yes, there are 6 Starbucks (4 standalone stores and two kiosks) in town, but there are also about 20 or so other "gourmet" coffee shops and affiliated kiosks and stands. The market simply wasn't there before the first big Starbucks shop opened up in town. I'm not touting Starbucks as the savior of anything, but the idea that they stomp out mom&pop competition seems a bit off on a large scale.