Friday, January 25, 2013

Operation Coffee House V

Because of my tight schedule today I had to forgo the regular hipster area of Minneapolis to find my fifth coffee shop and instead settle on one located near one of my free wood supply depots as I'm running short this year on heating wood.  Unfortunately, the closest wood supply depot is in the suburbs which means I'm at a chain coffee store.  Let's just say it starts with an "S" and ends with "arbucks."

However, even though it is cookie cutter coffee I believe visiting at least one of these chains provides me with a control group to compare and contrast against the heavily imbued hipster, uptown, koffee kulture.

First thing is parking.

One of these days the major cities will realize that if they want people to come to the city and spend their money then they should jettison their stupid parking laws and making parking free.  they should also do away with meter maids and make their city (gasp) WELCOMING.  You ever see a "meter maid" in the suburbs?  No, of course not.  This is (in part) why every major metro area in the US is essentially a donut - production, progress and high standards of living surrounding an empty hole of nothing as capital, workers, and innovators escape outwards from the city.  Regardless, I sit here now without the annoying concern in the back of my mind

"Did I read that parking sign right?  What if they write tickets on even number days?  Are there snow emergency restrictions?  What if I get a false ticket (which I have before, Minneapolis will do that when particularly desperate for money).  Is it worth going downtown to argue for $30?"

I can just focus on this fine branch of a monster coffee conglomerate.

Second, the people are obviously better dressed, but they aren't trying.  There is no "theme" to their clothing or fashion.  ONe guy is in a suit and is working furoiusly.  There is a 43 year old woman who was no doubt beautiful in her youth in a sweater and jeans.  Two women dressed for the weather are sharing a conversation, and a high school kid with a letter jacket just walked in.  Even though it is the suburbs, there is no homogeneity, everybody is doing their own thing, have their own personalities, and have their own lives.  But think about that statement.  I'm in the suburbs.  The most compliant, boring, cookie cutter, SWPL culture in western civilization.  And these people STILL have more diversity and non-conformity than their "koffee kulture hipster" counterparts as they aren't trying to "rebel," they're merely living their lives.  Alas, I should perhaps refer to the cool uptown coffee drinkers as "koffee kulture conformists" for that is what they are.

Music has probably been chosen by some marketing genius at Starbuck's HQ as a means to replicate as closely as possible to the underground music played in the city coffee houses.  It sounds similar, but faked.  Then again, I can't tell one touchy feely song sang by an emasculated man from another.  Who knows, maybe the musician I'm listening to right now was one of those underground, local musicians who swore he would never go corporate until Starbucks offered him enough money that he gladly shed the faux-independent musician schtick and took the money. 

The music actually just doesn't fit the people here.  I remember listening to the Tom Leykis archives and he was just REAMING the likes of Starbucks and Caribou about how they overcharge for coffee.  His rant was so effective he got somebody from Starbucks to call him and discuss why they charge so much.  She literally said it was so people could have the "Starbucks Experience."

It just doesn't jibe. 

The inner city coffee houses have a "culture."  The suburbanite chain store doesn't.  It's is merely like the people - functional.  It's a place to stop by, get coffee, work, maybe even socialize, but then inevitably go about their day.  Whatever "experience" Starbucks thinks it's offering doesn't exist.  People came here for a purpose, not to mediate.  This is now confirmed in that half the people who were here no more than 20 minutes ago have left.  Contrast that with the cool koffee kulture, I think there's less than a 10% turnover and I've spent 2 hours at some places.  Those people go there to GO THERE.  They have nothing else to do...though of course, the same could be said of me.

I didn't get the coffee.  I got a diet Coke. 


GW South said...

Excellent post, a real good critique of the Coffee House experience and the different uses of a coffee house.

Christopher Ivey said...

Dear Captain,

I have enjoyed your observations on coffee houses. I love coffee, and basically consume it steadily during the hours when I'm conscious.

Right now I work in an office every day, but for the previous couple of years, I've spent a lot of time working independently, and I've often enjoyed going to a coffee shop to have a destination to work at where I'm surrounded by people.

I quickly learned that downtown coffee shops made a poor destination. They tend to be full of annoying, pretentious people who make a point of carrying on "thoughtful and insightful" conversations at full volume so everyone understands just how hip they are.

