The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Starbuck’s’


After leaving the dog park yesterday morning I realized that I was in dire need of a cup of coffee.  Although I had everything prepared and ready to go at home, I had forgotten to hit the “Brew” button.  So I decided to stop at Starbucks and get a “Venti” drip – which at $2.25 is only moderately over-priced.  As it was only about seven o’clock and still cool I decided to sit outside this Starbucks with Gracie and drink at least part of it before returning home.

We were lucky to find a little table in the shade and Gracie curled herself up under it.  I had baked some dog treats and had brought them with us to the park to give to another of the morning regulars, but she hadn’t showed up that day so I took the container with me and, as I drank my coffee, Gracie got to enjoy several of these.

The two ladies at the next table were engaged in a conversation, but when they saw Gracie they asked if they could pet her.  Of course, Gracie enjoys nothing more than getting attention wherever she can find it, so I told them that she would love that.  So they began to pet her and asked me all the usual questions, how old is she; what breed is she, etc.?   After a few minutes they resumed their conversation and Gracie, now happy with having received attention and dog biscuits returned to her spot under the table.

I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation – which centered around the $2 Billion loss J. P. Morgan Chase had in one very, very bad trade.  I discussed this in a post a few days ago.  I was surprised because this was now already old news – and if there is one thing that I’ve observed, it’s that most of us seem to have a very short attention span.  Perhaps because there is so much “news content” available that we flit from subject to subject quickly to be sure that we don’t miss out on anything.

I had rather expected to hear them say something about the trial of former Democratic Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards which is currently on-going for alleged violations of Election Contribution Laws because yesterday every news source I read had some comment on it.  Furthermore, it is a great source for those who enjoy gossip as the former Senator’s conduct and relationship with his mistress have been reported in the most salacious terms by the reporters covering this trial.

Perhaps because we have gotten so used to politicians getting in trouble over sexual misdeeds, we have just become inured to all of it.  But in any event, Chase was the focus of these two ladies’ conversation.

One of the women said, “You see, it just proves we need more regulation of those SOB big banks.  They’re making wild bets with our money and if the government doesn’t get them under control we’re going to have another financial crisis.”

Her friend nodded in agreement and then said, “And you know, those bastards make so damn much money it makes me sick.”  Her companion nodded her agreement with that statement.  Although I was tempted, I refrained from getting involved in their conversation.

These two ladies continued to chat for a few minutes and then left, saying goodbye to Gracie and me.  After their departure I thought about the incongruity of these two statements – and the fact that neither of these women seemed to realize the inherent conflict between them.

On the one hand, they were critical of Chase for the huge trading loss.  On the other they were upset that big banks made way too much money.  So I began thinking, what is it that the many people in this country who are “anti-big-bank” really want?

Surely, they don’t want the surprise of going to the bank with their paycheck only to discover that because their bank has been losing money on a consistent basis that the doors are closed and the bank has been taken over by the FDIC.

I guess what they really want is something that grandma told me would never happen.  They want to have their cake and they want to eat it too.



 I hadn’t thought of the comedy of Henny Youngman for a very long time. Famous for his rapid-fire delivery of one liners he is perhaps best remembered for his routine that starts, “Now you take my wife – please.”

 Another of his routines began, “A man walked up to me and asked me for a dime for a cup of coffee.” I said, “Coffee’s a nickel.” He said, “Won’t you join me?”

 Yesterday after our morning visit to the dog park, Gracie and I made a small detour to Starbuck’s on our way home. I usually have a cup of freshly ground strong coffee at the house before we go on our morning outing but I had slept late and she was insistent that we should go now.

 I left Gracie in the car as I picked up my morning brew. This particular Starbuck’s had no place where I could securely fasten her and I knew from previous experience that she could easily re-arrange the tables if I tied her to one of those.

 I finally got to the head of the line (there were eight other customers ahead of me when I walked in). Although I am not a regular at Starbuck’s, around the holidays I will stop in to get a taste of their Christmas Blend which I have always enjoyed. Fortunately, I could see that it was on today’s menu.

 I also noticed that it was on sale in bulk for $14.95 a pound! It was last year that I bought a pound of it and paid $8.95. I don’t follow the price of coffee futures but when I returned home I looked them up. Wholesale coffee is presently trading at $2.26 a pound. (Nice markup).

 By the way, when I say I go to Starbuck’s occasionally for coffee – I mean it is just that – coffee. I have never been able to master the art of ordering their more exotic drinks. Unfortunately, though I have looked in bookstores and on-line, I can’t find a copy of, “Ordering at Starbuck’s for Dummies.” Apparently the volume is out of print.

 Well I set my coffee on a table and retrieved Gracie. As it happened, we sat right behind the menu board where drive-in customers placed their orders. I could clearly hear the customers and the very pleasant Starbuck’s employee who took their orders, repeating them back to make sure she had them right and then announcing their totals.

 “Your total is $7.14; $5.38; $8.84 (this included a very average pastry); $6.88” – and it went on and on. I calculated that the average ticket was around $6.00 – for a diluted coffee drink.

I tried to put this in perspective. For five dollars I could have eaten the breakfast buffet at one of the local casinos. I would have had my choice of a variety of juices and other beverages, hot or cold cereals, pastries, eggs in multiple forms including Benedict, ham sliced from the bone or bacon or sausage, a variety of potatoes prepared in several ways, etc. All for a smaller price than a quick drink at Starbuck’s – and far more nutritious. And my buffet meal would have created no crisis of conscience on my part regarding environmental issues.

 I realize that Starbuck’s uses environmentally-friendly materials in distributing its products – and I am grateful that they do. But based on the overflowing receptacles which I saw in the patio area, most Starbuck’s customers simply trashed these rather than taking them somewhere that they could be recycled. Yet more garbage to add to the heap of disposable diapers and tires which are filling our burgeoning landfills. (I did bring the little plastic sip-lid and the hot sleeve from my beverage home with me to add to my recycling bin).

 I applaud business success. Obviously, despite the weak economy, Starbuck’s has struck a chord with consumers and is exploiting that to its benefit. I congratulate them for recognizing a need and helping to fill it. And I’ll probably be back next year for a cup of Christmas Blend.

 But I wonder, if Henny Youngman were alive today, how would he revise his routine, “Coffee’s a Nickel?”

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