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Editorials and Opinions

Starbucks: to pay, or not to pay?

By Hattie Gawande and Jarrett Gorin
Published: October 2010

The other day we walked into a Starbucks for a little overpriced, overrated goodness and came up short. We were flabbergasted.
Our formerly modestly populated Waban Starbucks was packed with South students, most of whom were not from the area, implying that they were there because they genuinely wanted to, and not just for the convenience.
We were bewildered and then suspicious: what was our little neighborhood café chain doing to attract teenagers?
We knew they had to be up to something. After all, as they say, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck.
In other words, if Starbucks looked like it was using underhanded tactics to lure teenagers’ wallets to their dooms, then it probably was.
Now, it probably sounds like we’re jumping to conclusions. We teenagers like sugary drinks, and we like to hang out with friends.
Throw in a little background music, maybe a sofa or two, and we’re in heaven. Why wouldn’t Starbucks be the place for us?
Well, there is one main reason: Starbucks is expensive with a capital ‘ËœE’.
And, in our experience, teenagers usually have less money than more.
Going out with friends is a serious drain on the savings. Since not going out is simply not an option, one should think that students would try to conserve their funds and go somewhere cheaper’€Dunkin Donuts, for example. Why, then, are they crowding their local Starbucks’?
We, knowing that it was our patent duty to get to the bottom of this, decided to find out.
Our theory was that the Starbucks logo essentially functions like the Apple logo: one look and you need whatever it is they’re advertising. It’s like hypnotism.
Thousand dollar laptop? No sweat. Five buck coffee? Not a problem. Take one look at all the people sitting in the windows of Starbucks with their MacBooks and cappuccinos and you know that there’s a link between the two companies.
So, we did a little research, conducted a few interviews, and found out that we were… wrong. However, the results were still interesting.
Among the people that we talked to, there are two main factors in Starbucks’ popularity.
The first is atmosphere. Starbucks is the master of creating an atmosphere that lures you in’€and keeps you there.
Instead of the garish color schemes of Dunkin Donuts (magenta? orange?!) they go for relaxed colors. Wood floors and a thankful lack of fluorescent lighting complete the picture.
If that doesn’t say “Come in, buy some expensive coffee, and stay awhile, we don’t know what does.
Second is that you can order almost whatever you want at Starbucks.
In all seriousness, you can order anything from a regular coffee to a double ristretto venti nonfat organic chocolate brownie frappuccino extra hot with foam and whipped cream upside down double blended.
Or a cookie or a sandwich.
You don’t even have to like coffee, you just have to be willing to shell out too much money, which everyone does.
Basically, our findings told us that Starbucks is duping teenagers not with quality, but by imitating a European café, which hypnotizes them into Starbucks-obsessed freaks.
They’re too awed by the fact that they’re ordering a coffee in a size so coolly (and, in our opinion, annoyingly) called ‘Ëœventi’ that they don’t even realize that they’re paying more than they should to get it.
Wake up, South. And don’t smell the coffee.

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