I finally found a copy of this article again, it had vanished from its original location by the time I was ready to write about it.
A recent Reuters article (mirrored on sott.net) reports on a rather bold move by Starbucks, the well-known coffee shop chain once lauded and now decried by many.
In essence, these new coffee shops are an attempt to masquerade as a local, independent, non-chain coffee shop on a surface level. The only clue of what they really are may be told by an “inspired by Starbucks” on the Web site and assumably on the on-location signage. Were it not a PR disaster just waiting to happen to not disclose this, were the suits at Starbucks of the mindset that they thought they could get away with it, they probably would omit even this subtle, stealth, submarine clue.
It does make a very strong statement when a large chain feels it cannot stake its claim with its existing brand in its core market. It does seem out of character for Starbucks to do impressions of an independent coffee shop. It is almost as if Starbucks tacitly admits the familiar green mermaid logo is working against it rather than for it in certain cases.
Some of you, particularly my regular readers, may be asking the question already, so I’ll go ahead and answer it: no, I really don’t have an axe to grind with Starbucks the way I do with some other large companies. However, there is no denying their reputation as a brand has suffered greatly in recent years. The proliferation of local coffee shops here in Houston, such as Inversion Coffee, Dirk’s Coffee (formerly Diedrich Coffee before the company apparently ceased its retail operations), Brasil, and Catalina Coffee, serves as ample evidence of a new trend in that arena.
If Starbucks can’t win with its “inspired by Starbucks” stores in its home arena of Seattle, Washington, I fail to see how they will fare any better in other arenas across the country. It’s a very creative deception, but a deception nonetheless, and will be remembered for months if not years to come by many of Starbucks’ customers and potential customers.
I’ve mentioned Quinn’s Big City (QBC) a couple of times here (“here” being this blog, if not this blog in its current location), mostly in passing. I try to keep most of my long drawn-out ranting here; the longer pieces on QBC I have referred to as “verbiage pieces” and I try to keep my usual no-holds-barred rant style out of them.
For those of you not familiar with it, the centerpiece of QBC is a feature called the LOVIEE (Listing of Very Interesting/Exciting Events), a “best of Houston” events list with weekly, monthly, and holiday special editions. (Well, usually they are holidays, I’ve had one that was not for a specific holiday; it’s a long story.)
Anyway, so during the week when I’m not doing either paid work, out and about having a good time (at an event I posted to QBC or otherwise), Twittering, checking Facebook, writing a piece for this or Iced Tea and Ramen, or otherwise keeping myself entertained at home, I’m updating one of the upcoming LOVIEEs. It is probably easiest to show the process in a video, at some point I will post a video, probably to YouTube but possibly elsewhere as well, showing what goes into QBC (and possibly even my other blogs as well, but QBC is probably the most interesting one to make a video about).
Anyway, since I haven’t made a video yet, I’ll try to describe it. I have an e-mail box where people can send me stuff they want me to consider (and I have posted a few events this way) but the majority come from the cyberspace equivalent of a wild goose chase involving several local events calendars and myriad venue-, artist-, and organization-specific calendars. Some of these are better than others. I’m not going to name names (yet) but I am going to list just a few examples of the problems I’ve run into:
Omitted details such as the starting time of a music act, or just one time without it being clear if that’s the time the doors open or the actual show time. I run across these a lot. Unless the act is really good or I’m running out of things to post, these are in danger of being skipped outright. Sometimes, such as for the New Year’s Eve LOVIEE, I have made exceptions, figuring it’s obvious most parties will not start until at least 8pm or so and most music acts will probably go on at about 9pm. If I do post anyway, it usually winds up being “no time given” which has the potential to come back and look bad on me when the venue decides to amend the listing later. Really, the time a show or event starts is basic information and there are very few excuses for not including it.
No clear indication either way as to whether or not there’s a cover charge and if so how much it is. I try to avoid saying “no cover” or “free admission” unless it’s specifically stated. If it’s likely there’s no actual admission fee, sometimes I just make no mention of it. If I have the least bit of doubt, again, it’s like the time, “cover charge not stated.” The farther out from downtown the venue is, the less likely I am to attend your event if I’m not even sure the cover charge is within my budget at the moment. Nothing kills a night like being told the $10 budgeted for drinks or food would be needed just to get in the door, without advance notice of same.
Venue/artist/organization Web sites that don’t provide a direct link to the calendar, or change it every month and make it part of a frameset. Very annoying, I should be able to bookmark your event calendar and be done with it, and come back in a month, three months, six months, a year and have the same URL work. Framesets are so 1996, and should never have made it into an HTML standard, but I’ll rant about that some other day.
Event calendars so far out of date as to be useless. If we’re in December and I’m looking at a venue’s event calendar that is still showing October, September, or even January or last December, it’s so tempting to fire off an e-mail saying “look guys, you may as well take the damn thing down, it’s not doing anyone any good.”
That covers most of them. I’m sure I could probably come up with a few more. If you have others, either as an event list maintainer/blogger or just someone who goes out a lot, please comment.