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Wrestling with Starbucks

Conscience, Capital, Cappuccino

Kim Fellner

Publication Year: 2008

In this entertaining and provocative ramble through Starbucks's ethos and actions, Kim Fellner asks how a coffeehouse chain with a liberal reputation came to symbolize, for some, the ills of globalization. Armed with an open mind and a sense of humor, Fellner takes readers on an expedition into the muscle and soul of the coffee company. She finds a corporation filled with contradictions: between employee-friendly processes and anti-union practices; between an internationalist vision and a longing for global dominance; between community individuality and cultural hegemony. On a daily basis Starbucks walks a fine line. It must be profitable enough to please Wall Street and principled enough to please social justice advocates. Although observers might argue that the company has done well at achieving a balance, Starbucks's leaders run the risk of satisfying neither constituency and must constantly justify themselves to both. Through the voices of Central American coffee farmers, officers at corporate headquarters, independent café owners, unionists, baristas, traders, global justice activists, and consumers, Fellner explores the forces that affect Starbucks's worth and worthiness. Along the way, she subjects her own unabashedly progressive perspective to scrutiny and emerges with a compelling and unexpected look at Starbucks, the global economy, our economic convictions, and the values behind our morning cup of joe.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. vii

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Introduction: The Global Economy Comes Home

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pp. 1-14

"It was November 30, 1999. I was standing amid a horde of demonstrators at what was about to be dubbed 'the Battle of Seattle,' the protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) that hurled global justice into the headlines and gave new meaning to our macchiatos. Suddenly there was a crash not twenty feet from where I stood, and the Starbucks window collapsed in a hail of glass. 'Hey,' I said to my husband, Alec, 'That’s our coffee..."

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Chapter 1: The Empire Strikes Gold

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pp. 15-26

"If you'd accidentally walked into Seattle's McCaw Hall on March 30, 2004, you might have mistaken the spectacle for a Vegas-style stage show. There were musical acts, jugglers, video comedies, and a procession of percussionists. Someone read David Letterman’s Top-Ten List, 'Things You Don’t Want to Hear in Starbukcs.' Three..."

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Chapter 2: Running the 10-K

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pp. 27-46

"To present a company's best face, annual meetings tend to include plenty of spectacle and flash a way to show stockholders, the press, and the public that the company is simultaneously comfortable and innovative. These meetings also spawn a forest of paperwork. To follow Schultz’s parallel visions of profit and principle, I began with two Starbucks reports: the annual 10-K thatevery public company must file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange..."

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Chapter 3: Banking on the Bean

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pp. 47-68

"Back in the 1970's, my husband, a premature caffeinista, talked with Alfred Peet, acknowledged godfather of the high-end coffee business, about the nature of north-south trade. 'Isn’t it true that you can’t grow coffee without cheap labor?' Alec asked. Mr. Peet leaned on the counter and smiled. “No,” he said."

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Chapter 4: Go Sell It on the Mountain

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pp. 69-114

"On the hillsides of Costa Rica, farmers talk about their fields as though their coffee plants were human. They wait for the day when their trees are 'fully dressed' and the beans lie red and lustrous along the branches. They shade them from the sun with canopies of banana trees and worry about how to revitalize them after they’ve been 'stressed' by the harvest. 'Look, here’s my baby,' said one of the Sanchez brothers, caressing the shiny leaves of a small Geisha plant growing along a contoured..."

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Chapter 5: Moving Up on Eighth Street

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pp. 115-122

"Starbucks opened 599 stores in North America in 2003, one of them on Southest Eight Street in Washington, D.C., barely three blocks from my front door. The buzz started long before the first cup was served. A few weeks earlier, the Payless shoe store had anchored a tired block of downscale businesses, which included a Popeye’s, a check-cashing store, and a..."

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Chapter 6: The Cross- Dressing of Coffee-Counter Culture

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pp. 123-139

"There's often a flurry of opinions, pro and con, about the potential impact of an urban Starbucks on its neighborhood. But there are also people—surprisingly many of them—whose passions extend beyond a single store to the very idea of Starbucks..."

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Chapter 7: When Worker Met Partner

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pp. 140-162

"For a year, I kept five lovely little cards on my desk. Each was the size of a standard business card and bore an illustration, awash in gentle color and New Age sensibility, representing a trait that epitomizes the ideal Starbucks partner. 'Welcoming,' says one drawn in mock-child style, a picture of a multiracial group of partners wearing green aprons and smiles and surrounded by the word welcome in many languages. “Offer everyone a..."

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Chapter 8: At the Global Crossroads

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pp. 163-185

"Tadesse Meskela, general manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Ethiopia, an organization of 115 cooperatives representing more than 102,000 coffee growers, apparently had mixed feelings about Starbucks. In an interview transcript from a June 2006 Starbucks meeting on African coffees, he spoke warmly about the company’s role in advancing the well-being of Ethiopian coffee farmers..."

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Chapter 9: The View from Headquarters

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pp. 186-202

"Howard Schultz has a signature riff-'growing big while staying small.' shorthand for expanding Starbucks’ reach and brand while retaining a sense of intimacy. Easier said than done."

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Chapter 10: Capitalism Is Like Fire...

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pp. 203-219

"John Sage. president of Pura Vida Coffee, sat with me in his decidedly un-Starbucks-ike Seattle office, located in a low warehouse-style building redolent of counter-culture, dimly lit, with bright posters and mismatched furniture, catty-corner from Mermaid Central across the street. 'I’m alwaysarguing with my lefty friends, but capitalism as a system is value neutral,' Sage insisted. 'It all depends how you make your money and..."

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Chapter 11: Goodness As Battleground

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pp. 220-235

"What's good? And who gets to decide? Can capitalism ever be good? How about globalization? A transnational corporation? An employer? How about us? These were the questions that growled and rumbled beneath the Seattle protests, and my colleagues were not of one mind about the answers. 'People who go into corporate management didn’t sign up to be civil servants,' notes Liz Butler, who works at ForestEthics. 'But increasingly, the crucial decisions are being made in boardrooms, and we need them to take on that role.' In her opinion,..."

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Chapter 12: Bread. Roses. Coffee.

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pp. 236-243

"If Starbukcs has forced me to reassess the dance of conscience and capital, it's also led me to reconsider the role of individual leadership. At the beginning of my research and again toward the end, I interviewed Starbucks founder..."

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pp. 255-247

"This book is my first. It was fun, and it was hell; but without a lot of help from a lot of people, it would have been no fun at all. The book started out as a small article, 'The Starbucks Paradox,' in ColorLines, a magazine published by the Applied Research Center. My running buddies at ARC are an inspiration. Francis Calpotura, Rinku Sen, Sonia Pe


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pp. 249-266


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pp. 267-283

About the Author

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pp. 285

E-ISBN-13: 9780813545066
E-ISBN-10: 0813545064
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813543208
Print-ISBN-10: 0813543207

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2008