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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Starbucks steps on ‘little guys’

    Those of us unlucky enough to have stuck around Tucson during the summer probably remember the big sign emblazoned on the glass at the Student Union: Starbucks – Coming in August!

    Oh, it’s such a familiar sight nowadays, that sexy mermaid with the squiggly hair and two tails – an allegory for mediocre coffee across the world. One quick Google search reveals over 50 locations in Tucson alone. If one were to scout the area less than a mile from the UA, it would yield a Starbucks on University and Euclid, a drive-through location on Broadway and Campbell (for your convenience) and one in the Safeway just a stone’s throw away (for your super-convenience). It seems the only thing more relaxing than sipping some morning brew in a grocery store while browsing for food or taking a swig of their trademark black, bitter Mississippi tar just before that big office meeting, would be to actually make a good ol’ cup of joe in the confines of your own home – but who would want to do that?

    The mighty Seattle-based java beast that Howard Schultz got off the ground in the early ’70s took quite a hit this year when it announced in July that it was closing 600 of its stores in the United States, all of which are listed by state on the company webpage. The New York Times reported that in addition to the store closures, some 12,000 employees would be laid off by year’s end. So although the new mini-store at the Union might seem like another sign of Starbucks’ world domination, the giant is holding back for the time being, focusing on the international market due to the slumping economy in the U.S.

    It’s easy to see why a Starbucks in the student union would be a perfect fit. After a hard week of school, there are very few things more soothing or calming than an iced mocha or a cool frappuccino, at least for the more pedestrian coffee drinkers out there. Maybe, if your sweet tooth is in dire need of being fulfilled, you could get one of those drinks with the five inches of whipped cream and a caramel or chocolate swirl on it. I’ll admit that I don’t know a venti mocha from a grande latte – that’s because when I get a steaming cup of ground beans, I just want it hot and black. Shoot me before I start to sound like Andy Rooney. It seems that the age of standing in line to just get a regular cup of coffee has come and gone. Starbucks has targeted every aspect of the mass-market ethos, including selling CDs which consist of laidback adult contemporary pop and hip music in its stores – even starting its own record label, Hear Music, calling itself “”the sound of Starbucks.”” Yikes. Obviously, they know how to bring in the kids and make everyone think that they are the ultra-mega-coffee shop that it’s OK to like, so kudos for that, I guess.

    Still, the appeal of this massive chain is not completely lost on this writer. Employees who work 20 hours or more receive what the company calls “”your special blend”” (isn’t that cute?) that can be custom picked by each worker. It may include health care benefits, stock options, an income protection plan and domestic partner benefits, along with a pound of coffee each week.

    While all of this is well and good, and a great incentive for college students who want a decent part-time job, the company is still trying to create the false illusion of being a local coffee shop while driving the little guys into the dirt. Local businesses are what add flavor to the community, and there is certainly nothing unique about the Starschmuckers. However, people keep coming back, time and time again, because it’s just so damn cozy in there! While you get that WiFi loaded up and start working on your essay, you can hear the smooth sounds of Paul McCartney, John Mellencamp and James Blunt. Seeing or going to a Starbucks is so commonplace these days that people rarely stop to think about what it means on a larger scale.

    There is a disturbing trend of convenience in our society, which ranges from the food we consume to the movies we watch, the music we download/steal and the politicians we elect. Corporations like Starbucks take advantage of America’s love for the lowest common denominator by strategically placing their stores in locations that leave little doubt that better coffee places exist.

    However, in a town like Tucson that boasts good-to-great coffee locations like Epic Cafe, Caffe Luce, Bentley’s, Raging Sage, Ike’s and Time Market, the name “”Starbucks”” should ring out to deaf ears. Now, where’s my caramel macchiato?

    – Matt Wavrin is a senior majoring in media arts. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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