Starbucks vs. the Traveler

Audio Slideshow  •  Jim Benning  •  01.28.08 | 12:17 PM ET

Jim Benning

Jim Benning is the editor and co-founder of World Hum.

Photos by Jim Benning, except: Shanghai Starbucks photo by c a m i l o via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Starbucks Seoul, Korea by jared via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Starbucks Italy by miss karen via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Starbucks Beijing by granth via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Starbucks London by marktollerman via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Starbucks overflowing mug by MyLifeStory via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Starbucks Dubai by Marc van der Chijs via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Mexico highway by Erick Muņiz via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Forbidden City Starbucks by d’n'c via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Tokyo Starbucks by nimbu via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Kyoto Starbucks by MShades via Flickr, (Creative Commons; Frankfurt Starbucks by re-ality via Flickr, (Creative Commons); Tijuana crumbling building by eschipul via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

31 Comments for Starbucks vs. the Traveler

Joanna Kakissis 01.28.08 | 4:51 PM ET


Lana Linhart 01.28.08 | 7:29 PM ET

Thanks for trying to justify another American monster. I notice how you failed to mention how many local coffee shops go out of business every day due to the infiltration of Starbucks to the most remote and sacred places in the world.

Yes, Tijuana may still be Tijuana at heart, but the more American corporations move in, the greater the loss to the Mexican people as an independent self-sustaining society is.

I’m just curious, how much did they pay you to make this load of trash?

Jim Benning 01.28.08 | 7:46 PM ET

As I said in the slide show, Lana, it’s easy to hate Starbucks. It’s also easy to assume that Starbucks is driving indie coffee shops out of business. In fact, a story by the author of the new book “Starbucked” reported this:

“Just over the five-year period from 2000 to 2005—long after Starbucks supposedly obliterated indie cafes—the number of mom and pops grew 40 percent, from 9,800 to nearly 14,000 coffeehouses. (Starbucks, I might add, tripled in size over that same time period. Good times all around.) So much for the sharp decline in locally owned coffee shops.”

Here’s the link to the Slate piece:

I don’t think my slide show “justifies” anything. It’s merely an observation about Starbucks’ effect on cultures based on my travel experiences. In fact, given the choice, I love to patronize indie coffee shops. By the way, a Mexican-owned coffee chain recently moved in to San Diego: D’Volada. I think it’s great.

Eva Holland 01.28.08 | 7:53 PM ET

I really enjoyed this, Jim!

I have to confess, I go to Starbucks when I’m traveling far more often than I do when I’m at home. (Chai lattes in 5 countries and counting…) There just aren’t that many places where a) there’s a washroom for customers, b) you can buy something small and cheap and consume it someplace warm and dry, and c) the staff are extremely likely to speak English. It’s sort of my travel refuge…

Incidentally, if you ever find yourself in a British Starbucks, the cheddar and Branston pickle sandwich is to die for. And not available anywhere else!

Tony Moldovanyi 01.28.08 | 8:30 PM ET

First, let me start by saying thiat this was a very well-written piece. I regret ti=on inform you, that I probably wouldn’t have shared my appreciation for your writing had it not been for one of the comments following it, and for that, I apologize. However…

Ms. Lana Linhart wrote this afternoon- “Thanks for trying to justify another American monster. I notice how you failed to mention how many local coffee shops go out of business every day due to the infiltration of Starbucks to the most remote and sacred places in the world.”

To that I say, a true businessman should have the foresight to determine whether or not their own business could sustain such competition. I see small mom & pop businesses go out all the time, and not just coffee shops, but hardware store, pet stores, etc… All replaced by corporations who can in many cases do things better, and almost always- CHEAPER. In the beginning of the takeover, I tried to resist, in any industry but have come to the realization that it’s not going away. Eventually the Starbucks candle will extinguish itself: too many stores, high operating costs, etc… and then, it will be someone elses turn to takeover.

Until then, I’ll take a Triple Venti Orange Mocha…

Melissa Mischel 01.28.08 | 11:46 PM ET

I would like to add that as a recent graduate in the Business field I found this piece enjoyable.
It seems so ignorant for people to attack big business for being what they are…the best at providing certain goods or services. Do people not realize that Starbucks was once a ma & pa store too? When Starbucks started out, it was just one coffee shop in one city for almost 20 years! I do not believe that the owners set out to destroy the unique cultures of certain societies - but rather to provide outstanding product and lively service to the people worldwide who obviously enjoy them.

