Annotated Bibliography, English 5009, on Starbucks Training Manual

(Below is the full text of a piece of academic writing and research I created in 2012. I received an A+ on this assignment. It was written in MLA format.)

Richard A. Ries

English Methods 5009

Professor Kamrath

28 October 2012

The Social Criticism Brewing from the Starbucks Training Manual:

An Annotated Bibliography

This is a selected annotated bibliography on the Starbucks training manual, The Green Apron (TGA) and its cultural aftermath. The text of the manual itself is propriety, but the Starbucks mission statement is publicized and is closely linked to TGA. While the text of TGA is not analyzed in the hermeneutical method a passage of Talmud might be – Starbucks employment is inextricably woven into its marketing and consumer experiences – the actions and effects of the manual are nonetheless of concern to scholars and critics. It is not, unfortunately, the plays of Ferber, Mamet, and Miller that most Americans encounter daily. Rather, it is the workplace training manuals of corporations like Starbucks and McDonald’s that are read, memorized, rehearsed, and acted out on the consumer dominated stage of postmodern American life. These orchestrated mass dialogues provide clues into our age of simulation and late capitalism.

Multinational brand name companies have succeeded in training legions of non-unionized service workers who are in uniform, trained to interact with the public by script, and under constant video surveillance. These work environments create issues of subjugation, homogenization, conformity, automation, exploitation, and paranoia. While any national or global company now fosters such issues, no corporation in history has succeeded in creating an animated workforce quite like Starbucks has. A Starbucks barista – often young, college educated, and hip – is usually of a much different ilk than a docile cash register worker at an Arby’s or a KFC. McDonald’s relies on heavy television advertising, strong purchasing power (e.g. of potato farmers), and low prices to succeed: Starbucks relies on its baristas who become its enthusiastic votives. Starbucks does not simply sell coffee and pastry: it sells theater and fantasies of connoisseurship, neoliberalism, community, and privilege, mostly through the code it uses to train if not indoctrinate its workers.

Codes of conduct in the workforce are nothing new. Ever since humanity developed divisions of labor – hunter and gatherer, pharaoh and slaves, mason and apprentice, tsar and serfs, CEO and employee, boss and secretary – there have been codes, first oral, then written, of what to do and how to behave. Around the turn of the century, Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class, and the disturbing photos of Jacob Riis spawned conversations on the sociology of work. The era of hyper-consumerism is still critiqued in works such as Jameson’s Postmodernism and Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation; as well as by more popular books like Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Ritzer’s McDonaldization.

An employed individual today generally has three major codes he or she must adhere to: an employment contract; an employee handbook; and, very likely, a training manual. A contract may be oral and informal (“Could you please rake the leaves for $20?”) or entail millions of dollars with complex clauses; an employee handbook could be anything from a few paragraphs in a two-person office to several thick three-ring binders. Likewise, a training manual may range from a few simple instructions to a tome.

Any complex employment (such as an airline pilot) will entail training that might involve classroom instructions, audio and visual aids, simulation labs, written exams, evaluations, and continuing professional development. Manuals abound. They exist for employees of any household name company such as Microsoft; state and federal governments (from postal workers to Peace Corps volunteers), the military, and most of the salesforce. Yet these manuals are seldom the source of curiosity and perturbation in the academy as those designed for the entry level service workers in the cafes, restaurants, stores, and phone banks with whom we interact in daily, scripted ways.

*          *          *

The American novel of social protest has long focused on the excesses of capitalism on the working class. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Jungle, and The Grapes of Wrath all led to major changes in laws and national understandings of human rights. But there is a fundamental difference between the plantation slaves, meat packers, and fruit pickers of then and the service workers of now in that the former had no interaction with the public – and therefore had no emotional training of how to speak and behave. From the manufactured fun guided by  Disney to an ultra-brief encounter with a FedEx driver, simulated experiences à la The Truman Show are dictated by training manuals drafted by lawyers, MBAs, trainers, and technical writers – all in the service of powerful multinational corporations who are often viewed as the true empires and fiefdoms of the modern world.

The militarized donning of Target red, Wal-Mart blue, or Starbucks green – and the development of the emotionally trained service personality that accompanies such work – is to enter, to some degree, worlds not described by American social protest novelists, but foreseen by arguably the most important trio of British science fiction dystopias. In The Time Machine, H.G. Wells prophesized an ignorant leisure class of Eloi ranched by the dominant Morlocks. In Brave New World, Huxley wrote of swarms of identical Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The triumph of capitalism over the homogenized worker is so central to the text that time begins with the birth of Henry Ford (“the Year of Our Ford” replaces “AD”). And in 1984, Orwell’s proles live controlled, miserable lives of strict surveillance (and its accompanying paranoia) and dwindling language choices. Are these harrowing fictions realities embalmed in the corporate training manuals of today?  It is food – and sometimes beverage – for thought.

