Starbucks and its latte-frothing emulators have helped to kill off community life, according to an academic who conducted a study of the world’s biggest coffee chain.What, we’ve cured cancer, found a perpetual motion machine and safe nuclear energy already? No one told me…
I mean, aren’t there better things for people to spend their time on?
The seemingly ubiquitous Starbucks, which has 16,000 outlets worldwide and last year earned nearly $10.4billion (£6.5 billion), had made great play of how it encourages people to come together, he said.And..?
Many branches had community message boards and – borrowing from sociology – the company marketed itself as a “third place” between work and home.
But Prof Simon, an academic at Temple University in Philadelphia, said the communal feel was an “illusion”.And why is this a problem requiring the attentions of what DumbJon would so accurately dub a ‘wackademic’?
“People immediately create their own little private, gated communities. You come in, set up your laptop and put on your headphones,” he said yesterday.
“You couldn’t be more alone in public if you wanted to be.”
I mean, people are given the opportunity to engage with each other, and don’t. That’s not news.
Get on any empty Tube train or bus and watch as it fills up with passengers. Bet you a pound to a penny each single person that gets on sits as far away from other passengers as they can, until the seats are all taken.
Can you blame them? Other people are…well…hell, as Sartre noted.
Prof Simon visited 425 Starbucks branches in nine countries, including Britain, over a year and talked to customers. He said he witnessed few spontaneous discussions or interactions.I might be wrong (I’m no history buff) but iPods, wireless networks, personal computers and headphones didn’t exist back then.
He said the rise of Starbucks and its rivals was a far cry from the British coffee houses of the 18th and 19th centuries “which were the cornerstone of democracy with a small 'd'”.
If they had, the Prof might have seen something very similar…