No Half-Caf No-Foam Venti Cap for You!

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Starbucks feels the pinch.

Starbucks feels the pinch. Source: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Source: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It's official: Starbucks is closing 600 stores across the U.S. I find it absolutely fascinating, and lack the historical memory to think of an analogous situation. Simply put, Starbucks is polarizing. I remember when 'Bucks moved into my college town. Athens, GA, when I was there, was a town proud of its local, independent coffee. We had a variety of choices, and I visited each coffehouse depending on my mood. When I wanted to get some fake studying done, I went to the hyper-social Blue Sky, right on College Avenue. I was always sure to run into a few people I knew there, and it was my favorite for a long time. Jittery Joe's had three locations I frequented — the one by the 40 Watt, where I was likely to run into some cute skaters; the dark, cozy, intellectual one in 5 Points where heavy tapestries soaked up the aroma of coffee so thoroughly that an actual mug of the stuff was just a bonus; and the converted church that contained the roaster for the empire, where I "studied" with friends, our laughter bouncing off the wooden beams high on the ceiling. Have I convinced you, yet, that I love a local coffeehouse? So when Starbucks moved in just a few doors from Blue Sky, I moaned and groaned the the best of 'em. OH, "the man" is coming to kill our indies, blah blah blah. But you know what? I'm not sure that is what killed them. And I've read that in some areas, Starbucks may have fostered a coffee culture that actually supported and encouraged the independent shops. So, sure. Some die-hards will cheer the closing of 600 outposts of the evil empire. But elsewhere, folks are banding together to save their Starbucks. What do you think about Starbucks? Do you have one nearby? Do you go? And if your local is one that's closing, are you upset about it?

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Every single day, I get my triple grande extra foam caramel macchiato. I will truly miss the atmosphere provided at starbucks stores. The employees are always friendly and pride themselves on customer service. They ask me everyday how my family is and make small talk.

Christopher Salyer in Granger Indiana

Sent by Christopher Salyer | 3:46 PM | 7-23-2008

To answer the question from the top of the segment: "what does starbucks mean to your neighbourhood"? I'd have to say it means nothing. Fortunately I live in "coffee nirvana south", Portland Or. So there's at least half a dozen independent coffee houses within 15 minutes walk from my home.

Sent by Fred Greatorex | 3:47 PM | 7-23-2008

Seriously, don't these people have anything real to complain about? Watch the news, read the internet, there's so much going wrong in the world to care about besides over priced frufru drinks. Give me a break!

Sent by Suzie | 3:50 PM | 7-23-2008

Wow... this is only a shock to me, because we're having to discuss it. Maybe it's just me (or my city), but here in Portland, we have the richest community of coffee shops that pride itself on being individual and independent (as opposed to the corporate dominated chain known as starbucks).

Portland is proud and I'm sure the majority of us here are not affected by this.

Sent by Eric H. | 3:50 PM | 7-23-2008

In St. Louis, where I live, Starbucks is not the only coffee house in town. We have at least two very fine independently owned coffee houses here which roast their own beans and have numerous locations around town. As often as possible, I give them my business over Starbucks. I have no idea if any Starbucks in St. Louis will be closing and frankly, I'm not sure it matters to me.

Sent by Nancy Bristol | 3:50 PM | 7-23-2008

Sorry to disagree but I DO NOT find any consistency in their product. The worse latte I ever had was prepared by an owner in Highland Park, Ill.

Sent by C L Connelly | 3:51 PM | 7-23-2008

the ubiquitous Starbuck's never really mattered to me per se--i'm practiced at the art of driving by coffeeshops, as i love my own home blend too much to vary.

enter "MyPoints"--which is a site giving participants "points" for visiting other websites. you can redeem the points for gift cards--and Starbucks gift cards don't cost a lot of points.

so this summer i began to hit the Starbucks closest to my office once a week or so. it was amazing how habit-forming it became (i quickly became hooked on the Strawberry Frappuccio). i lost one of my gift cards (i have gotten 3-$10 cards in the past 2 months) felt unbelievably depressed--even tried to get it re-issued so i wouldn't have to wait for the next one to come in the mail!

however--whenever i feel myself becoming too attached to a product, i usually start weaning myself of it (this includes my own home blend of coffee....). so, i stopped going because it was becoming such a charged activity.

it hurt for awhile, but now i am happy to say that i'm free of the need to visit the Starbucks.

