Social Question

jca2's avatar

Can you help me understand the appeal of Starbucks?

Asked by jca2 (16473points) October 30th, 2021

So many drinks are $5 or more. Teens love it, more so than DD or other local places. Is it because of the chic atmosphere?

A friend goes every day and she gets it with a pump of this and a pump of that, and it’s like $6 a day.

I’m not cheap and I’m not particularly frugal, but I am not into paying $5 for a drink.

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26 Answers

omtatsat's avatar

Guess you mean coffee when you say drinks?

jca2's avatar

@omtatsat: Coffee, hot chocolate, etc.

janbb's avatar

I don’t get it either. Aside from the cost, those fancy coffees have a lot of calories. And the coffee is bitter. DD or my local bakery have better coffee and the bakery has better pastries.

omtatsat's avatar

I guess one feels one can hang out there and not get pushed to leave.

chyna's avatar

I don’t drink coffee so I’ve never been inside one, but my brother says McDonald’s has the best coffee. And it’s not because he’s cheap. If he likes something, he will pay for it.
Maybe it’s just a fad?

mazingerz88's avatar

Seldom does the price come to mind when it’s convenient early in the morning on the way to work to grab coffee and croissants. You also see other humans around seemingly energized to face the day and one is almost…inspired.

canidmajor's avatar

Outstanding marketing team. I am not a huge fan of their products, either, but they have spent an enormous amount of money to make the franchise popular.

Back in the day, my friend worked for them as were starting to expand, and was sent to the big South American coffee auctions. Not to bid on bean lots, but to buy up, extremely cheaply the garbage beans. They then charred them, and served them in fluffy drinks, and made up a bunch of fancy, European sounding terms to sell them.

It was brilliant, and it worked.

mazingerz88's avatar

What was it that Ray Croc apparently said to one of the two McDonald’s brothers who started McDonald’s in that biographical movie? McDonald asked Croc why he chose to expand his burger business when Croc could have easily had other burger stands to expand. Croc said it’s because of their name, McDonald. People hear it and they think “America.” Starbucks probably does the same.

product's avatar

I can address this from a Massachusetts (suburban) perspective. Years ago, if you bought coffee when you were out, your only option was Dunkin’ Donuts (DD). A few of the wealthier towns in the early 1990s started getting Starbucks (SB) or Peet’s, and it felt like a luxury to be able to get a decent cup of coffee at SB.

So, you had DD every half mile, but it wasn’t for everyone. If you don’t take sugar in your coffee, DD coffee is really not drinkable. This is not an exaggeration. People complained of SB being “burned”, but if you really preferred a dark roast with cream only, SB was the only place outside of your house to get one. SB has definitely exploded here over the past 25 years, but there are significantly more DD (roughly 10-to-1, last I heard).

Is it more expensive than DD? Yes, but not significantly. It varies by location, but the last I had checked, a hot coffee from SB was roughly $0.25—$0.30 more than DD, depending on the size. All of the talk of $5+ coffees and SB are not really fair. The same expensive drinks are available at DD. You can get those sugar bomb coffee beverages at DD for maybe $0.50 less. But either way, you’re talking about really expensive vehicles for sugar.

One of the brilliant marketing techniques SB used was to scrap the unappealing childish bright colors of DD, and made their stores darker and less-offensive. They used to play jazz and relaxing music, and it appeared to be a place where people could actually sit and have a cup of coffee without being blinded by industrial fluorescent lighting and neon colors. DD’s aesthetic was McDonald’s-meets-Walmart, and it ended up creating some interesting class conversations (back in the 90s). Working class people here tended to look down on SB because it seemed snotty and expensive. The ”$5 coffee” thing came from this period. And you could actually get called out (had this happen more than a few times) for drinking a SB coffee in certain crowds. And the opposite was true. Drinking a DD coffee if you weren’t a kid seemed to be a statement of sorts. This sort of thing can happen when people view themselves as consumers. They define themselves and others by the products they consume.

I don’t really drink coffee when I’m out. But I will occasionally find myself in a situation where I really want/need a coffee and I’m not home. In those cases, my options are almost always DD or SB. Since DD is not something I can handle, SB is really my only choice. Sure, it’s a corporate shithole. But for around $2.25, I can get a 12oz dark roast with cream that tastes ok to me.

So, I think the “I don’t get Starbucks and their expensive beverages” question (not you – just a common theme in certain circles) tends to overlook a few things. Sometimes it comes from people who live in a city and still have access to independent coffee shops. Sometimes it comes from not realizing that SB is not a true outlier here.

