Skippy is back and you've got him. I have no witty insults for you this month, dear skipbot. I wish that I could come up with some elegant slam of your breeding or intelligence or personal hygiene, but alas I am incapable of such an effort at this time. By the way, incapable means that I'm not able to insult you right this minute, buy a dictionary so that you can keep up in the future. Hey, what do you know, I was able to insult you after all, isn't life funny?
That first paragraph is known as the intro. I tend to use the intro to insult my readers' intelligence. This is known as a "non-standard intro" and is generally frowned upon in the industry. Seems that most folks think belittling your readers' mental capacity in the first paragraph tends to drive people away. I, on the other hand, think that most people in the industry are degenerate morons that couldn't find elegance and wit with two hands. Judging from the ever growing size of the Skip Army, you all tend to agree with me. Of course you are none too bright either, but the validation is nice.
This month I'd like to bring up something that has been nagging at me for a while. No, it isn't the continued proliferation of second tier MTV celebrities on the airwaves. While this is still an alarming trend, I have a dish now so it's easier for me to avoid them. No, I'm talking about America's embrace of mediocrity and out and out rejection of excellence. That's right, I'm talking about Starbucks. OK, OK, stop shaking your head like that, you are going to hurt yourself. I will, in due course, explain what I am talking about so that everyone can follow along.
America used to love the winner, the best in their field, the folks that strove for and achieved excellence. It was, in many ways, our national character, if you weren't going to be the best at something then why do it at all. Second place wasn't good enough, couldn't be good enough. We weren't all winners and you didn't get a ribbon just for trying. In short, we measured results and if the results weren't there it didn't matter how nice a guy you were, you were a loser. It was the driving force behind manifest destiny and our drive to become a super power. It was this love of winners that made the American Empire.
Then a weird thing happened, we got beat by a second rate, third world nation, that by all rights we should have pounded to dust. On top of that, every four years at the Olympics, a bunch of steroid freaks from the Eastern Bloc would clean our clocks (and the soviet men's squads were pretty good too). Add to that the fact that our industries couldn't keep up with the very countries whose tails we'd whomped during World War II just thirty years ago. Suddenly we weren't winning all of the time. In fact, we were getting our asses kicked on a pretty regular basis. Not only were we no longer number one, in some stuff we'd dropped out of the top ten. It was a troubling time.
Now as a nation we had two ways to deal with this. We could buckle down reclaim our rightful place as the best in the world at everything we chose to do, or we could say that trying hard to be the best was enough and accept that you can't win all the time. I think you all know which way we went. I have no problem with that decision on its face. The fact is that you can't win all the time at every thing you do and failure is a necessary part of life. My problem is where it has lead us in these past twenty or so years. We have gone from "win or die", to "try your best", to "just show up". Now we give ribbons just for participating and we have convinced ourselves that not only is winning not the only thing, it really isn't all that important.
Well I have some disturbing news for you folks. We as a nation are pack of whining losers. So much so that when we are faced with a winner among us, we tear the meat from their bones like a pack of hyenas. Cackling all the while at this supposed "hero" who had the temerity to actually try to rise above the competition and be the best at something. What are they thinking? Don't they know that being numbingly average is more than enough in today's America? Don't they realize that all of the sniveling pop psychologists out there have concluded that there must be something wrong with a person that actually cares about winning? Don't they realize that it is an obvious mental defect to do anything other than the required minimum?
Thus we have Starbucks. (you were wondering about that weren't you?) This is a company that went from nothing to the dominant player in a industry that they created in this country in less than a decade. A company that by all accounts sells well made products at a reasonable price and is about as good a corporate citizen that you will find. Yet many people positively hate this company. People actually protest the opening of Starbucks in their neighborhood. I have friends that will go well out of their way to shop at Starbucks' local competitor, Peet's Coffee and Tea. I love the fact that these folks can't stand the successful, national chain, but they just love the less successful local chain. Nice logic kids.
When I ask people why they have a problem with Starbucks, I am usually amused by their answers. "Well, they're just so big, they're everywhere." So what? I like the fact that I can get a quality cup of coffee wherever I go in the bay area. Ever been to Reno? They don't have Starbucks in Reno yet and you can't find decent cup of coffee to save your life.
Sometimes they will talk about how Starbucks will open up right across the street from a local coffee shop and drive them out of business. I get a kick out of that argument. Where exactly do these people expect Starbucks to open their stores? In the middle of a wheat field? The fact is that certain areas are "right" for opening a coffee shop, you can't expect Starbucks to avoid them just because someone is already there.
Besides, Starbucks isn't using predatory tactics to drive these local shops out of business. They aren't undercutting them on price. They don't advertise them into submission. All Starbucks does is provide a consistently superior product. Do they sometimes take business away from smaller local shops? Yes, of course they do. But that is only because the business is there to be taken. If these local coffee shops provide good service and good coffee, they are going to flourish regardless of who is in the neighborhood. If they don't, then Starbucks is going to have them for lunch. That is called competition folks and Starbucks realizes that you are in it to win, or don't bother getting in at all. If that is cause for resentment and hatred in today's America, we've fallen farther than even I'd like to admit.