Starbucked: A Shot of Neuroticism

11333318_371749786356778_1492931260_nEvery time I order a drink from Starbucks, I hate myself a little more.

No, it’s not because I put a great deal of thought into how they are up there with the other two spectres of corporatization, rounding off the perfect Trinity that also consists of Wal-Mart and McDonalds. No, it’s not because I’m worrying about what their presence in my community, my state, my country is doing to influence the micro- and macrocosm, though I’m sure they’re doing something. And no, it’s not because I hoard those little free App cards they give out at the end of the bar that highlight hipster-fab music and games that Starbucks, like our friends at Pitchfork, say you should be listening to.

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What truly makes me hate myself after ordering a drink at Starbucks is my own lapse in judgment: did I really just shovel out that much cash for burnt coffee and half a cup of sugar? Isn’t that money better spent, you know, sitting in my Roth IRA or being put towards a gym membership to help me burn off the excessive sugar I just ingested? Do I even like doing this? Do I even like Starbucks?

Well, at least I’m consumed by some thought when ordering from Starbucks (though I will be the first to admit that I’m already neurotic enough and shouldn’t be worried about such things), as opposed to others with no thoughts involving their Starbucks intake, something author Taylor Clark seems to fret over in his 2008 book, Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture.

Let’s rephrase that: at least that’s what I think he’s fretting over.

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Let’s also review my guess as to what this book was actually about…
Even though I find this book fascinating, despite the fact that its biography on Starbucks takes up more than half the book, I am sort of desperately trying to remember or figure out what Clark’s thesis really is. His reason for writing about Starbucks and his ultimate arguments are hidden behind extensive research–excellent research, might I add, but hidden behind it nonetheless.

Clark’s vague stance on Starbucks as a corporate entity and his drastically overarching thesis are lost in a dreadfully long history of the birth of Starbucks and, by comparison, rapid, minuscule chapters covering too quickly the sociological, biological, and psychological elements at play in the ongoing drama that is Starbucks.

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One has to really question the ultimate purpose behind Starbucked. If Taylor did not take the time to be clear in his argument on the Starbucks empire, why did he bother to write an entire text on the subject? His middle-of-the-road approach becomes somewhat cumbersome by the third chapter. Just when you’ve thought that you’ve figured out what side Clark is on, he reverses his argument completely, supporting the opposite team every single time.

It does not bother me one bit whether Clark supports Starbucks or not- less chance of him wasting money on the further continuation of insulin resistance. But for the purposes of a nonfiction text on the cultural and commercial impact on one of the most globalized companies in existence, one would expect a solidly implemented argument. Instead, we are left with another slow, magna-like biography of Howard Schultz and his coffee kingdom which only makes you want a Starbucks coffee all the more.

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