P. J. O'Rourke
As a key to the secret of Starbucks, Starbucked is a failurea failure that we should all buy and read. Because in Part 2 of his opus, Clark turns from trying to explain why Starbucks is successful to trying to judge whether Starbucks is a monster of capitalist rapine. And we are treated to astonishing examples of open-minded intellectual honesty, arguments from evidence and cleareyed reporting.
The New York Times
There's a double shot of skepticism in this account of Starbucks' ascendancy as "a permanent fixture in the global landscape" written by Clark, a Portland-based journalist, who's been mulling over Starbucks ever since the coffeehouse chain opened three branches in his small Oregon hometown. His coverage begins with a Seattle trio who set out to emulate the high-quality coffee of the California-based Peet's chain, before Howard Schultz took over the company and laid plans for its massive expansion. While Clark grudgingly admires Starbucks' ability to repackage coffee as "beverage entertainment" for a "hyperprosperous society in search of emotional soothing," there's a lot he doesn't like about the company. He's convinced that Starbucks "diminishes the world's diversity" by ruthlessly outmaneuvering local competition on a global scale, and dubs the baristas' work as "a textbook McJob." Even the quality of the coffee, he says, has gone downhill. Though Clark loses some of his focus by trying to rope in so many arguments against Starbucks, overall, his dubious perspective on one of the modern world's most ubiquitous icons is just frothy enough to prove entertaining. (Nov. 5)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Starbucks jolts awake 40 million customers a week and opens six new stores each day. Its 13,000 (and growing) stores can be found in 39 countries; notable locations include the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and by the Great Wall of China. In the first section of this stimulating account, journalist Clark chronicles the rise of the coffee giant and the mainstreaming of specialty coffee and café culture in America. In the second, he delves deeper into ethical issues surrounding Starbucks, from the plight of coffee growers in developing countries to the issues of cultural homogenization and corporate colonialization as Starbucks expands its operations around the world. Clark dispels as myths most of these gripes against the conglomerate-he argues that mom-and-pop coffee shops are actually helped by Starbucks!-or as inevitable consequences of the company's success. Like John F. Love's McDonald's: Behind the Archesand Mark Pendergrast's For God, Country, and Coca-Cola,this is both history and balanced critique of a company that has become a cultural phenomenon. Recommended for all public libraries.
Clark, who cut his journalistic teeth in Oregon writing for Portland's hip Willamette Week, rehearses the history of the ubiquitous chain that's made coffee-drinking equally hip. The rise of the Starbucks Corporation is already the stuff of legend, and the book is most original in the second half, which investigates the controversies that attend every sip of the Seattle-based company's java. Detractors variously claim that Starbucks hurts local communities by besting small businesses, that it exploits coffee-bean growers in the developing world, that it sells goods that are bad for our health, that it is viciously anti-union and that, like McDonald's, it is integral to global American cultural imperialism. The chapter about the chain's impact on individual communities is especially intriguing. Clark spotlights towns like Sharon, Mass., which begged the chain to open a franchise there. Many civic boosters see a Starbucks on Main Street as "a magic key to new prosperity," a signal that your schools aren't too bad and your arts scene is just about to take off. Evaluating the quality of Starbucks coffee, the author argues that as the chain has expanded, it has sacrificed its own high standards. Readers will come away wondering whether Starbucks intentionally peddles burnt-tasting coffee so that, since the plain stuff's not that good, people are more likely to buy pricey, high-fat, sugar-heavy concoctions. Although Clark writes in the epilogue that he continues to fret about the ways in which the chain "diminishes the world's diversity every time it builds a new cafe," in most chapters he insists on showing both sides of every coin. He could profitably have played the brash op-ed provocateur abit more. An absorbing account bolstered by solid reporting. Agent: Melissa Flashman/Trident Media Group