retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Not sure if you’ve seen this on the internet or not, but Starbucks apparently is getting some bad press because of allegations that some of its NYC stores have been covering up their electrical outlets so that people will be discouraged from plugging in their laptops and doing everything but declaring residence there.

The accusation is that Starbucks wants people to stay only as long as their laptop batteries last.

The Gothamist reports that Starbucks’ “NY Metro leadership team has stated they are against covering the outlets because it is a passive aggressive way to deal with the issue. However, in extreme cases, they have approved this action because (and let's be real here) some people just cannot be reasoned with... If you are one of those people who uses Starbucks as their office, sits in a store for 8+ hours a day, putting all your files on a table, using a separate chair for your laptop case/ suitcase enjoying unlimited free refills with your Starbucks card, asking for cups of water and refuse to to move until you are good and ready all for the $1.85 you pay as ‘rent,’ then perhaps your actions will answer your questions [about covering the outlets].”

This is an interesting marketing dilemma. After all, part of Starbucks’ core value proposition is that it is a “third place” where people should feel free to hang out, talk, get work done, read, etc... But the question is how to handle it when people start abusing the privilege ...

I’m not sure it matters if Starbucks starts offending $1.85 customers, but the problem is that whatever it does, the solution will go viral almost immediately. (It already has, in fact.) And I think I’d be very careful about doing anything that would seem to subvert a key corporate value.

Okay, I have a terrific book for you to read.

“2030: The Real Story Of What Happens To America,” by Albert Brooks.

Yes, that Albert Brooks. The star of “Finding Nemo,” and the brilliant comic mind behind such films as “Defending Your Life” and “Lost in America.”

I wouldn’t exactly call “2030” a comic novel, though it is written with a breezy and sardonic wit that reads just like Brooks sounds. The premise is simple and compelling: Cancer has been cured, which means that people are living much longer lives, which also means that they are draining the nation’s resources and creating a scenario ripe for a class war in which bitter and angry young people are facing off against the “olds.” Play this out against a backdrop of a bankrupt US government, natural disasters, and people of all ages trying to figure out where they fit in 2020 society, and you have a wonderfully observant and highly readable piece of fiction. Except that for much of the book, even though it is set two decades in the future, it didn’t sound like fiction.

Read it. You’ll be entertained, but glimmers of truth are scattered throughout the book.

On the movie front....

Crazy, Stupid Love. is pretty good - mostly funny and charming as it explores the lives of a group of people in the wake of the decision by one couple (Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore) to divorce. There are nice supporting tuns by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and for the most part it is smart enough to get the little moments right.

Captain America: The First Avenger is yet another movie based on a comic book character. It isn't as bad as Thor, but isn’t even on the same planet as The Dark Knight, which is the scale I use when evaluating these things.

Cowboys & Aliens. Not sure why, but I think this movie works a lot better than I expected. Maybe it is because it is utterly consistent about its premise - it may be about an alien invasion, but it never loses touch with its western essence, and that counts for a lot. As does a strong leading man turn by Daniel Craig, who seems to be channeling some combination of Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. Good stuff.

Our wine of the week is the Chateau Peyros 2004 Madiran, which is a wonderful blend of tannat and cabernet franc that was perfect with ribs - standing up to the meat with its own mouth-filling intensity.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: