While I was traveling in September, Starbucks opened up shop in the Tweel building at the corner of Kent and University in downtown Charlottetown. While we’ve had pretend “proudly serving Starbucks” outlets in several locations on the Island, this is the first bona fide Starbucks here and given my late-to-the-party love of a good cappuccino, and the fact that Starbucks is on my way to work each morning, I’m forced to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
By gut reaction is bad thing, but, to be honest, I’m not sure whether that’s my head talking or years worth of “local = good, multinational = bad” rhetoric coursing through my heart.
Starbucks just feels evil; I’m not actually sure whether it is evil.
I thought about this on Saturday while Oliver were on the way to Canadian Tire to buy a replacement flap for our ailing upstairs toilet.
Canadian Tire, for those of you in the international audience, is a national Canadian dry-goods merchant that, as its advertising has been saying for years, sells more than just tires. You can buy everything from television sets to kayaks at Canadian Tire, and belief in essential excellentness of Canadian Tire is tantamount to an article of Canadian citizenship (it is said that “40 percent of Canadians shop at Canadian Tire every week”).
Oliver and I were on our way to Canadian Tire to buy a toilet flap because that’s where they sell toilet flaps. When I worked at a Canadian Tire store as a teenager I learned that there are entire categories of products for which Canadian Tire simply is the place that Canadians shop. Where else would you look for Armor All. Or bulbs for your rear taillight. Or rat poison. Or a bicycle pump.
And so, on my way to Canadian Tire, I was wondering why I wasn’t on my way to a small, local, artisanal toilet flap maker instead of a large national toilet flap-selling chain.
And if I’m happy to shop for toilet flaps at Canadian Tire — indeed if it feels only proper and patriotic to do so — shouldn’t I be equally satisfied buying my cappuccino from Starbucks, a chain that, for many, holds the same saintly place in the consumer consciousness.
None of this would amount to anything more than personal taste if it weren’t for the fact that my gut “Starbucks is evil” reaction extends to other people who go to Starbucks.
I see them all inside there as I walk by every day and secretly think to myself “how could they” with sanctimony I would otherwise reserve for, say, murderers or Hummer drivers or, at least, people who don’t compost.
This doesn’t seem like a very rationale stance to take. And, who knows, perhaps I’m robbing myself of good coffee with my knee-jerkiness.
I’d welcome the opinion of others in this regard: is it more ethical to get my coffee elsewhere and, if so, why?