Everything but the Coffee

Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Bryant Simon
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
Stable URL: http:/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp5hm
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  • Book Info
    Everything but the Coffee
    Book Description:

    Everything but the Coffeecasts a fresh eye on the world's most famous coffee company, looking beyond baristas, movie cameos, and Paul McCartney CDs to understand what Starbucks can tell us about America. Bryant Simon visited hundreds of Starbucks around the world to ask, Why did Starbucks take hold so quickly with consumers? What did it seem to provide over and above a decent cup of coffee? Why at the moment of Starbucks' profit-generating peak did the company lose its way, leaving observers baffled about how it might regain its customers and its cultural significance?Everything but the Coffeeprobes the company's psychological, emotional, political, and sociological power to discover how Starbucks' explosive success and rapid deflation exemplify American culture at this historical moment. Most importantly, it shows that Starbucks speaks to a deeply felt American need for predictability and class standing, community and authenticity, revealing that Starbucks' appeal lies not in the product it sells but in the easily consumed identity it offers.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94517-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introducing the Starbucks Moment
    (pp. 1-20)

    In January 2009, as the United States waited for a new president to take office and tried to make sense of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression,Esquirepublished a short interview with Alice Cooper. “It used to be said: As GM goes, so goes America,” declared the early shock-rocker and voice behind the anthem “School’s Out.” “Now it’s: As Starbucks goes, so goes America.”¹ Leave it to someone from the cultural realm to detect this larger transformation in the American economy. During GM’s reign as the nation’s financial bellwether, business in the United States revolved around...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Real Coffee
    (pp. 21-57)

    I started my quest to understand Starbucks’ appeal at what the company now bills as its original store, opened, it says, in 1971 in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It is a different kind of place than the Starbucks store on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus, the closest company outlet to my house. Situated at a busy intersection, this two-story, oddly shaped store is decorated, like all Starbucks these days, in natural-looking reds and greens and slightly upscale touches of chrome lights and wide overstuffed chairs. The first store, by contrast, is a plain rectangle. There are no...

  6. CHAPTER II Predictability the Individual Way
    (pp. 58-81)

    In 2004, Mark Woods, a reporter for theJacksonville Times-Union,traveled to Athens, Greece. During the trip, he got into a rhythm. Every morning, he climbed out of bed and went to a café near his hotel for what he called “a thick, gritty, wake-up call—Greek coffee.”

    Several months before Woods arrived in Greece, Starbucks opened its first Athens store. Toward the end of his visit, Woods stopped in at one of the familiar coffeehouses (Jacksonville, his hometown, had sixteen Starbucks when he went overseas)—“not,” as he wrote, because he hadn’t “enjoyed the local beverages, but because I...

  7. CHAPTER III It Looks like a Third Place
    (pp. 82-121)

    Like a lot of people,Boston Globecolumnist and seasoned Starbucks watcher Alex Beam thought Howard Schultz coined the termthird place.He didn’t—retired University of South Florida sociology professor Ray Oldenburg came up with the term to describe sites where people gather other than work or home. Still, it is easy to see why Beam would make this mistake. Every chance he gets, Schultz uses this expression to describe his company’s often busy and bustling stores. When he does so, he makes yet another implicit promise from the brand. He links its outlets to the coffeehouse traditions of...

  8. CHAPTER IV Self-Gifting and Retail Therapy
    (pp. 122-148)

    Fern Berke kept a close watch over her money. She had no choice. Her father is a small-town police officer, and her mother is an office receptionist. They helped out when they could, but Fern mostly put herself through school at the University of Georgia, paying for her apartment, books, and food and keeping up with her car and insurance payments. When she went on spring break or needed a new pair of jeans or car battery, she had to cut back. The jump in gasoline prices after 9/11 and the flaring of tensions in the Middle East meant more...

  9. CHAPTER V Hear Music for Everyday Explorers
    (pp. 149-172)

    In 2006,New York Timescolumnist and linguistics professor Geoffrey Nunberg published a book calledTalking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.Nunberg’s long list captured the attention of NPR media reporter Brooke Gladstone. “Hmm,” she thought, “this sounds like a profile” of her listeners. She set out to see if, in fact, it did fit. Using internal documents, she discovered that while NPR listeners refrained from body piercing, they did like movies and sushi. They were 173 percent more likely than other Americans to buy a...

  10. CHAPTER VI Not-So-Green Cups
    (pp. 173-200)

    Greenhouse gases and green issues did something quite remarkable. They made Al Gore cool. Watching him stride across the national stage as a senator, vice president, and presidential candidate, few thought of him in his staid Brooks Brothers suits and drab red ties as hip. One journalist, in fact, described Gore as a “somber policy wonk” who campaigned for office delivering “bland speeches on lock boxes.” But after Gore lost his bid for the presidency (or, depending on your point of view, hanging chads and the Supreme Court snatched it from him), he underwent a makeover. He went away for...