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Everything but the Coffee

Learning about America from Starbucks

Bryant Simon (Author)

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Everything but the Coffee casts a fresh eye on the world's most famous coffee company, looking beyond baristas, movie cameos, and Paul McCartney CDs to understand what Starbucks can tell us about America. Bryant Simon visited hundreds of Starbucks around the world to ask, Why did Starbucks take hold so quickly with consumers? What did it seem to provide over and above a decent cup of coffee? Why at the moment of Starbucks' profit-generating peak did the company lose its way, leaving observers baffled about how it might regain its customers and its cultural significance? Everything but the Coffee probes the company's psychological, emotional, political, and sociological power to discover how Starbucks' explosive success and rapid deflation exemplify American culture at this historical moment. Most importantly, it shows that Starbucks speaks to a deeply felt American need for predictability and class standing, community and authenticity, revealing that Starbucks' appeal lies not in the product it sells but in the easily consumed identity it offers.
Acknowledgments ix

Introducing the Starbucks Moment 1

1. Real Coffee 21
2. Predictability the Individual Way 58
3. It Looks like a Third Place 82
4. Self-Gifting and Retail Therapy 122
5. Hear Music for Everyday Discoverers 149
6. Not-So-Green Cups 173
7. Sleeping Soundly in the Age of Globalization 201

Afterword 239

A Note on the Research 247
Notes 253
Selected Bibliography 279
Index 289
Bryant Simon is Professor of History and the Director of American Studies at Temple University and the author, most recently, of Boardwalk Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.
“Those who frequent Starbucks will enjoy Simon’s range of topics, from business matters to the music played to the (very American) concept of ‘self-gifting.’”—Publishers Weekly
"Simon's book is a fascinating, sometimes dispiriting look at how Starbucks is emblematic of some deeper socioeconomic phenomena at work in this country over the past decade and a half."—Mike Miliard Boston Phoenix
“This thoughtful, in-depth study of Starbucks and its customers concludes that Americans want what the company claims it offers—community, fair treatment of workers and food producers, and protection of the environment. But it questions whether consuming the products of big corporations like Starbucks actually yields those outcomes.”—World Wide Work
“Those who dip into, or maybe sip at, (as they might a frappuccino in Starbucks) this book will be rewarded with a nice read, a lot of information and a wide-ranging set of insights into a phenomenon that is indeed important in itself, as well as for what it tells us about America and increasingly, the world.”—George Ritzer American Studies Journal
“Everything but the Coffee presents Starbucks as a jumping off point for the cultural anxieties and sensibilities that have come to define America since the ‘90s. Presented in a clear, concise and accessible manner, Simon guides the reader along an entire journey through middle-class America that will leave you wondering how a simple cup of coffee could ever mean so much.”—Sebastian Buzzalino Beat Route
“Enjoyable and interesting.”—Liz Rodda, President, Central Pa Chapter Betterinvesting Better Investing Nltr
“When Bryant Simon’s book, Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks arrived in my mail, I thought, great, just what we need: another book by an academic that attempts to understand the world through a simplistic lens, like salt, sushi or coffee. That this genre sells well probably motivated Simon’s publisher. But Simon’s book is better and more honest than most of the genre in recognizing the limitations of both author and subject. . . . Simon shows us how we really live, and it ain’t pretty. There was a time, not so long ago, Simon reminds us, that many of us wondered why people would pay so much money for a cup of coffee—even as we were edging closer in line to place our own order.”—Richard Greenwald In These Times
“A highly readable and deeply engaged examination of the culture of capitalism in the contemporary United States . . . a superb book that would work beautifully as a classroom text.”—Lawrence B. Glickman Journal Of American History
“A thoughtful look at the Starbucks craze, its psychological roots, and what left the once seemingly unstoppable chain so vulnerable to the reversal of fortune that has led to the shuttering of hundreds of stores (and thousands of jobs). . . . It’ll only take you a few days to read Everything but the Coffee, but once you’re done, you may not look at coffee—or at anything you buy—the same way again.”—Jeff Giles Popdose
“Simon knows more about Starbucks—and about why so many Americans find perfection in their lattes—than anyone. He connects our deepest desires to be good, smart, ethical consumers with our equally strong yearning to consume in an authentic way. Our coffee, Simon shows, is us.”—Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City
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Interview with the author, Bryant Simon

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