Why do some people hate Starbucks?

Rarely does a day go by when I don’t hear someone complain about Starbucks. I assume they have their grounds, however, upon questioning, I find it’s just blind hate nine times out of ten.

I enjoy the occasional drink and/or treat from the big S, and I’ve found it’s a good place to hang out or meet people if need be. To my mind it’s a very innocuous establishment, but the way some people talk about it, you’d think Starbucks was somewhere between Idi Amin and Hitler on the world’s contempt list.

Blind hate aside, I’ve heard the following reasons come up, though they really don’t come up often:

They’re everywhere. Why does this offend people? Economic law dictates that the only reason there are so many is because the consumers themselves demand them.

They’re replacing “mom and pop” coffee houses. Could be true, but is this a problem? Seems to me that the only reason a Starbucks would usurp the position of a non-chain coffee house is because people prefer Starbucks.

Their coffee is burnt. I claim ignorance. After years of failed attempts, I’ve made peace with the fact that I may never be able to choke down a plain black ‘cup of joe,’ from Starbucks or otherwise.

Their trading/growing practices are unfair. Is this even verifiable? I hear the occasional youth-Marxist type decry Starbucks’ “bad business ethics,” but no specific examples are ever cited.

So, wise, worldly Dopers… a little help? What are some valid reasons for the surprisingly prevalent Starbucks hate?

I find cultural homogenization offensive. I’m sorry if I’m defying “economic law”.

I think their coffee tastes fine, though. It’s their bobo aethetic and their ubiquity that make we want to join the Red Brigade.

I find cultural homogenization offensive. I’m sorry if I’m defying “economic law”.

I think their coffee tastes fine, though. It’s their bobo aethetic and their ubiquity that makes me want to join the Red Brigade.

It’s the pretentiousness of the “grande” titles, and the silliness of not having a small size, combined with charging $5.00 for overcooked, badly brewed coffee that cost them around 30 cents to make. Most of their machines are automatic now - it’s pretty much the same as getting espresso from a vending machine, except a person personally takes three times the cash from you.

Find a good italian coffee house, drink only good coffee for a week or two, and then go back to Starbucks. You’ll wonder why you paid $5.00 for burnt, coloured water.

Oh, and for some good balance, here are some aspects of Starbucks that I don’t like:

  • Their music CD offerings, comprised mainly of unlistenable female guitar-strummers and “jazz” collections from some alternate universe where the world ended in 1980.

  • Sometimes they forget to put chocolate on my frappucino.

I’ve also heard some say that their products are “too expensive.” For who? 1930s sharecroppers?

From a 1999 Salon article:

Well, it’s now 2004, so if people still have the same complaints, then either Starbucks didn’t listen to the focus group study, or the study sucked (IOW, not pointing out the real problem), or whatever Starbucks implemented as a result of the study didn’t work.

They’re replacing “mom and pop” coffee houses.

Maybe, but that’s not a bad thing as far as I can see. Most of the “mom and pop” coffee houses in Japan charge US$4-5 (and don’t even ask about food. $8 for toast and a packet of jam?) for a small cup of mediocre coffee, while a grande size at SB runs about $3.50 and is usually better quality. If anything, Starbucks has helped matters by raising the bar for quality and variety while producing a generation of consumers that are into coffee and are choosier about what they drink.

I don’t hate them in the least.

Neither Sighs comments, nor mine below, really belong here, since they are entirely subjective and thus completely inappropriate for GQ.


I have had coffee at a “good italian coffee house.” Both here in Toronto (the third largest Italian speaking city in the world behind Milan and Rome) and in Italy itself, and frankly, Starbucks is pretty damn good. And I drink coffee sans additives. In particular, I like that I can go into a Starbucks in Tokyo, Manhattan, Toronto or San Francisco and rely on the fact that I’ll get a decent cup of coffee.

Some of the best coffee places in Tokyo, other than Starbucks, do indeed use automatic machines. I’m particularly fond of Pronto’s espresso, for instance, despite the fact that the server just sticks a cup under the spigot and pushes a button.

Perhaps it’s not Starbucks that’s being pretentious.

This should be in IMHO.

I don’t like Starbucks because there’s where most of the pretentious people go.

For the record, there is a small size. If you ask for a “short” you’ll get an 8oz cup of whatever you ordered.

My problem with them is quality control - the farther I get from Pike Place the more questionable the coffee is going to be.

This is a poll, not a question with a factual answer.

