Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks

Synopsis

Everything but the Coffee casts a fresh eye on the world's most famous coffee company, looking beyond baristas, movie cameos, and Paul McCartney CDs to understand what Starbucks can tell us about America. Bryant Simon visited hundreds of Starbucks around the world to ask, Why did Starbucks take hold so quickly with consumers? What did it seem to provide over and above a decent cup of coffee? Why at the moment of Starbucks' profit-generating peak did the company lose its way, leaving observers baffled about how it might regain its customers and its cultural significance? Everything but the Coffee probes the company's psychological, emotional, political, and sociological power to discover how Starbucks' explosive success and rapid deflation exemplify American culture at this historical moment. Most importantly, it shows that Starbucks speaks to a deeply felt American need for predictability and class standing, community and authenticity, revealing that Starbucks' appeal lies not in the product it sells but in the easily consumed identity it offers.

Excerpt

In January 2009, as the United States waited for a new president to take office and tried to make sense of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, Esquire published a short interview with Alice Cooper. “It used to be said: As GM goes, so goes America,” declared the early shock-rocker and voice behind the anthem “School’s Out.” “Now it’s: As Starbucks goes, so goes America.” Leave it to someone from the cultural realm to detect this larger transformation in the American economy. During GM’s reign as the nation’s financial bellwether, business in the United States revolved around production, employment, and consumption—making things, creating good jobs, and selling big-ticket items. While Starbucks would never matter as much as GM—it never generated as much income, employed as many people, or sustained as many related industries—it was equally emblematic. During the days that the nation moved in tandem with Starbucks and latte sales, the American economy turned almost entirely on buying alone, not the trio of production, jobs, and purchasing. Through this epoch, buying drove the nation’s economic engine, and even more, it shaped the daily lives, identities, and emotions of the country’s citizenry.

During the years that America went as Starbucks went, a period spanning roughly 1992 to 2007, most business analysts remained tied to the . . .

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