Starbucks isn't worth it any more (and the company is getting [already?] evil)

Union-busting assholery. That’s the obvious evil. Hard to square with their target market (I would assume more Liberals than Conservatives are into high(?)-quality coffee and bougie snacks) and their reputation for giving their workers more benefits than the average outfit.

That’s probably a good enough reason to give Starbucks a pass now, although one could also argue that that hurts the workers, and hurting the workers through union-busting was what prompted the desire not to go to Starbucks any more, and that’s a contradiction. Fair enough.

Here’s a good Fast Company article on this, btw: What happened to Starbucks? How a progressive company lost its way.

But how about the prices now? On my last trip, a Venti cost $3.58 after tax. WTF?! I’m not paying that, sorry. Maybe sometimes, but not regularly. I remember when, a few years ago, it was $2-something for the same damn thing. (And it’s not because I can’t afford it… it just feels wrong.)

My mom likes the lemon loaf, and one piece is over 3 bucks as well. Starbucks was never cheap, but I feel that the value proposition, even taking inflation into consideration, is not as good any more.

But there’s another problem as well. I think the pandemic has had a very coarsening effect on the attitude of Starbucks employees. During the worst months (years?) of the pandemic, many/most Starbucks simply shut down everything except the drive-through. Sometimes you could use the bathroom, and sometimes you couldn’t (the approach of the locations was pretty random). During this time, it’s as if the attitude, “We’re doing you a big favor just by being open at all,” sunk in and hasn’t left.

I certainly have empathy for the employees who were exposing themselves to danger by being there and working very hard in short-staffed conditions. But when I go there now, at least in most locations, there is a cold, sterile, and perfunctory feel to the whole thing. It’s not a good vibe.

Now some here are gonna say, “Starbucks coffee always sucked, so good riddance.” I’m neither a lover or hater of their coffee itself. But to me, Starbucks was always the best place to stop during long drives: it was right off the expressway, the bathrooms were usually clean, the coffee was good enough, and the overall atmosphere was on the chipper side. A pleasant environment, if you will. It was a nice break from driving.

Now it’s just expensive and sad. These days, I make a bunch of good tea, put it in multiple travel mugs, and drink that. I stop to get food and go to the bathroom and don’t go to Starbucks. And I certainly don’t go there just to get coffee, or–shudder–one of their very expensive sugary concoctions.

Those are my thoughts. Tell me yours. Thanks!

Like you, I neither love nor hate their coffee. It’s fine. I do like their breakfast sandwiches and the ham and cheese sandwich. I don’t care about the cost, everything is high these days. The staff is generally well trained, which is nice these days.

That said, I probably go only to a Starbucks about once per month on average. I guess my overarching thought is I don’t give Starbucks a lot of thought. Here in the greater Seattle area, they’re simply part of the enviornment, like rain or pine trees.

Once in awhile if f I’m in a Barnes & Noble with a little time on my hands, I’ll take my newly purchased book or magazine into the store-based Starbucks outlet and get a plain coffee and a cookie (B&N purchases come with coupons for Starbucks cookie discounts, at least sometimes). I can’t remember the last time I went into a free-standing Starbucks, as I’m not into pricey, high-calorie, vaguely coffee-flavored concoctions.

Then again, I’m also not big on “the coffee experience”. A straightforward caffeine hit will do.

I am still mostly OK with Starbucks because I regard it less as a place for coffee and more as a bookstore/library type of place. I am not going there to drink gourmet coffee (nor could I tell the difference if I were given it,) I am typically going there to find a place with nice lighting and atmosphere to do my MBA homework or legal studies for 4-6 hours - or, to meet a friend there. So to pay a bit extra for lemon cake or a latte is not particularly heavy to me.

I think any “latte liberal” association they may have once had has long been shed. It’s more a general middle class thing now – in fact, in my circle, the Starbucks drinkers skew conservative, some aggressively so (cousins.) The more “liberal” types around here tend to be into local joints, Intelligentsia (a local coffee roaster and chain with several locations), La Colombe, and stuff like that. Starbucks is seen as “corporate coffee.”

Interesting. You may indeed be right about the current demographics.

Yes, it’s still a useful tool of sorts, but I used to have more enthusiasm for the tool…

Mmmm. I’m of many minds (and a very minor stockholder), but there are still pros of going though, admittedly far, FAR less than I did years ago.

The pros are it’s a great neutral place to meet with people you might not want to ask to your house, but are planning on spending a couple of hours with. Or alternately, people you would ask to your house but don’t want to spend a few hours cleaning for :). It’s a fine place to meet up and chat, have a snack, but don’t want to be rushed with the way you might at a restaurant.

