The Hear Music store on Fourth Street in Berkeley closed recently. I was a card carrying member. Buy ten CDs get the eleventh one free. Every once in a while I found myself gravitating to Hear Music’s bins full of CDs. I could pluck out any CD, take it to the counter, and listen to it with some lovely headphones before I bought it. It was a fabulous way to experience and buy music.
It might surprise you to know that a Hear Music store is really just a Starbucks without the coffee and the purchasing protocol. http://www.hearmusic.com/
Yes, Starbucks is a music company. You know this fact is true because Berkeley residents celebrated the demise of the Hear Music store on Fourth Street with a street fair that had live music. Ding, dong the witch is dead. A new locally owned music store opened in its place sponsored the event. So I will still be able to indulge in an occasional guilty pleasure at this new store but now I can comfort myself with the fact that I am supporting a local business.
I’m not a typically Berkeleyite. Berkeleyian? First off, I live in El Cerrito. Then again, many people who identify with Berkeley culture actually live in El Cerrito because they can’t afford to buy a run down shack full of termites on an eroding river bed down by the freeway in Berkeley let alone a house. Second, I will actually buy stuff at Starbucks. Usually a sandwich. Sometimes a salad–with all of the bacon and blue cheese scraped off.
Did I say coffee? No. Who buys coffee at Starbucks anymore? I don’t. That’s because Starbucks is a music company. No, make that, a lifestyle company.
Apple announced at a September 5th special event in 2007 that it was forming a partnership with Starbucks. Back in June, Apple released the iPhone. It’s the slickest non-computer computer I’ve ever laid my hands on.
Did I say computer? Eww, yes. Is Apple, Inc. selling computers anymore? Well, as of this year, they’re no longer called Apple Computer, Inc. Computers are icky. iPods are cool. Apple, Inc. is also becoming a lifestyle company.
Soon, I will be able to go into a Starbucks, whip out my Apple iPhone, and purchase the song currently playing at the Starbucks. My purchase will zoom wirelessly to my iPhone and I can begin listening to it immediately with my salad. My sandwich? My krappuccino! That’s some pretty sweet tech. Motorola was trying to whine and moan Apple into providing this service years ago when Apple, Inc. formed a partnership that resulted in the deeply flawed Motorola ROKR. Motorola, you’re not a music company, and Starbucks is, duh!
This morning I stopped at a Starbucks to get a cup of Charlie Parker. Actually, green tea. What I got was a protocol.
A Starbucks employee greeted me at the front door ala WalMart. “Can I get a drink started for you?” She was standing on the wrong side of the counter. She wasn’t behind that big whirring machine that makes foamy stuff and she wasn’t behind the register which makes me foam when I’m told to pay $4.00 for a cup of coffee.
Then the guy behind the cash register–much more official since he actually does something with a machine–asks me what I want to drink. The woman has not left my side. She is standing there waiting for me to tell her my order. I look at the guy behind the counter who is also waiting for me to tell him my order. “Who am I supposed to tell my order to?” I ask him. She snaps at me, “You need to tell me so that I can call it out.” The guy behind the cash register states, “It’s a protocol.” I’m supposed to follow some kind of corporate mandated protocol at 7:30 in the morning? Where is my Steve Jobsian effortless download of tea? Where are the friendly Hear Music bins for me to choose the tea from?
Yesterday, Howard Schultz–the founder of Starbucks–shared the stage with Steve Jobs to talk about the new partnership with Apple, Inc. According to MacWorld, Howard Schultz called Starbucks “the third place between home and work, an extension of peoples’ lives.” Did Schultz say, “Music is such a great product that we’re happy to sell it in addition to our efforts to sell you the best cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted”? Hardly.
I do have to say that Starbucks’ marketing has hit on this really great idea. Starbucks is a place where you live a portion of your life. Starbucks is not in the coffee business. Starbucks is in the real estate business. Even more, Starbucks is in the business of designing protocols to manage your addiction to caffeine, pushing music out to your iPhone to soothe your nerves, and relieving you of your cash when your not at home or work. Brilliant.
The employees at Starbucks tell me at regular intervals that I do not fit into their culture. Into their protocol. Yet, like the dorky kid in high school that kept showing up at parties of the cool clique uninvited, I keep showing up at Starbucks. Well, I only show up at Starbucks when my clique, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, isn’t around to be the place between work, home, and just about any other place I would rather be buying coffee–err, buying salads–other than Starbucks. That’s because the Starbucks experience is a horrible way to buy coffee. I can only hope that one of my favorite cliques Apple, Inc. rubs off on Starbucks.