Jul 3, 2020

Quibbles & Bits: Starbucks and Hell

Coffee and contradictions abound in the news

By Ed Goldman

Welcome to QUIBBLES ‘N’ BITS, my regular roundup of irregular items. Such as…:

WE GAVE (UP) AT THE OFFICE—I was sorry to learn a couple of weeks ago that Starbucks will no longer offer free office rent to the miserly parasites who’ve grown accustomed to buying perhaps a small latte, nursing it for hours to conduct their workday—including WiFi, Zoom, Facetime, Skype and in-person client meetings. These people often take up two tables, sometimes using one that was set aside for the disabled (I have only personal observation to verify this. I still haven’t started using my cellphone as a tool for social justice).

The caffeinated megacorporation—whose motto could be “We never sleep, so why should you?”—has announced that it’s re-purposing a huge number of its even huger number of coffee shops as glorified kiosks for grab-and-go, drive-up, drive-through and possibly drive-by (“Just throw me the damn panini. And make sure the grill marks are showing on the bread or I’ll catch hell at home!”).

If this is a cost-cutting plan, I wish Starbucks had contacted me earlier instead of sending news releases to most of the free world. I’d have told its CFO that all the company needed to do was start charging rent for the office space it provides to the aforementioned parasites. Let’s do the numbers, as Kai Ryssdal likes to say on National Public Radio’s Marketplace (or as he unctuously intones it, “Marketplaaaaace”):

-As of a few months ago, there were 15,149 Starbucks locations just in the United States alone. If you figure that the average office space in our country costs between $8-$23 per square foot, and that each worker needs an average of 150-175 square feet of space, that means each parasite could be charged a minimum of $1,200 per month ($8x$150).

-Multiply that by the average of how many people you can safely jam into the average Starbucks (say, 25), and that comes to about $30,000 per month.

-Now, multiply that by 15,149 (the current number of shops in the country) and you come up with $454,470,000 per month.

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I realize Starbucks shops vary in size and that there are also 31,256 Starbucks scattered about the planet (I looked that up), but I can’t do the math because I have no idea what other countries charge for office rent (I didn’t look that up). However, if it were comparable to the U.S., the company could be hauling in just shy of a billion bucks a month in parasite office rentals. And now, if you’ll  excuse me, I have to answer a text from Howard Schultz, the former chairman and CEO of Starbucks. I’d heard he was trying to get back into the company but lacked a strategy. He must be interested in my ideas because in his brief message he not only erroneously characterized me as “a total Mormon,” but also accidentally left out the second “m.”

HELL FREEZES OVER—If you’re suffering from the sudden onslaught of flying pigs, or just got smacked in the face by a snowball that appears to have been thrown at you from Hell, I sincerely apologize. What provoked these calamities was that the Wall Street Journal ran some editorials I actually agreed with.

They’ve concerned newsroom walkouts prompted by “offenses regarded as at odds with the beliefs of the (Black Lives Matters) protests.” As WSJ stalwart Daniel Hellinger noted in his “Wonderland”column, “It is impossible not to recognize the irony of these events. The silencers aren’t campus protesters but professional journalists, a class of American workers who for nearly 250 years have had a constitutionally protected and court-enforced ability to say just about anything they want.”

“The idea that you could actually lose your job…because of a headline on an opinion piece that said ‘Buildings Matter, Too’ is something to ponder,” Henninger wrote. He clarified that the “issue here is not about the assertion that racism is endemic in the US. The issue is the willingness by many to displace the American system of free argument with a system of enforced, coerced opinion and censorship.”

Now, please understand that even though I next-to-never agree with the WSJ’s opinion pieces, I read them every one of the six days a week the paper is published.

I always find it curious that the paper’s regular columnists constantly throw darts at “the media,” apparently failing to recognize that they work for one of the world’s largest and most influential news outlets—meaning, they, too, are “the media.”

But in this case, I have to concede and concur (which would be a good name for a law firm that always gave up in the middle of their final arguments). Either you believe in the freedom of the press or you believe that freedom is situational. Gentlemen, the tower has cleared your pigs for takeoff—and just in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).