Franchises all appropriate human culture and repackage it back to the consumer. The corner barbershop of yesteryear – with its attached value as venue of folksy conversation – becomes the nationalized Supercuts of today. Nations, regions, and ethnic groups are all sanitized and permanently redefined: Taco Bell for Mexico; Carrabba’s and The Olive Garden for Italy; Red Lobster for New England; Popeye’s for Louisiana. What Starbucks excels at appropriating is the American yearning to do better than the Joneses. No national manual comes close to galvanizing the worker and consumer alike quite like TGA does.  As TGA is performed millions of times a day, it must be reckoned with as a cultural icon worthy of analysis.

This bibliography is divided into three sections: a quick glance at current training literature (a handful suffices); pro-Starbucks writings; and secondary scholarship, including a few articles which do not mention Starbucks by name – but shed light on the phenomenon. Critical issues in culture studies, such as race and gender, were considered. Research was not conducted in the dark: prominent social scientists, including Robin Leidner from the University of Pennsylvania and Starbucks specialist Bryant Simon were consulted; Kim Fellner, author of Wrestling with Starbucks, was interviewed over the phone; George Ritzer responded by e-mail.

Starbucks is studied. The company is mentioned in nearly 70,000 entries in the mega library database OneSearch (excluding the Melville character from which the company derives its name). It is found in nearly 5,000 articles in The New York Times alone; over 1,000 in JSTOR. (There are only a handful of scholarly books entirely devoted to critiquing Starbucks.) Starbucks is a target of late night comedians like Leno and Letterman. But it is also of keen interest to economists, marketing analysts, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, urban planners, labor lawyers, industrial psychologists, corporate trainers, culture critics, and activists. To comprehensively annotate all of the diverse literature on Starbucks, therefore, is not feasible. To examine TGA’s effects on customers and employees – mostly young people who spend their hours wearing green aprons for America – is to momentarily conjure de Crevecoeur’s spirit and ask ourselves: what then is the American, this new barista?






List of Acronyms and Initials

API                  Alternative Press Index

ASTD              American Society for Training and Development

CA                   Conversation Analysis

CJO                 Cambridge Journals Online

HFT                 Humanities Full Text

IWW               Industrial Workers of the World

JSTOR             Journal Storage

PQDT              ProQuest Dissertations & Theses

ROI                 Return on Investment

SA                   Sociological Abstracts

TGA                The Green Apron













I. Representative Training Manual Literature

Buckley, Roger, and Jim Caple. The Theory and Practice of Training. Kogan Page, 6th ed. 2009.      eBook.

This eBook is one of the current standards in the world of training. It acknowledges the need for training in both public and private sectors in the 21st century, and confronts the reality that unlike in previous decades or centuries, many people today switch fields or work more than one job. It does not target any specific industry, such as hotels or cafes, but rather spells out general needs for training: how it ties into a business plan as a ROI; the role of the trainer; objectives and outcomes; the role of technology in training; effectiveness and assessment.

The Theory is written for business analysts, MBA students, and industrial psychology students. It is fairly easy to navigate and is always available on a tablet such as a Kindle. A scholarly piece with hundreds of academic references, many from the UK, it provides an understanding of how much research has gone into training – and what current training lingo consists of.

Dolasinski, Mary Jo. Training the Trainer: Performance-Based Training for Today’s Workplace.                Upper Saddles River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004. Print.

This guidebook directed at managers covers the ropes of modern training: writing a training proposal; the ROI; scripting; roleplaying; quizzing; and creating competencies. It examines issues of recruiting, training, problem solving and employee recognition, including company incentive programs. It contains checklists, performance charts, a glossary of ASTD lingo, a list of websites and periodicals, and a section on e-learning and modules. It also provides tips on subjects such as behavioral interviewing, consistency, and storyboarding. A training room is referred to as “a stage” and the motif of a theater and acting is utilized throughout many of the chapters.

The guidebook is geared toward the service industry, and is presented in a user friendly fashion, with humor. It has a helpful bibliography of some 40 ASTD books. That a well-trained staff is presented as “theater” ties into much scholarship on Starbucks baristas.

LaGreca, Gen. Training Foodservice Employees: A Guide to Profitable Training                                         Techniques. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988. Print.  

