Why Better Than Starbucks?
As with so many stories, this literally begins a long time ago in a place far away. In the beautiful land of Shelfari, which is, sadly, no more. In Shelfari the books lay in stacks on the ground, and poets dreamed and professors mingled with housewives, and the air hung thick with the incense of peace and love.
Around Christmas of 2007, I stumbled onto a group called Brilliant Babes (and Dudes) Who Read Selectively, aka BBD. Rob and Suze were the ring leaders. It was a closed group but a couple of my really smart funny friends were members and invited me. The lot of them were witty, and they tended to read books I liked.
Shelfari had, and someday I hope to duplicate it, the truly friendly “cocktail party” discussion threads. I spent the first three months of 2008 thinking I had found a new home, me and my closest 168 friends. But as I, and most folks are wont to do, I let my guard down. I spoke a little more “truth” than I should have.
One of the members loved Starbucks Coffee, not only the coffee, but the company. Starbucks, especially then, was doing a pretty good job of convincing the public they were the good guys, they paid above minimum wage, they extended healthcare benefits in a pre Obamacare era. And somehow, like McDonalds, like Budwieser, they took a substandard product, and with very clever marketing, made people willing to pay two and three dollars for a seventy-five cent cup of coffee. Good on them!
The problem I have with Starbucks is not really the coffee. (as many times as I have tried, and I must have bought over 100 cups of coffee from them, and I can never drink more than a couple of sips and I have to throw it away) The problem is their business model.
They practice the Policy of Triangulation. When there is a successful independent coffee shop. they open three stores a block or two away in different directions, killing off the local coffee shop, and then they close one or two of the 3 and have the local market all to themselves. Yes, this is legal, but I find the taste in my mouth from it is worse than their badly roasted beans.
What does this have to do with me? with BBD? and more to the point Better than Starbucks? I made the mistake of sharing that I thought their business policy was as nasty as their coffee. Little did I know, in my Barbarian in the China shop ways, I stood my ground, and she was offended, so the powers that be banned me. (This accounted for my very high bar for banning at BTS.)
This almost hurt my feelings, but what really hurt was they had a book club, and we were just starting The Painted Veil. I am a huge fan of Somerset’s other work and had not read this one. So I contacted everyone I knew and invited them to join me in an open group to be known as “Better than Starbucks.”
That was the 1st day of April 2008. Within a week we had a few hundred and over the next 8 years we grew to nearly 4000 members. We did eventually have a bookclub reading of the book, and many others. Maybe if and when we get the salon up and running, we can have more. I haven’t had much to do with the old BBD folks in years. I wish them well. I hope they found a home somewhere in the wasteland that followed the destruction of Shelfari.
Thanks for everything BBD! — Anthony Uplandpoet Watkins