Marilyn Terrell 01.29.08 | 12:30 AM ET

I like it that Jim is so even-handed in this piece.  It’s easy to condemn Starbucks, but on the other hand, as Eve says, it is someplace warm and dry to buy something small and cheap.  And they offer jobs to locals.  That’s not a bad thing.

Kelsey 01.29.08 | 9:53 AM ET

I enjoyed this piece Jim and await more slideshows on WorldHum.  As for the Starbucks’ controversy…

I think it’s important that writers don’t always tell people what to think about the world, but present them with enough info to make their own decisions.  You’ve done that here.  Nice work.

Starbucks is truly shrinking our planet.

TambourineMan 01.29.08 | 11:20 PM ET

Nice slide show, Jim. Please tell me you chased that frappa-whatever with a nice cold cerveza before heading home.

C A Jones 01.30.08 | 2:22 PM ET

While I like the article, “Went to Tijuana to see if the local culture was affected” by US company Starbucks but ‘local culture’ of - Tijuana?

btw, is it true Starbuck’s pricing is $1 per syllable?

Craig 01.31.08 | 1:30 AM ET

I usually order a Vente Americano with cinnamon dulce syrup and room.  The one thing about Starbucks is I can get this exact drink, done the way I like it, anywhere there is a starbucks.  At starbucks there is 4 shots of espresso in a Vente Americano, some of the other shops I have tried use 2.  I like Starbucks because they are reliable and I know that I can get what I like.  Thanks for the piece.

Craig 01.31.08 | 1:42 AM ET

PS I also like Walmart, Home Depot, and Barnes and Nobel.  I recently took a Cruise to the Mexican Riviera Purta Varata, Matzatlan and Cabo, there was a Walmart/Sams at everywhere we went.  The world may be getting smaller, but not necessarily in a negative way.

Sara 01.31.08 | 3:27 PM ET

I enjoy seeing a Starbucks wherever I travel. It provides a nice refuge where I know I can get a great cup a coffee. I think that many people forget that Starbucks started as a single, mom and pop store in Pike Place Market in Seattle. It grew to the giant that it is because it is successful. Starbucks also gets involved in the communities it enters and provides great benefits for it’s employees….my husband included.

Jim Benning 02.01.08 | 7:50 PM ET

Thanks for the comments. Much appreciated.

As for that beer, TambourineMan, I promise to have a good Mexican beer on my next trip across the border. Preferably a Negra Modelo.

Theresea 02.02.08 | 2:10 PM ET

I enjoyed this slide show so much and only wish I could get the code to download it on my space for others to hear. 
Maybe they should not put thier sign in the green “starbucks”  and adapt it for each place starbucks opens a store, showing only the language of the country where it opens. In otherwards, Starbucks written in “Chinese” if in Shanghai and then maybe, people would be more accepting thinking one of their own companies opened instead of knowing it is from America.

JohnD 02.03.08 | 10:19 AM ET


Just right click the screen and view the page source….

That should work to get the Video code….

Jack from 02.04.08 | 1:49 PM ET

For all of you that don’t like Starbucks, there are plenty of indies around. Try to find them. I’ve got a review of that site at

sandra 02.04.08 | 4:32 PM ET

Really enjoyed the piece, Jim. I work in Tijuana, and the Starbucks is near my office in the Rio Zone. While I have never liked Starbucks coffee, I find their cafe near the federal courthouse on Paseo de los Heroes very well designed, especially the outdoor patio. On a warm day, it’s great to sit there and watch the cars go by, and pretend for a moment that you’re actually in Paris.