One of the classic general texts on foodservice training walks managers through the usual suspects: interviewing, hiring, orientation, knowledge of subject matter, equipment, safety, sanitation, attendance, appearance, punctuality. The writer stresses using audio visual, roleplay, and positive reinforcement to train servers. She also suggests using third-party, undisclosed mystery guests or secret diners to evaluate servers.

LaGreca was president of the Industry Training Company and taught seminars at the National Restaurant Association. She writes for managers; not academics. The concept of the mystery guest or shopper, though perhaps not originally hers, is an important one as it adds to the landscape of lack of trust for Starbucks baristas and other servers.

II. Pro-Starbucks Literature

Michelli, Joseph A. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning the Ordinary                      into the Extraordinary. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

This hardcover was assembled by an industrial psychologist with the assistance of Starbucks. Early on it cites a 2007 study indicating that Starbucks baristas have a high job satisfaction rate, and made Hewitt’s list for Best Places to Work. Much time is devoted to training the new barista: not just in how to concoct the 4,000 plus possible drink combinations, but in learning how to speak with customers, and trying to master their names. Baristas receive a 104-page work booklet on world coffee regions which they must complete in their early months of employment, and further receive verified tastings throughout the year. Vignettes about Starbucks are highlighted throughout the book. For example, some deaf students in California began frequenting a store, so those baristas took it upon themselves to learn sign language. These types of feel-good stories become lore in the training experience. Much of the book serves as a pep talk directed at baristas and supervisors (some are known as“coffeemasters”). Michelli puts forth TGA’s “Five Ways of Being” which take on a somewhat Buddhist flavor: be welcoming; be genuine; be knowledgeable; be considerate; be involved. Managers and employees are constantly studying consumer behavior and have access to an internal database called “Conversations and Connections,” a wiki of stories and tips about the Five Ways of Being and how to improve in those areas.

The book is a polemic and avoids any criticism of Starbucks. Its bibliography consists primarily of newspaper clippings, TV stories, and Starbucks media reports – not scholarly articles. It does, however, provide access into TGA that the other books lack. That there is a “Five Ways of Being” reveals a very religious nature to Starbucks employment.

Moore, John. Tribal Knowledge: Business Wisdom Brewed from the Grounds of Starbucks            Corporate Culture. Chicago: Kaplan Publishing, 2006. Print.

This brief book is ostensibly geared toward anyone wanting to start a business. It contains chapters with  titles such as “Be the Best, not the Biggest,” “Keep Your Marketing Authentic,” “Be Nice, Be Clean,” “Foster Customer         Devotion,” “Encourage Healthy Dialogue,” “Foster Local Warming,” and “A Goliath Can Become a David Again.” Each chapter ends with bullet point questions that startups or new managers are to ask themselves. Much of the material is about marketing, branding, and product placement. As for employees, the writer explains that baristas are taught to meet customer needs and look for signals of customer unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Employees engage in a “Make Your Mark” program in which they volunteer in local charities. The company philosophy is to view customers as “explorers” and not “tourists,” and to be overzealously loyal to them. It is explained to all who don TGA that “a Starbucks coffee moment offers a semblance of hope in their [consumers] cluttered lives.”

While seemingly directed at entrepreneurs, the book serves primarily as a public relations mouthpiece for Starbucks. It does demonstrate that Starbucks does many good things for communities, but circumvents the criticism that it may be taking advantage of liberals and liberal values in doing so. There is no bibliography.

Schultz, Howard, and Dori Jones Yang. Pour Your Heart into It. New York: Hyperion, 1997.                       Print.

Schultz’s narrative, which might be called “a corporate apology,” (using “apology” in the classical, rhetorical sense) is first a brief autobiography emphasizing that he did not come from a family of means. It then provides a detailed history of the company from his vantage point. He clarifies how Starbucks evolved in Seattle; where its name and logo originated; how it began cloning itself; who its original investors were; how it views itself as “not a cookie cutter chain;” why the stores have the colors they do (to evoke the coffee growing process); how it decides whether to market a related product (e.g. Starbucks ice cream); its ventures with Pepsi; and its marketing challenges and various corporate philosophies. Chapter 9 of the book, “People are not a Line Item,” is about the employees. Schultz tells of how his father died without healthcare, and how offering healthcare for employees who work at least 20 hours has been good business – despite advisors who have told him not to provide it. Employees are called “partners” and get some stock options, known as Bean Stock.  One becomes a partner after six months of service.

Schultz likely views himself as one of the benevolent CEOs of modern times. His exuberance for his product and business practices shows, but he eschews any of the vocal criticism of Starbucks. He is convinced it does not need a union.