Sent by Taza Guthrie | 3:52 PM | 7-23-2008

I am sorry to say that 2 Starbucks closing in Portland Oregon will not even cause an eyelid to bat where we have over a hundred Starbucks coffee houses in this city. However, it is a good venue to find the New York Times newspaper. In downtown you are never more than a couple blocks from one of perhaps several dozen Starbucks stores in Portland.

Portland has perhaps more private coffee houses than any other city in America, of which many have coffee that is locally roasted daily and surpasses the Starbucks quality immensely!

Mark,
Portland Oregon

Sent by Mark Seibold | 3:53 PM | 7-23-2008

Having just moved from Seattle, where Starbucks honed their rapid growth model, I am not surprised to hear they are closing some stores. Here in the Northwest, there are Starbucks stores across the street from one another & often 2 in the same strip mall. Having just opened our own small, independent coffee shop called Speedboat Coffee in Portland Oregon, my wife & I are happy to know a new Starbuck will not likely be opening across the street from us to steal 1/2 of our traffic. The space directly across from us was for lease until recently & the word on the street was that Starbuck's had leased it. We were relieved to find out they changed their mind & a pizza place went in. What surprises me most though, is that your guests & callers should be trying to support their local shop owners rather than wasting the effort to persuade Sarbucks to keep stores losing money open. It makes no sense. Support the locals!
Thanks,
David Kelly
Portland

Sent by David Kelly | 3:53 PM | 7-23-2008

No offense to your panel and callers but are you kidding me??? Save our starbucks.com??? A grassroots effort to not have to drive to get a 4 buck cup of coffee?? If we had this much energy and effort towards some REAL problems ,then the world would be a lot better place. These people need to get a life and get a real issue to labor over.

Sent by Heather Stancil | 3:54 PM | 7-23-2008

Although I don't often go to Starbucks, preferring a local espresso shop where the brew is excellent and the staff also has benefits(!), I am disappointed that Starbucks would give up so easily. I'm especially sad that these jobs, which don't pay a fortune but come with good benefits (a rarity), are drying up. I wish that the corporation, which has come up with so many good innovations, would get a little more creative with a plan to survive the fall in the market.

Sent by Sarah | 3:54 PM | 7-23-2008

I have it every morning, at home that is; and still my teen daughter couldn't fathom where i got my Latte yesterday, that i could have actually made it myself.
Ahh, summer and starbucks

Sent by Glenn Saperstein | 3:54 PM | 7-23-2008

CLOSE OUR STARBUCKS IN SALT LAKE!! WOULDN'T MISS THEM ONE BIT THERE ARE MANY LOCAL COFFEE SHOPS THAT OFFER SUPERIOR PRODUCTS AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THE SELF PROCLAIMED JET SET

Sent by Rudy Martinez | 3:55 PM | 7-23-2008

Indy vs. corporate as an argument can go on forever... the point that I'd like to make is that the Starbucks product is usually inferior to the independent shops I've been to (and don't even get me started on the atmosphere of the chain stores).
They over roast their coffee to produce a harsh bitter brew, and frankly if I wanted that flavor, I'd just go to the gas station.

So yeah, I'm happy that there are 600 less coffee joints out there selling horrible tasting java. Hooray!

Sent by Tom | 3:56 PM | 7-23-2008

From the home of several noteworthy coffee roasters + independent coffee shops adorning the streets of Portland, Oregon I am not alone when I say am not at all upset about the closure of so many Starbucks locations.

We have seen Starbucks take over many areas that have unfortunately put some loved locals out of business (ie. surrounding one particular location w/5 Starbucks w/in a couple blocks).