Off to IMHO.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator

I bought some coffee at starbucks once. It tasted awefull. Then again I don’t like most coffee so make of my opinion of starbucks what you will.

I wouldn’t say that I actually hate Starbucks, but I don’t like them. They roast the coffee too dark for my taste, and charge too much for it. The menu is put too far from the counter and/or is printed too small for my tired old eyes to read. I’d appreciate having a menu that I can read while NOT standing at the counter, with some clerk waiting for me to make up my mind, and possibly a line behind me. The clerk is usually polite, but I hate holding up a line because I can’t read the frigging menu. Also, I find the terms to be rather pretentious.

I can sort of understand the prices, as people seem to go to these places and spend a lot of time there. So the prices have to reflect the fact that they’re renting table space as well as selling coffee.

I’ve only had a few of their food selections, but the ones that I’ve tried are decent, but not remarkable.

Usually, when I want a cup of fancy coffee, I make my own (decaf), and add my own flavorings (cinnamon, maybe some vanilla extract, or chocolate). My daughter is quite an amateur baker, so I get delicious home-baked goodies. I don’t get the atmosphere, but I never wanted the Starbucks atmosphere in the first place. And I believe that I only spend a fraction of the cost of a cup of Starbucks.

Even with all this, though, I might be tempted to stop at Starbucks on my rare excursions if I could get a cup of good tasting coffee, instead of something that tastes burned and bitter.

My biggest complaint with Starbucks (whom I do patronise - I really love their Sulawesi coffee) is that they offer few or no ‘fair trade’ coffees. Sadly, the Sulawesi is not a fair trade coffee either. But with as big as this company is, you’d think they could do a little something for the ‘little people’ who do the hard work for them.

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this. I worked in espresso bars in NYC in the mid 90’s before Starbucks moved in. It’s a great marketing strategy, to undercut your competition until they go under.
Is Blockbuster the best video store?

Or perhaps Starbucks decided that suits in their 40’s were their bread and butter after all. Not too many young people, even if they’re hip, would be likely to spend $5 for a cup of coffee nearly as often as do yuppies.

I dont like Starbucks.

  1. If you get cream on your capucino it’s cold before you even start to drink it.

  2. It doesnt taste that great.

  3. Expensive - it’s only coffee ffs.

  4. I dont like the furniture

  5. The last one I was in was a mess we had to sit at a dirty table with the last customers leftovers all over it.

  6. It’s the McDonalds of coffee there’s no getting away from it.

  7. It lacks soul.

Naomi Klein’s book No Logo is a good way to start looking for the answer to the OP’s question. Whether you agree with her or not, IMO she does a great job outlining the arguments against Starbucks and the like. For me, they are a guilty pleasure. I do think their coffee is actually good (I lived in England when I drank their coffee and non-chain Italian coffee houses were in short supply, so I can’t make that comparison), but on the other hand I do think that big multi-nationals have an unfair economic advantage over indivuals and that we may come to regret the loss of choice and variety later. Too much of a monopoly also gives them way too much control over wages, their suppliers etc. Do read the book, she puts the case better than I do and it is actually a good read.

Some starbucks stores REALLY suck. There are a couple in the area I know about I won’t go into again. The coffee has that burnt taste and the milk smells slightly off. But, a few I know make the coffee great everytime and the people who work there are quite nice. I think it all depends on who runs the store.

I don’t care much for their baked goods at all.

I don’t buy the “running out mom and pop” shops. If anything is running out these places its their coffee. When I moved to where I am now I stopped at a few of these shops. CRAP, CRAP, not-so-bad and CRAP. The three crap shops have changed hands several times while the not-so-bad is still around (a drive through that is only open for the morning rush)

I think people hate starbucks for the same reason they hate any company that grows at a quick rate -and for that you don’t need a reason.

Starbucks as a company does some great things. They push for each store to take a part in the local community in some way. They do not throw out their day old baked foods but donate it to local food banks. Same goes for the bagged beans that have expired dates.

It is my understanding in some towns where the beans are grown Starbucks came in and built schools, roads, dug wells, placed doctors and improved the life of the people living there. That’s got to account for something.

I don’t see them as a giant evil company. Just giant and getting bigger.

I really just do not like their coffee. I drink quite a lot of the stuff and have never been impressed with the quality of the coffee from Starbucks. That said I just do not buy it there, I hardly rant about it. FTR I am a dyed-in-the-wool espresso drinker.