Vent Your Spleen – Consumerist Coffee

Whenever I am standing in the queue at Starbucks, impatiently awaiting my fix of morning coffee, I hate to be delayed by the customer in front who demands a Frap-a-lap-a-grande-latte with soya milk to go. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not averse to the occasional caramel macchiato or iced Frappuccino to propel me through the hot summer months – but when do we draw the line and say enough is enough? What benefits do these highly pretentious labels and vast array of choices bring to the average coffee drinker, besides donning an air of caffeine-related authority, enabling one to power-walk down the road, armed with BlackBerry and Starbucks cup a lá Paris Hilton? Answer: very little.

With 15,000 Starbucks locations across the globe, it is apparent that we have gone a little coffee crazy. And it’s not only Starbucks – think of Costa, Caffé Nero and Pret A Manger all catering to the deprived and frenzied. These days we need a BA in Coffee-Lingo to survive the ordeal that is ordering a coffee. Standing in the queue is a nerve-wracking experience and not to be taken lightly. How is a small drink from Starbucks logically referred to as ‘tall’? Because tall doesn’t sound so small to me. In a fast paced, consumerist society where endless choice and indispensible resources are taken for granted, when will it become apparent that having 20 coffee options is simply too much?

As a student, it is almost obligatory to indulge in a large coffee intake – I find a kick in the morning, a pre-lunchtime shock and a final afternoon blast to be satisfactory – but is it possible to ward off cravings without plummeting into the overdraft? The extortionate prices that Starbucks charge for even a basic Americano are enough to warrant extending my overdraft. Why is it that we, as deserving coffee drinkers, allow these companies to charge us so extravagantly?

A simple word reveals all: Fairtrade. But it is questionable whether Starbucks, who run a Fairtrade policy on their beverages, are really as altruistic as we are led to believe. The guise of ‘fair policies’ and ‘ethical trading’ act as a justification to shoot prices sky high without exonerating complaints from a philanthropist society. Furthermore, just how humanitarian is a company who forced rescue workers in New York to pay $130 for three crates of water to aid victims after the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

Starbucks – the enforcers of linguistic fascism, obscene prices and unwanted up-selling (“Would you like a pastry or cake with that?”). Next time I want a coffee, I think I’ll make it myself.

Helena Murphy

2 Comments on this post.
  • Kat
    15 August 2011 at 19:44
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    ‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein might offer a few answers to these questions. One of the most insightful books on consumerist culture available.

  • Priyal
    25 August 2011 at 17:38
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    I completely agree, this morning a woman got a skinny caffè latte with cream on top- wtf? Why not just have a normal latte minus the cream?!

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