If you follow this blog, or my twitter feed, or my instagram feed, you would know of my love affair with Starbucks India.
Sadly, it has come to an end.
The love affair started in late 2013 when they opened an outlet close to my place (Powai). And in the process gave me that third place that I always craved for. A place where I could be myself. A place where I dont have to bear with the formal environment of an office. A place where I could escape from the overly-causal vibe of a home. A place that inspired me. A place that helped me get in the zone, over an over again and allowed me to do good work. In fact I wrote a large part of #tnks at the Powai outlet.
To me, over time, Starbucks thus became the default place where I'd meet friends, acquaintances, business associates, strangers, first dates and so on and so forth. Every time someone asked me where to meet, irrespective of the city I were in, I could close eyes and ask them to come to the nearest Starbucks outlet. Each store was consistent, each Barista was polite, the coffee was ok but the experience was superlative. With Starbucks, I did not have to worry about things like AC, security, cleanliness, Internet, ambiance etc. I had to think about more important things like making the right impression, convincing the prospective client et al. In fact if I wanted to get a meeting right, I would insist to meet at a Starbucks. Leave the meetings apart, I could spend hours at a Starbucks. All by myself. Starbucks taught me how to be alone.
It gave me so much that I started considering a Starbucks outlet as the greatest place ever invented. And thus, over time, like with lovers, I started taking Starbucks for granted. And I started expecting things from Starbucks. Things that are often hard to deliver if you dont have the interests aligned, the love mutual and shared. Which I know wasn't. Starbucks after all is a commercial enterprise and while they do have the community's interest at heart, they have to make money. They have shareholders to get back to at the end of every quarter, if not year.
So with time, as the business grew, the stores started to change. I mean the waiters still called me by my first name and remembered what I order (Java Chip Frappuccino) and I continued to move towards those free drinks and upgrades with every purchase. But the stores became less inviting. Stores became more commercial. Stores started getting "optimized." Older patrons like me weren't invited no more. Guess they lost their soul, if they had a soul!
In terms of tangibles, the stores started getting more crowded and the patrons started getting younger. And as a result the service level started to go down, the noise levels went upto a point where it became impossible to hold conversations. Baristas were no longer keen on "knowing" you. They merely wanted to fill in more tables and operate like a McDonalds where the only goal is to rotate tables. Fast. Profitably. Other things stopped mattering. All the cool things that Starbucks does, stands for, took a back seat.
The stores continued to consistently fail to deliver on things that I
expect as a lover, a patron. And like a jilted lover, I can not tolerate someone else getting more attention than I. And thus I am forced to "take" my
affection elsewhere. I am not sure where but someone will take
up the space that has been left vacant by Starbucks. Something that is
little more everlasting and little more permanent. May be. May be not. And of course, its not them, its me! I guess its me who's at fault. I need to change. I need to give more space. Well, dont I sound like a typical lover left in lurch? Judge me, if you will ;P
But I hope we remain friends. I will of course continue to come over to a Starbucks. But I am not sure if I'd be able to love Starbucks back again. Of course I wish them all the success. They are a great business and they are super cool. I do hope they find love from more people.
As far as I go, I am sure something will come up. Do pray ;P
P.S.: I am writing this at a Starbucks. And I will no doubt continue to visit Starbucks and write and spend time and money. But the fanboydom, the love, the undying support, is gone!