It was and is, as mentioned by the OP, one of the best places to take a rest stop while on a long drive. Clean, dependable, and while pricey, not more so than most stops catering to people just getting on and off the interstate. Best of all, a lot less likely to be crowded by young kids that the other dependable option of various fast food franchises.

But in terms of going there for the coffee? The prices have long since driven me out of going there for that reason. For a while, getting a drip coffee (medium roast) was worthwhile (pre-pandemic) if I was just looking to get out of the house for a few hours and enjoy a book - but not so much anymore. And even then, the mixed drinks were too much to justify unless I had some perk to blow. And thankfully for my wallet, wasn’t ever interested in their sweet or savory snacks/meals. Just again, too pricey.

So I go maybe 3-4 times a year, and really haven’t since COVID.

I will say that some of the super-high scale Starbucks were a fun experience, such as in Austin TX where they had various brew-at-table gimmicks and super-small lot brews, but then you’re going for a bit of theater, not the coffee as a whole.

Most sit-down restaurants are charging $3-4 for a cup of coffee these days.

I’m just shocked it has taken people this long to realize that Starbucks sucks. I recognized that a couple of decades ago.


Totally agree with the OP. I hadn’t been to a Starbucks in years, but my wife wanted to stop into one while we were out of town.

It was during the pandemic. The first thing I noticed was that everything in the food/pastry case looked dollhouse small. I asked the employee if it was just my memory/perception. She assured me that it wasn’t. Starbucks was heavy into shrinkflation.

I’m lucky enough to live in an area with a relatively high per capita number of independently owned coffee shops – from rather lowbrow and pedestrian to rather stratospheric and nearly ridiculous.

But all cool, and – for my money – all with generally better coffee than Starbucks.

Starbucks went public just about 30 years ago. IMHO, that’s usually the beginning of the end. Whatever you had early on that made you special … is an unaffordable luxury as you try to be both sterile and all things to everybody.

Hearing about their union-busting efforts didn’t make me miss the place, either.

These days, liberals get their coffee experience at McDonald’s.

Your first sentence here is important. Service workers are burnt out. That is hard to come back from. They realized that the customer service script did not save them from any abuse or keep them safe from Covid.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I might get Starbucks twice a year. Quik Trip and Race Trac have good road trip coffee, nice clean bathrooms, and a safe feel. Otherwise, I make my tea or coffee at home.

I think I have ordered a total of exactly three items, one per visit, over the years–the first visit being in 1983. The only reason I was there was because the person I was meeting insisted on meeting there. Every item they have, IMHO, is overpriced and not worth the hype it gets. Starbucks was never “worth it”.

Lewis Black has an interesting take on Starbucks.

errrrrrr…which are these? I live next to Austin and need to have a look…

My need for caffeine and my capacity for tolerating … well … this … are inversely proportional:


I’m pretty sure it’s this one, in the Domain.

It has a bunch of features, and is one of the Starbuck’s Reserve Stores, with siphon brewing options, and small batch reserve coffee as I mentioned.

For those not familiar with this brewing style -

To be clear, you’re paying a lot more, but you’re having more of an event.

Ah thanks…

Regarding the “I always knew it sucked/wasn’t worth it” vein of comments…

It was never as good as the best indie place, but I don’t think too many were fooled into thinking so. Those who are old enough remember a world in which good coffee more or less didn’t exist outside of very large cities in the US; i.e., before the 1990s. I don’t remember going to Starbucks before then, and I first went to a cool indie coffee shop in Evanston, Illinois, in 1994 when I moved there. (My first coffee chain experiences started in 1992 in Japan with places like Doutor.)

So to say that Starbucks always sucked just seems ahistorical to me. In mid-80s, when it started serving drinks, it was a lot more than a cut above the average. (“1984 Howard convinces the founders of Starbucks to test the coffeehouse concept in downtown Seattle, where the first Starbucks® Caffè Latte is served.This successful experiment is the genesis for a company that Schultz founds in 1985.”

I also don’t get it when people say, “Starbucks is swill” or something like that. It just isn’t. The actual brewed coffee and espresso is pretty decent, pretty consistent coffee. The reputation for tasting burnt was fair enough–until Starbucks came out with Pike Place Roast as their standard in 2008.

So, to me, now, it’s not that it “sucks.” It’s, well, the title of my post: not worth it any more based on price and vibe.

Another thing…

I think Starbucks really gave up on being perceived as “premium” and actually being premium in 2016, when they stopped selling their coffee online (they totally shut down their online store).

To me, it was equivalent to an admission that their coffee was not special enough to worry about buying for yourself and making it at home. Don’t live near a Starbucks store, can’t buy one of those amazing Reserve coffees? Ah well, too fucking bad.

(On the other hand, Starbucks appears to be bringing back the Clover and their Reserve Roasteries seem to emphasize the “quality” aspect, so I may not be completely on track.)