Across the globe, millions of “coffee” drinkers adhere to the routine of flocking to the nearest Starbucks location to order their favorite sugar free soy vanilla latte steamed to 143 degrees Fahrenheit (with no foam, of course) – the perfect antidote for the stress of the daily grind.
As this has progressively become more of a customary morning practice, black coffee drinkers – the courageous souls who consume their coffee without diluting it with cream and sugar to enjoy the full astringent taste it has to offer – wait patiently for the line to dissipate before ordering the easiest and quickest beverage to create.
Inevitably, there lies the divisive issue of the pretentiousness of Starbucks – the “hipster” coffee shop chain that is monopolizing the market and potentially driving out local coffee shops.
Within the analysis of whether Starbucks is “too pretentious,” the commonly held preconception of Starbucks customers exhibiting pedantic and entitled behavior will also be examined, as these are often conflated with the notion of pretentiousness.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of “pretentious” is “attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.”
There is no doubt that, for angsty middle-schoolers and tweens donning their Lululemon yoga pants, the majority of the appeal of a Starbucks drink is for the brand recognition of the fashionable logo.
Understandably, it appears more “fashionable” to peruse the mall – after Mom and Dad drop them off, of course – with a Starbucks cup in hand rather than a Dixie disposable coffee cup.
While other popular coffee chains such as Scooter’s are not lamented nearly as heavily for being “pretentious,” this is mainly due to the level of customizability that Starbucks affords its customers.
While there are only so many ways to modify a mango fruit smoothie at Scooter’s, there are a plethora of permutations and combinations of ingredients one can request in a Starbucks cold foam cold brew, for instance.
This level of customizability inevitably enables pedantic idiosyncrasies within its customer base, as the popular coffee chain willingly allows its customers to specify their desired temperature for their beverage.
With the ability to customize almost any aspect of a beverage that costs more than my outfit, it’s no wonder why customers will inevitably feel entitled to the acquiescence of employees to their demands. After all, isn’t that what we’re paid for?
Given the primary demographic of Starbucks customers – young hipster millennials that value the convenience of having their “coffee” beverages pre-made rather than enjoying a good ol’ cup of Folgers black coffee, the question of why they would be willing to pay $7.00 for a 12-ounce latte pretty much answers itself.
With a beverage that is so exorbitantly priced, an unwavering sense of neuroticism and fastidiousness to the details of their drink is a natural byproduct of the pricing structure, as customers naturally desire to receive proper value for an expensive product, even if the expensive beverages do not necessarily contain coffee (i.e. vanilla bean Frappuccinos).
With steadily growing commonality of food-related allergies, the resurgence of “alternative” milks (no, not the off-color milks that wear edgy clothing and listen to melancholy music filled with ambiguous lyrics), or non-dairy milks, has sustained the popularity of Starbucks.
After all, the beloved coffee chain offers coconut milk, lightly sweetened almond milk, and soy milk (for a 50-cent upcharge, of course).
While trendy beverages such as the infamous “pink drinks” naturally contain coconut milk, the rising popularity of food-related allergies and dietary restrictions naturally give way to an increasing trend of requests for almond or soy milk in Frappuccinos.
Additionally, the staggering rise of “veganism” within the Starbucks customer base has led to requests of almond milk, and the recent dietary fad of the “keto diet” has led to middle-aged PTA moms requesting heavy whipping cream in their 24-ounce lattes (yikes) in order to lose weight, when that will only pose the opposite effect.
Maybe the controversy around its pretentiousness is where the brand owes its success? So, is Starbucks too pretentious? With regard to the innate merit and quality of its beverages, I would answer in the affirmative.
But with regards to other competitive coffee chains, this so-called “pretentiousness” represents Starbucks’ competitive advantage.
Maybe the controversy surrounding its pretentiousness and hipster appeal is where the brand owes its global success.