R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT

Unchained melody
13.April.2008, 7.57 pm
Filed under: coffee, fxhl, life, work | Tags: , , ,

I don’t get out much.

Used to be, whenever there was a “good show” (performance by a band I liked) anywhere within a couple of hours, I gathered a few friends and went. These days, it takes a free performance by Radiohead or something equally rare to get me to a show. It gets me down sometimes… I wonder if I haven’t lost the capacity for spontaneous fun. But it’s part of growing up, I guess… two jobs, a child and a lot of extracurricular nonsense make “spare time” hard to come by.

When I was just starting in college and beginning my life as a rock star, I liked to “chat” with the artists I went to see, when and if I could pull it off. And, invariably, I tried (subconsciously, I think) to steer the conversation toward how I am in a band, too! and attempting to get some sort of verification that I was really someone.

Looking back, I’m certain, the people on the other end of this conversation just wanted to get out.


This is how I feel, nowadays, when people—good, fine people who have no ill intent or hidden agendas—try to talk to me about coffee, particularly ®Starbucks®. It usually starts like this:

Hey Justin, have you heard that ®Starbucks® is doing xxx?

Uh, nope, haven’t heard that. (I attempt a subtle but direct signal of disinterest.)

Yeah! They’re facing competition from xxx and so they’re trying xxx to get back some business!

Oh, that’s interesting. (I attempt, again, to signal that this is, in fact, NOT interesting.)

Well, you know, I went the other day and this new xxx thing is really pretty good!

At this point, if Shelley’s around, she tries to steer the conversation, as Mr. Lebowski would say, “into the mountain.” This rarely works, but shifts the conversation like so:

Oh yeah (snark snark)! I guess I can’t say “®Starbucks®” around  you, huh? (Snark snark!)

No, it’s okay. (I attempt to convey that, just maybe, there is a whole world of things we could talk about vis a vis ®Starbucks® that would illuminate this instigator and somewhat justify my by-this-time-irritated demeanor.)

The conversation ends here, generally… and I get the feeling that both sides go away extremely unhappy. Me, confounded that I had to endure this yet again and pissed off generally with the state of coffee knowledge; the other person, flabbergasted at my aloof demeanor and thinking that I think that I’m better than them.

But that’s not it at all. It’s that, No. 1, as someone in the coffee industry, I don’t really care about a layperson’s perspective on a corporation that is wholly different from my operation, save for the fact that the earthborn product we sell is the same; and No. 2, that the person doesn’t see that ®Starbucks® is in some ways a legitimate threat to my livelihood, that the idea that ®Starbucks® IS COFFEE is a hindrance to what I’m spending my time and hard-earned money (not that of shareholders) on.

I don’t mind that people go to ®Starbucks®. It is what it is, the Wal-Mart of coffee (although the clientelé may be, on average, considerably better dressed), and it’s not likely to disappear anytime soon. It can even be seen as a help to a business like mine, helping move “boutique coffee” into the mainstream. But I’m a husband/father/entrepreneur with considerably meager means… the David to the drive-thru Goliath. I’m out hunting down my business, armed only with the slingshot of a quality product and knowledgable staff, while the big bad wolf is drawing in prey by means of neon signs and slick plastic interiors and genius marketing.

So no, I’m sorry, I’m not all that interested in what ®Starbucks® is doing this week. I don’t go there—and I don’t mind if you do. But I’m too busy trying to provide for my family to think about the neat new ways some rich guys in an office building found to make another penny per cup.


3 Comments so far
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Here here. Support your local businesses. No Starbucks for me.

Comment by Brandon Miles

Seriously though… I am always perplexed at people who don’t get this.

Comment by Brandon Miles

Good post, Justin.

I’ve been Wal-Mart free for 6 years. I’m certain any money I’ve “lost” by purchasing my groceries at a grocery store was made up in the 1,237 hours I’ve saved not 1) waiting in line or 2) roaming around a ginormous warehouse that also has tires and eyeglasses for sale.

I’m glad to say that the only coffee in my house comes from Spencer’s or is given to me as a gift.

On a related note: it’s farmer’s market time again! Yippee!

Comment by Cort

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