Why I Gave Up on Starbucks

Why I Gave Up on Starbucks

I used to be a huge fan of Starbucks.  The first time I walked into a Starbucks, I was mesmerized by the wonderful smell of coffee, the abundance of comfy, upholstered chairs and couches, the beautiful smiling baristas serving a tasty Mocha with a huge smile and a meaningful “How are you today?”

Things clearly change over time.  Unfortunately, Starbucks has become the very corporation that they saved us from so many years ago.

1. Now, you walk into a store and smell chemicals. 

2. Now, the abundant comfy furniture and carpet have been replaced by hard chairs, tiled floors and if lucky, one or two arm chairs.

3. Now the original Starbucks Gold club card that I enjoyed 10% discount, free drink customization, wifi, and other perks, has slowly been dismantled to simply be a frequent buyer’s card.  The latest nail in Starbucks coffin is the introduction of wifi to the general masses that doesn’t even work.   Clearly Starbucks gave out and decided they couldn’t, slowly taking the perks away without offering anything innovative in return…  my loyalty is rewarded with a frequent buyer’s card.

4. Now the “How are you today?” is no longer sincere.  Drinks are rarely presented with a smile. Instead, we see overworked Baristas trying hard to keep up with demand, yelling names out even though you are standing right in front of them.

5. Now the music is odd and doesn’t inspire productivity.  Before, we were treated to jazz, but today, something folkie and modern, played WAY too loud.  When I step into Starbucks,  I don’t want to step into a folk music concert.

6. Getting help is about the manager.  Before, Baristas took some of the responsibility and resolved issues quickly and happily.  Now, we are told to wait for the manager who doesn’t always know the answer.

7. Instant coffee from the company that saved us from instant coffee?  Yes, it is true and while I was taken aback by its introduction, the truth is that it is quite good.   Innovation can be good, but I still can’t quite get over instant coffee at Starbucks when they awakened the masses to freshly brewed coffee.

8. Starbucks wants to serve wine.  If this is true, I will never return to a Starbucks location.  To walk into a store and smell wine while sipping my coffee is only going to be an unpleasant experience.  I recall being stuck on a flight from Frankfurt to Dulles, next to a woman who constantly consumed red wine.  The smell of the wine made me want to vomit.  Starbucks, please, please, please don’t do yourself more damage and make me smell wine when I drink coffee.

Clearly the Starbucks experience has changed as all corporations do. Starbucks has joined the ranks of McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza in the quest to deliver a mass produced product in a sterilized environment as quickly as possible.  Innovation took a backseat to replicating the fast food experience.

The very core of the Starbucks experience has been stripped away by corporate investors and rewarded with non-innovative frequent buyer’s cards.    There is nothing new and innovative here and I must give up on Starbucks to deliver what it mastered so well, a welcoming experience to enjoy coffee in and be productive that rewarded my loyalty.

The French Press – Santa Barbara, CA

Paid a visit to The French Press, located at Figueroa and State Streets in Santa Barbara, CA.  This particular slender, yet long location has always had a coffee shop of some sort occupying it.  The new occupant is a nice refreshing take on the modern, upscale coffee shop.  The light colored walls, mild hard wood floors and dark hard wood counter have a nice comforting feel.  Even the metal tables and chairs out front with desert scape plant center pieces offers a sharp contrast to the cozy interior, yet is inviting to the eye. 

While this establishment does not offer any plush seating, the high quality coffee, yummy pastries, and soothing atmosphere definitely make up for it.  I will gladly spend more time enjoying their offerings and hope you will too!

The French Press
1101 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
805.963.2721

Yelp Review Page

(please note, I am not affiliated with The French Press in any way.  I am a Santa Barbara resident that loves to coffee shop hop around town in search of great coffee, atmosphere, and plush seating!)

Java Station – Plush Seating, Great Music, Great!

Hi All,

I am here at the Java Station in Santa Barbara (review: http://bit.ly/zA4BA). I have to say that I am impressed with the amount of plush seating surfaces, including to giant couches, about a dozen arm chairs, including a reclining la-z-boy. They even have an enormous fireplace, plenty of tables, outdoor seating, and free wifi. At the moment, the music is quite nice; a baroque classical selection that sounds like it may be local radio. Nice touch!

I ordered a large iced coffee and an orange, cranberry muffin. The iced coffee is a little weak, but tolerable. However, the perfectly moist and not too sweet muffin rocks. WHile I was ordering they had some pretty mean looking brisket they were prepping for catering. One gentleman ordered a beautiful avocado, cheese, and tomato on toast that looked as if it was out of Sunset Magazine.

Overall, Java Station is a far cry from the stuffy old mattress salesroom that occupied this same space almost ten years ago. Perhaps I am happy the mattress sales business went belly up as Java Station is a great place to kick back and relax. I will hold off on an official rating until I visit a few more times, but I am looking forward to coming back… especially if the awesome classical is still playing.

Cheers,

Aric
Out and About in Santa Barbara

Where Are the Couches and Coffee in Santa Barbara?

Ever since I started my so called "vacation" this week, I find myself visiting a variety of coffee shops throughout the Santa Barbara area.  However, visits to certain coffee shops have been limited in duration because of seating material.  Hard wood chairs are notorious for their lack of comfort after a period of time. In fact, things can get quite tortuous in the area of the bum without proper padding.  But it seems that most coffee shops have turned toward hard surfaces, such as wood, and digressed from the more comfortable, plush couches and arm chairs.

Here is a little history of me and coffee houses.   I grew up in the age of the up and coming mom & pop coffee shops that offered giant couches in which to enjoy the coffee drink and pastry of your choice.  In fact, I frequented a variety of these establishments with my mom, a talented blues musician who hosted many open mic nights.  All of these establishments featured large, overstuffed couches that were fabulous for kicking back and even catching a snooze.  As I got older, the couches seemed to get smaller, but the experience of kicking back on a nice comfy couch never wavered.  Entering into college back east, the couch became an appointment part of my studies, spending many cold, winter nights with books and notebooks on the couch at the corner coffee shop with the roaring fireplace. Yes, couches, coffee, and I go way back.

Jumping forward to last week, I started to think about the lack of plush seating in many area coffee shops.  While I am sure there are numerous business reasons for ridding coffee shops of plush seating, there is simply something missing.  It is almost as if coffee shops have become less intimate, sterile, fast food institutions that offer a perception of character, but leave you hanging when you actually try and find it.  

So, I have to ask, where in Santa Barbara can I go to enjoy a coffee on a couch?   I think this is the true purpose of my vacation.  To wake Santa Barbarans up to the fact that their town is lacking one important ingredient… a mom and pop coffee shop complete with fireplace, couch, homemade pastries and baristas that know your name (Look out Norm, Aric is hitting the town!).

The first step in proving the missing ingredient really is missing is simple: inventory all of the existing coffee shops, their amenities, atmospheres, etc to see which existing shop comes close.  If one does not come close enough, then I must challenge someone with enough capital to create such a place. 

Well, there it is, the beginning of a project to discover the coffee shops of Santa Barbara!