Smashley's avatar

It has never been that hard to sell drugs, especially legal ones without huge taxes, like sugar, fat and caffeine. Dunkin is the same, but for a different clientele.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Starbuck’s is dessert in a cup, with all the sugar and flavorings ! Everybody loves dessert.

seawulf575's avatar

Starbucks was one of the first chain “coffee houses”. It was where you go to sit and visit, or read, or surf the web, while you drink coffee. It became something of an icon because of that. So people go there thinking they are “cool” and don’t care about the cost. It isn’t particularly great coffee, it is pricey, and unless you really enjoy the coffee house experience, you don’t usually sit down to eat there. Not to mention now they are even in grocery stores near me so you don’t even get the coffee house ambiance.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I can’t explain it.

flutherother's avatar

I was in one about twelve years ago, queued up to get my cup of expensive coffee then found there were no seats. I put my coffee back on the counter walked out and haven’t been back since.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

I think it’s more of a teeny thing. My soon to be 13 year old grand daughter loves the the place. Always wants me to take her there, but I usually get her something and pass on anything myself. To high dollar for old paw paw. Hell, I can get me a senior coffee and a small burger at MickeyDs for under five smackers. But I like to indulge my grand kids.

cookieman's avatar

@product is right on the nose, as a fellow New Englander.

Morning coffee and breakfast is my thing, so I’d gladly pay for Starbucks, if I liked the coffee — but I don’t. It is too bitter.

I was a Dunkin’ person for years, until I started drinking my coffee with no sweetener, then YUCK.

My favorite coffee is from McDonalds, Cumberland Farms, and Chick Fil A.

Forever_Free's avatar

It is a consistently good cup of coffee. I don’t go there because I can make a great cup from good beans at home.
I invest my $$ for good coffee on good bean and an awesome Breville machine.

SnipSnip's avatar

I cannot. I’ve been in there once because I was with someone who was driving. I ask for a cup of coffee and they wanted to have a coffee conversation. I said, look, I just want a cup of coffee, hot and black. It was mediocre. My coffee at home is better. Back home there were a couple of coffee shops where I would go sometimes but I always knew people in there and it was fun. One of them was a book store but the back room was a coffee shop kind of thing. Very cool and fun.

Zaku's avatar

@jca2 The way you expressed the question, I can only answer for myself in terms of the appeal of other coffee shops that make better coffee than Starbucks does. Those require finding and testing out.

A really good drink is an experience, and not one that can be had easily in other ways. Yes I have become good enough to make such drinks at home, and I do practically every day, but… at home.

When outside enjoying a road trip, it’s nice to take a break and enjoy a pleasant experience, which such a drink can provide…

… especially if the location is nice and hospitable, which provides the other half of the reason. Starbucks (and sometimes even more so, a cool non-corporate coffee-shop) provides a usually nice comfortable hospitable hang-out where you’re welcome to sit, potentially for hours with wifi, a nice bathroom, and other treats. The atmosphere is not only nice and relaxing, but often suitable for study, doing creative work or programming, reading, and/or can be a daily hangout where you meet and know people, possibly arrange dates, business meetings, play games, etc etc.

Other people use them in other ways, for convenient stops when driving, or to get drinks with lids, handles, carriers, etc. When on the go, various refreshments compete with each other, and Starbucks is a known quantity (or similar places may offer a high chance of being similarly good or better), and while you could get a known quantity from a cheaper place, at least for my tastes, those are often known or extremely likely to be much much worse.

Oh and if you want cheaper coffee, you can get drip coffee at Starbucks for something like $2, pile it with cream and sugar if you want, and you can get a warmed flavored bagel for much less than the other overpriced junk too.

tinyfaery's avatar

They have a drive-thru. Before that happened I never really went much.

And the coffee only has a lot of sugar and calories if you get a fancy drink. I get an iced oat milk latte with no sweetener. All of the calories are from a healthy nut milk. I splurge once in a while and get a fancy drink but not often.

Smashley's avatar

@tinyfaery – oat milk has more calories and less protein than cow’s milk. Just sayin’ its not “healthier”

omtatsat's avatar

I always associated Starbucks with travelling.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I associate it with Yuppies Being Important on their laptops.

tinyfaery's avatar

Cow’s milk also has puss in it, so there’s that.

Smashley's avatar

@tinyfaery – you mean somatic cells below risky levels. Well yeah, it comes from a mammal.

If you’ve ever worked harvesting grain, you’d be aware that a certain amount of animal parts end up in grain. Sure they get mostly sifted out, but if you’re concerned about miniscule, and regulated levels of contamination, you should probably give up anything that isn’t hand picked.

canidmajor's avatar

Hey, guys, wanna get back to Starbucks? Arguing about pus is really just gross.

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