They also tend to collect people who camp out for extended periods of time. I can't really find fault with that, since I'm doing the same thing. But the difference is that many of these coffee house denizens aren't quietly working - they're holding court.

I ended up choosing a nearby suburban Starbucks as my default destination, because it was convenient. They have an oversize work table for computer users, and they offer free wifi.

There are still too many hipsters with iPads for my taste, but the overall experience is still more congenial to me than the urban alternative.

I am hopeful that the program director for the Starbucks "music experience" will spend eternity choosing the music for the elevator to hell. In the meantime, I have headphones.

By the way, I actually create stuff with my computer, as opposed to merely consuming entertainment, so I use an overpowered Asus PC about the size and shape of a flag stone. Macs are for twerps.

daniel_ream said...

Did you get to a Tim Horton's while you were in our glorious Dominion? That would be a good example of a coffee shop that's squarely giving suburbanites exactly what they want.

SB7 said...

"Woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity." —Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition

Anonymous said...

For those who take their coffee 'black', Starbucks has the worst coffee on the planet. It's like motor oil.

The 'Starbucks experience' isn't referring to ambiance. It's paying a ridiculous amount to drink a coffee with whip cream and sprinkles, and 80 percent milk and sugar in the rest and pretending a real men drink it.

Joie said...

I never understood the coffee house thing, but then again I am not a coffee connoisseur. I prefer hot water, simple and free and I don't have to leave my house, which I don't do much of anymore unless it is to go to my doc appts. or my studio. Yes, I am alive. ;)

Anonymous said...

What on earth is the problem with Starbuck's charging what the market will bear, isn't that what capitalism is all about? It's entirely voluntary, no one is forcing customers to go there, there are plenty of other places. Here's a thought: as a capitalist if you think Starbuck's coffee is too expensive why don't you fill the gap and open your own place that is cheaper? You're starting to sound like a whining socialist.

Thomas Smith said...

I think Starbucks coffee is great, but I've noticed that their chain employees burn it or somehow fuck it up.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy. Did someone say the Captain is sounding "like a whining socialist"? Can't wait for the comeback to that.

The apparently popular Mocha Vente goes about $4.25? Caveat emptor, Captain!? Never been inside a Starbucks myself - it's that caveat thingy.

beta_plus said...

Starbucks are nice when you have work to do on the weekend but don't want to sit depressed in your apartment.

I actually think the new Blonde Roast is a decent cup of coffee, and their chicken salad sandwich is excellent.

ARoss said...

In Acton Onteribble(Ontario)we have this christian hipster coffee place called the Roxy. While the service and coffee isn't bad, the atmosphere gives off a creepy GAP commercial feel.

Dreamer said...

You probably won't like my argument as it probably sounds like a liberal to you since most people talking about urban planning are liberals. So let me point first that Delusion Damage posted how dead many areas of the US of buildings surrounded by a thousand feet of parking and a thousand more to the next building. Unfortunately he deleted his archive, but I remember he was a known blogger in the manosphere and you might have read that post. Also take a lot of interest in urban planning - like what it takes to have a likable destination people gravitate in a city.

That said, the problem of what you said of making parking completely free is that it is not. Parking cost money by its mere existence because the same parking lot or garage can be used for a building to work or live in. Even ignoring that, it still cost money to maintain - especially a garage which there's no way around but build it. Unless you like the idea of a city of strips malls.

Of course, people need a way to get in the city. Which means a city that have enough supply so rent is not an arm and a leg and a subway system. Which this country haven't been able to do that reasonably since the early 1900's. Doing free parking as you suggested just doesn't work as there's just not enough space and parking is just not free.

heresolong said...

Not sure what the griping is by so many people against Starbucks. I wonder how much of it is just anti-successful-business-model. I hit Starbucks about once a week (the rest of the week I brew my own). I find their coffee to be excellent, every Starbucks I've been to has had the same outstanding quality and service (unlike corner coffee shops where it's hit or miss), and I like the atmosphere as a good place to sit and get some work done or read a book if that is what I need to do. I've never had a bad experience there.

As far as price goes, it is expensive, but no more expensive than any other coffee shop that specializes in the latte type beverages.