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What Starbucks Says About Society: "Everything but the Coffee"

Updated on September 28, 2009

Another Starbucks book will be released this October 2009! Now, now. Before anyone gears up for the collective groan, hear me out. This book is not another business success story. This book is also not another how-to book on making coffee-hiked drinks. The book is titled "Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks", and the author is history professor Bryant Simon. After Simon visited 425 Starbucks coffeeshops in nine different countries, he used his eye-witness Starbucks accounts to tell us what he thinks is wrong with modern society.

Corporate coffee chains affecting our social habits.
Corporate coffee chains affecting our social habits.
Coffee critic Bryant Simon
Coffee critic Bryant Simon

What Starbucks' culture says about society

In the book, Simon launches a rather interesting inquiry to make rather thought-provoking deductions. Simon says that his book offers " a public debate about what our purchases mean […] (and) how consumption shapes our lives even when we don't intend it to."

Simon witnesses in all these Starbucks that there is a lack of community. He calls the experience isolating. People primarily go to Starbucks to get great coffee, and the shops itself aren't conducive to meeting, talking, discussing with other coffee-drinkers. Simon says that he'd like to see a coffeeshop with round table and piles of newspapers, which he believes would help coffee-drinkers start debating and discussing.

Simon concedes that he enjoys the coffee products and he enjoys the décor of most Starbucks shops. It's simply what Starbucks makes its customers do that Simon dislikes. It’s a contention with the Starbucks' community's behavior that he dislikes.

What are your thoughts on the insights and debate that Simon draws from his experiences in Starbucks? Do you believe that a changeup of café style and design could actually change human behavior? Or do you think that the behavior witnessed in these Starbucks is simply a manifestation of what society is today, and there is no chance of changing this? I wonder if Simon drew from a larger pool of coffee drinking habits, would he witness different behaviors or would he witness more positive behavior?

Cup of coffee enjoyed at home.
Cup of coffee enjoyed at home.

What about your coffee habits?

Do you prefer to chat while you drink coffee? What kinds of topics do you usually discuss? Work? Life's triumphs and trials? World event or greater world problems? Do you prefer to drink coffee at home? With friends? Alone? What kind of coffee behavior have you witnessed and what do you think this says about our modern society?

From my personal experience I know many people have turned from overpriced, but amazingly tasty drinks that sold in coffeehouses. Many of my friends use energy efficient, no waste brewers like Keurig brewers to create coffee at home. I usually drink coffee on my own, but if I do invite friends over for a chat, coffee is usually our choice of stimulant. If you drink coffee at home, what's your favored brew method and what does this say about your habits and contributions to society? Do you usually chat or drink alone?

Celebrities Mary Kate Olsen and Lindsay Lohan grabbing coffee on the run.
Celebrities Mary Kate Olsen and Lindsay Lohan grabbing coffee on the run.

Your Response to Coffee Critic Simon

Do you agree with Simon's idea that Starbucks hinders a sense of community?

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Your Coffee Habits

Do you feel a sense of community when drinking coffee at home?

See results

Tell us about your coffee habits and what you think it says about society!

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    • globalcoffeegrind profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Awesome to hear! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to find a place like this some day. But.. I'm wary of places that are "chock full of nuts"! :D

    • lmmartin profile image


      9 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Many years ago, on a business trip to New York City, I wandered into a place called Chock full of Nuts. This coffee bar pinned the pages of the daily paper on the wall so that as customers stood (no chairs) at the coffee bar all around the room, they read and talked. I don't know if it still exists, but I have never been anywhere like it. The place was indeed chock full of nuts, but they were all talking to each other about whatever the issues of the day.


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