Mankind's only alternative 29   NOV.   21  
Mankind's only alternative
War Nerd RSS
MAIN  RUSSIA  WAR NERD   [SIC!]  BAR-DAK  THE VAULT  ABOUT US  RSS
 
 
EXILE BLOGS

The Fall of The eXile For all those wondering what the "Save The eXile Fundrasier" banner is all about, here it is as simply as it can be phrased: The eXile is shutting down.
June 11, 2008 in eXile Blog

War Nerd: War of the Babies in Taki's Magazine The War Nerd talks about babies, the greatest weapon of the 20th century.
May 28, 2008 in eXile Blog

Kids, Meet Your President A website for Russian kids to learn all about President Medvedev's passion for school, sports and family.
May 22, 2008 in eXile Blog

Cellphone Democracy Cam If this girl was exposed to Jeffersonian democracy...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Dyev Photos Yet another hot Russian babe imitating the Catpower look...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

Proof That Genetic Memory Is Real! Sure, the Ottomans shut down the Istanbul Slavic slave markets centuries ago...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Russia's Orthodox Church Youth Outreach Program The priest is going, "Father Sansei is very impressed with grasshopper Sasha’s...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Club Photos w/Russian Dyevs We took the Pepsi Challenge here...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Blogs RSS feed

Russia September 28, 2007
 
The Green Mermaid Wades Ashore
Starbucks and the coming Moscow coffee wars By Alexander Zaitchik Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 4
 

Even without any weighty post-Soviet symbolism, the Starbucks Russia story still has three compelling components. First is the legal back-story in which a sly and shadowy Moscow character battled the might Seattle giant for rights to the name, delaying the opening for years. Second is the ongoing culture-defying story of Starbuck's global Blob-like invasion of every corner of the globe, including countries with millennia old tea habits. The third angle is the fact that, despite having 15 years to figure it out, Russia's native coffee chains still have no idea how make and serve good coffee.

Over the last 15 years, Russia's middle-class has traveled widely enough to learn the difference between good coffee and bad. Which is why almost every Russian I know is rooting against Moscow's largest native chains: Kofe Haus and Shokolodnitsa. Some have told me they wished Starbucks had gotten here earlier, so it wouldn't be facing so many obstacles to rapid expansion in the center (high rents, scarce space, fully entrenched competition, etc.) Summing up the feelings of the capital's laptop toting professional class is the Moscow design studio Art Lebedev, which posted a Starbucks sign on its blog, above the message: "Dear Starbucks! Do what you have to do to put Kofe House and Shokoloditsa to death."

If you're a Western reader, you may be thinking, Wait-isn't Starbucks ... evil? Aren't there websites (Starbucked.com being only the most famous) devoted to explaining how Starbucks is destroying local indie cafes in college towns across America, exploiting poor bean growers and pickers in the Third World, and crushing union activity in its stores, all the while posing as a "new breed" of enlightened corporation in which sky-high profits go hand in hand with social responsibility?

I used to think Starbucks was as evil as corporations got. It started when Starbucks opened up in my native Boston opposite the 1369 Cafe, a great coffeehouse named after its address on Massachusetts Avenue. Starbucks landed just as the corporatization of the neighborhood was gathering steam, and there were daily protests in which activists handed out pamphlets explaining that the official Starbucks development model is to set up multiple stores right next to independent community coffee shops, then squeeze the life out of them, python-like. How could anyone doubt this was the strategy, since they always seemed to pop up in neighborhoods that already had cafes? As Starbucks became increasingly ubiquitous, the company became easier and easier to hate. I wasn't offended when the Black Bloc chucked a brick through a Starbucks window during the 1999 Seattle WTO protests, and I laughed nervously when the Onion reported in 2001, "After a decade of aggressive expansion throughout North America and abroad, Starbucks suddenly and unexpectedly closed its 2,870 worldwide locations Monday to prepare for what company insiders are calling 'Phase Two' of the company's long-range plan."

But more than 10 years later, 1369 is still there. And it's thriving. So are thousands of indie cafes that everyone thought were going to disappear under the green mermaid's fangs. Just as corner delis have survived 50 years of McDonald's, so there will always be enough oxygen for independent community cafes. The fact is Starbucks poses no threat to Moscow's dozens of independently owned Austrian-style sit-down cafes. The only ones who have anything to fear are the chains who should have been put out of their misery years ago.

Still, there are other criticisms to make of Starbucks, even if chairman Howard Schultz isn't quite the liberal poser anti-Christ some people think. Over the years Starbucks has been nailed for loudly overstating the company's commitment to Fair Trade beans and environmental standards. And I know for a fact that the company is anti-union, despite the obnoxious company policy of calling its employees "partners." When a friend of mine started a cafe and bookstore in Flatbush, Brooklyn, one of his first employees was a young woman named Sarah Bender, who made local headlines after she was fired by Starbucks on the spot for attempting to unionize her fellow baristas. "Partnership" has its limits.


SHARE:  Del.icio.us  Digg  My Web  Facebook  Reddit
Zaitchik
Browse author
Alexander Zaitchik is an editor at The eXile. Email him at zaitchik@gmail.com
 
 
FROM THE VAULT

That 90s Sham(Part 2) : 90 Reasons to Hate the 90s
Trolleybus Conductor
Field Guide To Moscow: Exactora Minuta :

CHEESE VENTS TODAY: Summer Fashion Guide : Something's Afoot In Putin's Russia

Solidarity Forever! :
 

 
 
 
LATEST ARTICLES

Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
Editorial
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
[SIC!]
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
[SIC!]
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...

 
 
 

    MAIN    |    RUSSIA    |    WAR NERD     |    [SIC!]    |    BAR-DAK    |    THE VAULT    |    ABOUT US    |    RSS

© "the eXile". Tel.: +7 (495) 623-3565, fax: +7 (495) 623-5442
E-mail: office@exile.ru