Fortunately, many of us are of the same mindset here in downtown Portland area that "friends don't let friends drink Starbucks".

Not to mention most of the beverages offered are not coffee... Rather, they are drinks loaded w/fat, calories + high sugar content that is contributing to the ongoing + increasing problem w/American obesity. There are now many independent coffee shops that have had to respond by also offering these ludicrous drinks to compete w/Starbucks when they wouldn't otherwise.

On a personal note:
- It's EXTREMELY annoying to hear people say tall, grande, venti, etc. in a local shop. What is wrong w/the universal "small, medium + large"?
- Do Americans even know what coffee tastes like?? These mocha frappa-whatevers are destroying the name of coffee.

Sent by stacy | 3:57 PM | 7-23-2008

Hello,

I love Starbucks, I go there all the time. Their drinks are always great. It is sad to hear that some of these small town shops are closing down. When we are driving on a family trip, we call 1-800-Starbuc and find local starbucks coffee shops in small towns along our route. We count on them being there to get tasty fresh quality coffee. You don't get that from the average gas station!

Sent by Greg | 3:57 PM | 7-23-2008

What is up with the "God Bless Starbucks" programming Neil??? Objectivity on a capitalistic empire such as Starbucks would be nice on a public radio station. I am truly horrified at the scope and topic of this show.

Sent by Michele | 3:58 PM | 7-23-2008

metro Detroit area, let them close, they are too monopolizing

Sent by Tom K | 3:58 PM | 7-23-2008

Actually I'm glad they are closing some stores. I live in Tucson and it seems like there is one on every corner here and they are inside the Target stores as well. They are also overpriced. I have been in several different stores and have not been impressed with the people who work there. They are not professional and some of them ignored me while I stood at the counter. In one location I went to in downtown Phoenix, they forgot to make my son's latte and all we got was "sorry for the delay". No, I will not miss Starbucks. I say let's give the local coffee shops a chance.

Sent by Christine | 4:01 PM | 7-23-2008

I can't believe that you would devote part of your show to Starbucks closings! It's horrible coffee that has been successful by convincing people it's a great product! I'm not sorry to see them close.

Sent by Mary Anne Busse | 4:02 PM | 7-23-2008

This is complete nonsense. The only lesson I can take away from this is that of the reach and depth of corporate conditioning, even on our public media outlets.

Sent by Jonathan Musselwhite | 4:07 PM | 7-23-2008

I want everyone to listen up. I did not even know what a Starbucks was until 4 years ago but I have also been around the block a few times as well. I served in the us military a few years ago, I have an A.A.S. and a B.S. in mathematics and I am now back in my tiny home town of Geneva NY and I will tell right now we need a Starbucks. I don't know about the rest of you but our local businesses and coffee shops stink to high heaven. The service is horrible-when I walk into a local business the owners act they are doing the public a favor by actually serving you. Starbucks customer service has been excellent at every one I have been to. Starbucks tried to move into Geneva NY a couple of year's ago but the "local town's people"stopped the move so luckily Starbucks moved into the nearby town of Canandaigua NY. They obviously produce a good product or they would not be as successful as they are. There is absolutely no reason why I want to see the local business of Geneva NY succeed and star bucks fail-the local business owners do not know the first thing about running a business, customer service and more importantly the product they sell. I went into a local coffee shop in our main plaza(I believe it;s called Nancy's or something like this but the coffee tastes horrible and the cups just break apart. If this is not a lousy coffee business then I don't know what is. Enough said-local businesses are lousy as far as I'm concerned, thanks.

Sent by Tim | 5:22 PM | 7-23-2008

Oh, and by the way, I'm drinking starbucks right now at home and how tasty it is, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm : )

Sent by Tim | 5:29 PM | 7-23-2008

I say "Good riddance". For no reason other than Starbucks ruined my Christmas. As a dog walker I usually revel in giving my clients creative gifts, and generally receive something fun in return. At the very least I can look forward to generous cash tips. Last year, every single one of my clients left me Starbucks gift cards. Since when did Starbucks become just as acceptable as cash? I don't even go there! I brew my own coffee at home in the morning. I ended up falling into the trap by re-gifting the cards, but at least I gave them to people I know who are hooked on the place. I doubt San Francisco will be lucky enough to lose all our Starbucks, but to all of you: Support your local dog walker. This Christmas, give cash, not cards.

