Let’s Call A Bean A Bean

I dropped into a new location of a very familiar coffee shop last night. It wasn’t my regular stop, nor was it the only new location of the same multi-national company that is close to my “regular” place, but it was convenient.

Along with brewing good coffee, convenience is one of the hallmarks of this chain. You can, pretty much, find a Starbucks anywhere. The bigger the city, the more locations. In Canada, in 2018, there were 1,109 company-owned locations (I know they’ve opened at least two more in 2019). There are more than 8,500 U.S. locations.

It’s pretty easy to say this is a pretty common brand, popular with a lot of people. Starbucks’ revenues topped $22 billion in 2017.

I’m not going to call this brand my favorite coffee, or favorite place, but it is consistent. Open at 5:30 a.m. weekdays, should I need an early jolt of caffeine (I often do), I also spend many a Saturday morning and the occasional evening at Starbucks, catching up on my journal or correspondence. I’m writing this right now with my company-branded ceramic take-away cup within close reach.

As I was writing, last evening, I noticed a company poster on the wall proclaiming that “some of the rarest coffees in the world are now available in your neighbourhood”.

Now, I can appreciate the range of coffee, tea, and beverages offered at Starbucks, but this advertising got me wondering how rare can the coffee be if it is available at all, or most, of the more than 29,000 world-wide locations?

It can’t be. It’s not. It is not true: it’s not even stretching the truth.

Any dictionary will provide a range of definitions for the word “rare”, including:
-thinly distribute over an area.
unusually great (subjective)
-unusually excellent (even more subjective)

Coffee is a commodity; coffee is a common commodity.

We live in an age of exaggeration, defined not only by marketing gurus and clever copywriters trotting out sumptuous superlatives, tempting taglines and hook-filled hashtags, but also by media personalities, public officials and politicians.

Listen, on any day, to the whining windbag leader of the free world as he bullies, brags, and brandishes his untruths to anyone who will listen. His lies have been documented (and disproved) over and over, but the brash banter continues as the greatest source of the “fake news” he often complains about.

False information is now something we expect.

Fake, misleading statements have become part of our everyday lives. It’s nothing new; in fact, it is why advertising standards were established decades and decades ago. This coffee company is — like many producers of consumer goods — pushing the edge of the envelope in an attempt to be the best or the boldest, as a pitch for the almighty consumer dollar.

It is not logical; it is not reasonable to expect this product to be something more than it is.

Coffee.

Don’t tell us it is rare. Yes, you can use the word ‘exotic’, or ‘premium’, you can tell us you’ve travelled to all corners of this round planet to source ultra-fantastic beans. You can boast about how you roast, and promise us unparalleled quality, but let’s call a bean a bean.

By simply including a product on the Starbucks menu at all, or most, of its locations means you cannot call it rare.

It is not true, or it’s not honest, and it is not authentic.

The company has already proven to me (and obviously many others) that it selects, roasts, and brews wonderful coffee in a variety of styles and tastes, so this marketing fib leaves nothing but a bad taste in my mouth.

© 2019 j.g. lewis

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