I heart Starbucks

By and

When you drive down 400 South in search of caffeinated beverages, you have a choice to make-and that choice is between good and evil.

On the right, you have that ultimate symbol of corrupt consumerism: the Starbucks franchise.

On the left, you have local coffee houses such as Coffee Break and Salt Lake Roasting Company.

Everyone knows what’s wrong with Starbucks. It crushes the life out of local coffee shops. It homogenizes culture. It treats employees badly. It makes up imaginary words to describe its products.

Mom-and-pop coffee shops embody the spirit of American, small-town industry. Their customers are salt-of-the-earth folk in skinny jeans and black eyeliner, rebelling against the homogenization of culture as they speak with the same irony-infused inflections and listen to the same cutting-edge music. Who doesn’t want to support that sort of independence?

Well, I don’t. Partly because those people tend to eschew proper hygiene, but mostly because I couldn’t care less whether the chai I’m drinking has evil origins.

People claim that the beverages produced by local companies taste better, but it’s just in their heads. Honestly, is Coffee Break growing its own beans out back? Is Salt Lake Roasting Company milking its own cows in the basement?

Nope, they aren’t. And that’s why it’s so easy to hate Starbucks.

Starbucks generates animosity because there are non-Starbucks options out there. It really isn’t the evil empire some would have you believe it is-which makes it much more convenient to dislike.

Would all those who disavow corporate evil and consumerism be willing to give up their cell phones in support of mom-and-pop wireless services? What about their jeans in order to support local tailors and seamstresses?

No. Because that would be really, really hard. So people hate Starbucks because it offers them the convenience of being able to have the exact same beverages at Coffee Break or Roasting Company while feeling morally superior to all those across the street.

Let’s be honest-Starbucks is a successful business, and like any successful business, it has its flaws. But at the same time, big companies can offer their employees and customers benefits that local entrepreneurs often just can’t match.

So what if Starbucks is evil and homogenized? It offers health care to all employees who work 20 hours a week. In fact, company Chairman Howard Schultz said in a “60 Minutes” interview that Starbucks now spends more on health care than coffee.

And remember when Starbucks franchises were trashed during the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle a few years ago? Some would argue that Starbucks embodies all the negative aspects of globalization, but Starbucks is currently the largest buyer of certified fair-trade coffee.

Do these little facts prove that Starbucks is morally superior to other coffee shops? Of course not. When it comes to companies, no one is morally superior. Be they big chains like Starbucks or little chains like Salt Lake Roasting Co., their main objective is to turn a profit.

And when it comes to which coffee place is more successful at making a profit, I think we all know which place comes out on top.

So when you’re choosing where to get your late-night study buzz, forget about morality and independence. Choose a winner. Go to Starbucks.