Sent by Disgruntled Dogwalker | 6:02 PM | 7-23-2008

Starbucks was a Johnny-come-lately to Boise. Starbucks didn't invest in us till our latte-buds had been honed by at least two privately and locally owned independent coffee shops. Our first coffee house is no longer with us due to the owner's health issues. The second, Moxie Java, has thrived and expanded despite the addition of countless upstarts, including Starbucks.
I think one or two of our newest Starbucks may be closed in the near future, but the others remain. Frankly, I don't give a .... about Starbucks. I'm a Moxie gal all the way. I'm addicted to Moxie's Almond Joy Mochas and I love Moxie employees. I go to a number of different Moxie joints around town and my mochas are always spot on. No consistency problems here. Who needs Starbucks?

Sent by Linda Paul | 7:30 PM | 7-23-2008

I am a long time listener of various NPR programming. I enjoy the ray of rational discourse that its programming is capable of forcing through the smog of self-centeredness and shallow discussion I am otherwise left with in my immediate world. So it was with every increasing sorrow that I listened to such a long piece on such a trivial matter. No fewer than five callers were permitted to wail their Starbucks sorrows to the airwaves, and rather than try and steer the conversation into the positives that may come from this, it seems everyone was convinced that significant woes are on the horizon.

One of the callers particularly caught my ear. She started her sob story with the fact that she spends on average $2000 a year at Starbucks. Wrap your head around that figure: one person spending $2000 in one year on coffee? I felt so downhearted to hear people wrapped up in this "coffee crisis". How can anyone ever dream of having sincere hope for the future of this world when its citizens care more for a morning cup of Joe than for fellow human beings?

Certainly coffee lovers of the group "Save our Starbucks" would claim quite the opposite; that certainly they care more about other people than their coffee. Unfortunately it is not what we say that truly matters. It is how we live, and the sad truth of the matter is that for many people, the "Save our Starbucks" movement will be the first and last movement that will be deemed worthy enough for their time, commitment, and resources.

Sent by Derek DeMarco | 3:06 AM | 7-24-2008

Neil...With all the issues facing this country it seems like a waste of air time to devote part of your show to Starbucks. Is this really a priority for some people....especially at $4 a cup. You should have asked the Star Bucks addicts how much debt they have.

Sent by Terrie | 8:48 AM | 7-24-2008

Looks like Starbucks brings out the haters of your listenership. I want to personally thank Starbucks for pushing other purveyors to compete. Everybody here would be singing a different tune if the Maxwell House served in rest stops on Rt. 95 or 70 was still the only choice for the fly-over states (the states populated by rubes who don't understand New Yorker-style satire); To all you haters, I hope your future is full of Instant Decafinated Folgers Chrystals; the kind that fools Central Park's Tavern on the Green patrons.

Sent by Mo | 9:07 AM | 7-24-2008

I brew my own coffee at home. I prefer organic, fair-trade coffee any day. I want to know that farmers are receiving their fair share of profits for their hard work and labor. Instead of supporting a corporate coffee shop, support fair-trade coffee!

Sent by Kristine | 11:34 AM | 7-24-2008

Like many things in life, Starbucks is all about context. In places like Newark, the closing of a Starbucks is truly detrimental to the neighborhood and city. Why? Because, in that realm, Starbucks is unique. Now to those fortunate enough to live in a city like Portland or San Francisco, Starbucks is just the soulless chain attacking the 'true' independent (and plentiful) coffee houses. But to others, Starbucks represents an intellectual and communal gathering place, where one can enjoy coffee, friends, and the New York Times. It is sad to see Newark lose the Starbucks because it seems to be doing for Newark what the independent coffee shops do for Portland.

Sent by Greg | 9:32 PM | 7-24-2008