I have been a fan of Starbucks for more than a decade. I like and need good strong coffee in the morning. And I like it consistently. When I travel it is good to stumble upon something familiar when it comes to my cup of joe. I like Peet’s Coffee even more.
I remember laughing with a friend in Vienna one day in 2007 when I had arrived and he told me they now had a Starbucks. Vienna, known for its world-class coffee houses, caved in to the American persuasion. Then two days later I found myself in Starbucks getting a full cup of coffee, and I returned every day when possible. I simply cannot wake up to a demitasse of espresso. Have tried and failed. I need a full cup of steaming hot coffee alerting my senses to a new day.
Of course, each Starbucks has its own little peculiar elements that individualize it out of the corporate system. Here in Rehoboth Beach there are three Starbucks stores, including one in a Safeway supermarket that I have never patronized. The other two I frequent as convenience allows: one is downtown where parking meters are 50% higher per hour than Miami, and the other is on coastal highway Route 1.
Suffice it to say that I like to work outside the home and do so often while enjoying my morning coffee. But I seem to have been seeing — or hearing — what appears to be a corporate trend among stores. You can find related articles to the subject online.
What happened to ambiance? Admittedly, the Starbucks in downtown Rehoboth Beach is terrific, with two separate seating areas, one that has several comfortable chairs — including two large leather ones — and background music that does not interfere with much. The Starbucks on the highway, however, has music that drives through to the bone.
We’ve mentioned it, we’ve complained, we’ve gone elsewhere. But still, on return, the same thing. Even though they may be tuned to the Starbucks Network, it seems they have a desire to drive the customer away. Get in, then get the fuzz out.
Apart from a few interesting people who habituate the place as either worker or patron despite the horrendous noise levels, the atmosphere is stark, germane, uninviting. And I do what I have to using a quality pair of Klipsch noise-canceling ear buds. But the music gets in while the entire space itself does not have to be violated at the level of intensity loud music affords, or does it?
I mean, all I really want to do from the moment I open my laptop is turn it off. So…. if I sit down with coffee to work, my goal is to complete that work as soon as possible and leave. That should be fair enough, despite the face that I teach online and my courses are asynchronous, so no holdup there.
If I cannot do what I have to do, I have to relocate to set things up again from my Internet connection to my equipment, etc. That means I may have to make two trips to do what I used to do in one. IF I insist on having coffee in one of the Starbucks stores designed to get you in and get you out.
I go to Panera and small coffee shops not chained, and it helps some. And I know I am not alone in this transition, but the coffee is often too weak for me. Let’s face it, the coffee is not the same brewed at home, and those of us who have worked from home over the past couple of decades know how difficult it is to get anything done there due to familial distractions.
So the love affair with Starbucks seems to be winding down. From the manipulations to buy the music and foo-foo drinks to the bold and outright repetition of specific audio selections that shoot through your brain while you are trying to talk to the person next to you, it isn’t working.
At least, for picky consumers who seek a comfortable ambiance. How’s it doing for the corporation? Quantity over quality does not seem to be affecting the product yet, though I have never found half-and-half to be so watery in the past as it is now (and they got me hooked on it, being non-GMO).
So perhaps the get in and get out crowd is cool with the whole approach and squatters the only ones disturbed, as, again, I am not alone but have spoken with a lot of other Starbucks customers who are equally aware of the loud music factor and how it remains problematic for them.
A friend from the highway store told me today she would not share my image above because she likes Starbucks and does not want some kind of reprisal from them. Well, sometimes we have to risk our comfort — or in this case, discomfort — in order to be heard a little more loudly. If nothing more, louder than the speakers blaring overhead.
And that’s a wrap.