Peggy from 02.05.08 | 4:12 PM ET

The real controversy isn’t about Starbucks it is about chain retailers and independent smaller
family owned retailers. When traveling, I opt for the local offerings, full well knowing that I am probably helping to feed a family rather than a large corporation’s bottom line. Perhaps the familiarity when traveling out of one’s comfort zone is why folks stop in at a Starbucks. At home, I shop at independent book stores and coffee shops as well. These folks provide the very best in terms of service and impact on the local communities where they are located.
Are we at risk losing the very fabric of independence and the authentic colorfulness of the world’s tapestry with the growth of mega world chains. As we travel the world may we do so in a spirit of support of those whose homeland we are guests.

christian 02.07.08 | 7:56 PM ET

I’m from Buenos Aires Argentina and waiting for the opening of our first Starbucks on May. I can’t believe that some posters thinks this chain could change a country culture, its just sells coffee. Does sushi, chinese dumplings, mexican tacos or italian pizza cange your? I don’t think so. Starbucks is another coffee chain, whe have many local ones and nobody is afraid of Starbucks. So don’t worry, maybe Starbucks changed the coffee history in USA, but not in the rest of the world, they are just other coffee chain .

maitresse 02.11.08 | 10:45 PM ET

great post… inspired me to do my own comparison of how Starbucks changes from city to city (

Craig 02.14.08 | 8:19 PM ET

Starbucks, McDonalds, and every other multinational are not going to ruin the entire culture of a country.  People always have a choice.  When I travel around the globe for business, I see people wearing Nike(USA) Adidas(Germany) and the like.  Do we also expect all Germans to be running around in lederhosen,  all Japanese in Kimonos, and Scotts in kilts?  Every person who complains on the internet about global business is responding on a computer made by a multinational company and connected through communication lines owned by multinational companies.    People who are dead set against multinational business should either hole up in a shack in the woods like Theodore Kazinski or go live with the Taliban.

brian 02.16.08 | 12:57 AM ET

to think that a chain will “doom a culture”- how naive!  it only changes a self-centered american tourist’s sense they aren’t traveling off the beaten path to an “exotic” destination… selfish i think.  sorry that locals in manila, shanghai, london etc ruined it for you joanna!

Ling 02.17.08 | 12:28 AM ET

Can’t stop globalization. For every Starbucks that opens in mexico, I’m sure there must be dozens, if not hundreds, of Mexican eateries opened by immigrants in the U.S. I just wish Starbucks would make more of an effort to be more environment friendly to provide organic coffee.

John M. Edwards 02.20.08 | 2:25 AM ET

Hi Folks:

Thank god for Starbucks. There in a pinch to have your morning cup of fresh whole milk (“Hot or cold?” they ask. Yeah right, like anyone begins their day with a stinking glass of steaming spume.) I even picked up a copy of Beck’s “The Information” there, plus the weird remake of Alanis Morisette’s real popular CD, which sounds vaguely sitarish and spooky. I’ll go Cream music reviewer on you, and describe Starbucks, the unholy union of New England pragmatism and Seattle barista blues, as being a little more polite than your average joe.

Compare the hip bistros and luxus restaurants, where the “indie” fashion-victim concierge informs you, after you walk in with “blue teeth”—discolored by cheap Beaujolais—literally foaming at the mouth with fatigue, that, . . . “We are fully committed!”

Now wait, is this a restaurant or a frigging lunatic asylum? Dunno. Give me a coffee and a doughnut to go. Room for one more, honey.

John D 03.09.08 | 1:15 PM ET

Gotta say i really love STARBUCK Coffee!!!

Not so keen on the new breakfast sandwiches?

John D

Ron Mader 03.29.08 | 9:33 AM ET

Here in Oaxaca we’ve been having discussions about what constitutes fair trade coffee, organic coffee, good tasting coffee and it makes sense since this is such a prominent coffee-growing area of Mexico.

The local directory——touts the best of the best while simply leaving out the chains.

kc shankar 08.04.08 | 7:34 PM ET

I totally agree with you on this issue,maybe there should be a law against what companies like starbucks do, by putting the little guys out of business.

Zach 09.04.08 | 3:35 PM ET

I do agree with your article but I must have to say, if I was the owner of Starbuck’s I would be doing the same thing…. wouldn’t you? Gotta give credit where credit is due.

Town Pages

Nick from London 09.05.08 | 5:53 AM ET

How’s globalisation really affecting the rest of Mexico? I mean, the march of Starbucks and Wal-Mart must be ongoing after all. Is the same thing happening in, say, Quintana Roo as is happening in the border states and Mexico City?

A. Wannabe Travelwriter 10.06.08 | 1:54 AM ET

As the picture states, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks.”
Their corporate culture seems to have new sites set up shop to devour small, local, independents.
And their coffee really isn’t that good.
I really would like to get to Cuba before Starbucks sets up shop there.

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