It’s not a stretch to say that Starbucks has altered American culture. But with such far-reaching, sociologically significant effects came a host of myths and counter-myths about Starbucks. Here are five.
Before Starbucks took off in the 1990s, and before the period when it opened a new store somewhere in the world every six hours, coffee in America was just coffee, a cup of joe, and it came in a porcelain mug or a spongy foam cup in straightforward sizes of small, medium and large. Starbucks changed the beverages we drink, when and where we drink them, what they taste like, how much we consume and even their temperature. Meanwhile, its stores became the nation’s second living room, meeting place and study hall. It’s not a stretch to say that Starbucks has altered American culture. But with such far-reaching, sociologically significant effects came a host of myths and counter-myths about Starbucks. Here are five.
Myth No. 1: Starbucks puts local coffee shops out of business.
Starbucks’s “only goal,” an essay in the Huffington Post insisted, is “to grow and expand as quickly as possible, so that eventually all mom and pop businesses get edged out.” This writer isn’t alone in suspecting the company’s motives. In 2008, Starbucks settled an antitrust lawsuit in Seattle that charged it with passing out samples of its habit-forming, sugary drinks in front of rival coffee shops and strong-arming landlords into not leasing space to competitors.
It’s true that competing against Starbucks isn’t easy. The coffee giant scoops up the best locations and drives up real estate prices for independents, making them do business along less-trafficked streets and in out-of-the-way locations.
But the chain’s rivals are doing just fine. Today there are 13,327 Starbucks stores across the United States. That’s a lot, but according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, there were 31,490 independent coffee shops in 2015, up from 1,650 in 1990. In the past decade alone, 10,000non-chain stores have opened. As J.D. Merget, co-owner of Oslo Coffee in Brooklyn,observed, “Starbucks is good enough to get them addicted” so the artisanal shops can “take them beyond that” with fair-trade coffee, single-origin pour-overs and comfier couches.
Myth No. 2: Starbucks is a worker-friendly company.
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