Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Starbucks, McDonalds, and Going Home

Over at the Cyber Hacienda Jaime has a great post putatively proclaiming Starbucks to be the "21st century McDonalds." But I think even more importantly the post serves as a reflection on change and personal history and the fluctuating yet permanent nature of the modern economy. And also how Starbucks is a good place for writers to work when on the road.

I would also add that the one huge difference between Starbucks and McDonalds is that Starbucks managed to help develop a coffee culture in America by taking a product that millions used, making it more sophisticated but also accessible, and charging a lot more for it than people would pay at Dunkin' Donuts. Seattle's greatest 90's-era contribution to the zeitgeist turned out not to be Nirvana and the grunge music but rather a business model that made people happily fork over insane amounts of cash for an espresso-based drink. McDonalds flourished by doing the opposite -- by making something that everybody loved and by doing it cheaply. And McDonald's is an unfathomably bad place to try to get writing done, which points out the other huge difference: Atmosphere. Starbucks has cultivated it. Yes, it's got a Starbucks-homogeneous feel to it, but in some circles that's simply known as branding.

(Some time ago I wrote a long post sort of defending Starbucks that is probably one of my top-five favorite of my blog entries of all time.)

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