There is a T-shirt I keep seeing often on campus proclaiming “corporate coffee sucks.” I could not agree more.
I recently had a reminder of why I hate corporate coffee joints like Starbucks when I went to the one on Fowler Avenue close to campus in search for a quick cup of coffee last week.
The last time I was in a Starbucks was three years ago in Paris, and it looked exactly the same.
The chairs, the hip art on the walls, and even the people behind the counter looked like cloned versions of the ones that had served me my drug of choice in France.
I find this deeply disturbing, and it is one of the reasons why I prefer independent coffeehouses to corporate places such as Starbucks.
When I was growing up, my friends and I spent a large amount of our free time sitting in a coffee house, sipping various brews and discussing life, the universe and everything else in between.
Even today, I still associate coffee with a good conversation.
Starbucks, though, with its standardized interior decor and drinks, seems wholly inappropriate for such freethinking.
This is, after all, the same company that charged emergency workers asking for bottled water to distribute to people that had barely escaped the collapse of the World Trade Center.
If somebody charges $130 for three cases of bottle water while a couple of blocks away buildings are collapsing and people are dying, I do not feel particularly obliged to give them my money, no matter how good their coffee or how convenient their location.
For two and a half years, my wife worked at a Joe Muggs, a Starbuck’s clone that is always found in the corporate bookstore chain Books A Million.
She has since vowed never to work for such a company again and still refers to this job as “slave labor” as she did not even get time off on Christmas and earned a pitiful wage while selling overpriced coffee.
We are, however, regulars at Sacred Grounds on Busch Boulevard, and that place could not be more different from Starbucks or Joe Muggs.
Sacred Grounds, the creators of the “corporate coffee sucks” T-shirts, has a long-standing association with the community radio station WMNF. In contrast to such companies as Starbucks, Sacred Grounds is heavily involved in community work and regularly host debates and showings of non-mainstream movies such as Unprecedented, a movie about the 2000 presidential election.
They also allow local artists to play on the premises for tips and gas money Friday and Saturday nights. It’s probably the best way to listen to some good music for very little money, while sipping excellent coffee.
They even offer wireless Internet access, just like their evil, corporate nemesis.
However, they do not offer a drive through as Starbucks does. (A drive through coffee house where you do not even need to get out your car to get a latte. Could you be lazier, if you tried?)
The ironic part is that Starbucks started out as what Sacred Grounds is like today, your neighborhood’s coffeehouse.
Today, it is a coffeehouse that is so gigantic and omnipresent that it doubled as Dr. Evil’s cover-up operation in an Austin Powers movie in a plot for world domination.
From its origins in Seattle, the place where the price of espresso is said to be advertised outside gas stations along with the price of gas, Starbucks has grown to be a prime example of a global corporation, rather than a homely hideout that celebrates individuality and free speech.
As long as places like Sacred Grounds exist, I will choose them over Starbucks any day.
Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in environmental science and is The Oracle opinion editor.