Thursday, July 22, 2010

Starbucks Still Sucks



As a reformed supporter of Starbucks I can not even set foot in one of those horrific stores again. I feel sorry for the employees. Cold, heartless and void of soul Corporate poses mightily. Having worked there for the better part of two years I heard awful stories of oppression and ridiculousness that had me in shock. My local Starbucks fired the manager who let me come in and play guitar because he gave away food to the homeless. No one eats that Starbucks pre-packaged food and instead of throwing it out the manager donated it to a food bank. He lost his job over that.

The hoops we had to go through in order for me to strum my guitar, unplugged and for free at their Coffee shop was laughable. District and regional approval was eventually granted from on high, and I endured two years of ignorant behavior by the staff and customers. Try playing in front of people who in reality want to be left alone in their safe bubbles. Try having to remind them to turn the pre-canned music off every week as if they had no idea who I was. I'm sorry but that is not how you create community.

There was an element of community at this particular Starbucks and we tried mightily to foster it but it never grew beyond the employees parents and a few wiser middle aged folk. To be sure we had our fun, children danced and sang along. I learned Christmas tunes for the holidays and even had people holding up phones as I sang and played. I learned a lot and even had patrons wondering if I was warming up for my gig to open for James Taylor (LOL).

They had a game group another night and me on Tuesday nights but at the end of the day these places are built without soul.

They seem to attract posers. People dipping their toe into the community but never talking amongst themselves or even making eye contact with each other.

Quite frankly it was weird. To be fair this is not a blanket indictment of people trying to do their own thing or coming in and out for coffee. Far from it because the casual Starbucks patron is clueless as to what goes on behind the scenes and the employees can't talk about it or bye-bye. I would safely say 70 percent of the people visiting Starbucks are closed off to personal contact. It is a safe haven for them to come and still be alone. There were also a lot of pyramid scheme salesmen who used this particular Starbucks to rope in their unsuspecting victims one at a time. That was sad.

The whole Starbucks mantra, theme and image is one of community, environment, fair trade and cool music heros - well it's green washing in the most horrid sense. Over priced merchandise and licensing contracts require them to play the music.

That's right all those cool Starbucks CD's that imply Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan are all down with Starbucks - nope guess again. It's not an endorsement although that is implied with the whole Starbucks only angle. Rest assured its a business deal to get their music out to as many potential high end shoppers with disposable incomes as possible. Who else can afford hyper priced coffee and cd's?

They have strict licensing contracts that Starbucks employees fearfully follow. In other words there wouldn't be "cool" Starbucks music if there weren't locked down tight licensing agreements forcing the music to played (over and over and over again).

You don't notice it because you are running in and out for coffee or staying an hour tops.

I could go into the lousy treatment I got from some of the Starbucks employees. Their total cluelessness about live performances, and lack of support despite my generosity of time and talent. Even with a huge deck out front they managed to co-op my time slot for an open mic and eliminate my gig (after the original manager was fired).

Prior to that there was a moment of hope for Starbucks. Now they have their open mic and speakers all plugged in everywhere and changed the whole non-intrusive acoustic only vibe into an in your face production sucking up electricity. You can bring your friends of course but no one is listening and still the people who stay largely want to be left alone.

Starbucks is a weird vortex of fraud courtesy of Corporate America and somehow the people feel it because in reality it is a cold, sterile environment. Oh that's the other thing - in an effort to get you to drink more coffee they run the air conditioning at super freezing temperatures. I kid you not there were some nights my hands were too cold to clamp down on the chords cleanly. The employees all complained about it but the Hitler corporate gods have zero tolerance when it comes to their brilliant business plan.

Go local not only for your veggies and food but for your coffee as well and visit your community coffee shop. I've made the switch. They turn down the music as soon as I arrive and are happy to see me. There are really interesting people there as well including poets, authors, and just regular folks trying to build a community and succeeding.

Fired the manager for donating the unwanted food to the homeless - unbelievable.

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