III. Starbucks Scholarship (and Select Related Articles)

Erickson, Karla, and Jennifer Pierce. “Farewell to the Organization Man: The Feminization of                 Loyalty in High-End and Low-End Service Jobs.” Ethnography 6.3 (2005): 283-313.                 SA. Web. 6 Oct. 2012.

In culture studies, gender must always be considered. This openly feminist critique of the workforce by two sociologists examines the terms “organization man” and “company man” as dominant cultural motifs of the 1950s. The writers describe company loyalty as a traditionally masculine trait that involved fidelity to a boss or corporation. Loyalty is still viewed in business schools as an important issue. Yet much current service work, unlike corporate or factory work, includes a third element: the customer. A triangulation of power raises an issue of loyalty: to whom is the server faithful?  Service workers are viewed as highly feminized by the writers due to their uniforms, low status, docile roles, and high turnover in staff. The writers provide a brief summary of one of Weber’s main points: that the slow disintegration of family loyalties has been replaced by bureaucratic loyalties in a rationalized society. The article concludes by emphasizing that the lack of personal space in chain restaurants leads to an atmosphere of detachment and minimal human engagement. Part of the article analyzes paralegals and is not germane to the discussion.

While the article does not concern Starbucks, it provides a vital, creative, feminist outlook on the whole issue of subjugation of service workers: that it constitutes mass emasculinization. Since baristas wear aprons, they may be viewed as feminized if not fetishized due to the siren logo.

Fellner, Kim. Wrestling with Starbucks: Conscience, Capital, Cappuccino. New Brunswick:                        Rutgers UP, 2008. Print.

This is one of a handful of books completely devoted to the coverage of Starbucks. It proffers a plethora of information: an introduction to Schultz; the history of coffee; world trade; the chain of production from farmer to sipper; similarities and differences between Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wal-Mart and other multinational businesses. Starbucks’ aggressive business tactics and its insistence on non-unionization (“we’re not anti-union; we’re pro-partners”) are stressed. Fellner chronicles Starbucks’s history with the IWW and its court cases (“latte litigation”), and elucidates how there is an endlessly complex world dance involving corporate stewardship, perceived political correctness, charity, and the low wages many coffee pickers and baristas make. Starbucks simultaneously adds to the exploitation of foreign and domestic workers while giving much to CARE; baristas must learn to talk the talk to the public and always act as apologists for the company.

Fellner is an AFL-CIO organizer; not an academic. Her book is nonetheless fairly scholarly and is essential for understanding Starbucks’ history and culture as well as its relationship with its many employees. She is more concerned with unionizing Wal-Mart.

Gaudio, Rudolf P. “Coffeetalk: Starbucks and the Commercialization of Casual Conversation.”              Language in Society 32.5 (2003): 659-691. SA. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

This anthropologist trained in linguistics studied CA and modes of conversation at Starbucks. He was concerned with analyzing the merging of coffeetalk with the commercialized consumption of coffee and space. He used a variety of methodologies, including a critical analysis of Starbucks marketing rhetoric (both written and acted out through its baristas) and interviews with employees. Gaudio notes how the phrase “let’s do coffee” has become a popular code for an informal, nonthreatening conversation between equals, whereas “I need to have a talk with you” connotes something serious, and “let’s have a drink” implies sexuality. This conversational commodity has contributed to Starbucks’s success. The article charts the rise of the English coffee house in the 18th century of Samuel Johnson as a social oasis void of hierarchy. There are differences between ordinary conversations and institutional ones, and recent sociolinguistic literature emphasizes geographic-place formulations (which Starbucks usurps through its glocalization). Starbucks’s marketing strategy represents “a confluence between the public and the private, the intimate and the commercial” (661).

The article is written for social scientists, and much of it is devoted to the power relationships inherent in CA theory. It provides a novel view of Starbucks, though it does not focus enough on barista conversations with consumers. It invites further research.

Klein, Naomi. No Logo: Brands, Globalization, Resistance. Canada: The Media Education                Foundation, 2003. DVD.

A Canadian journalist, scholar, and culture critic, Klein is one of the iconic figures in the anti-corporate “resistance” movement. She lectures throughout North America and has a bit of a cult following. Her video is shown in many undergraduate culture studies and sociology courses and her books are well known scathing critiques of what she dubs “disaster capitalism.” She first explains the history of the logo: originally Americans either grew their own food or bought it from someone they knew. When a system of trains and refrigeration came to bring mass foods to market, logos needed to be developed to foster a sense of trust and human familiarity with these distant, anonymous companies. Thus many early logos are wholesome people – Uncle Ben, the Quaker Oats man, Aunt Jemima, Colonial Sanders – to simulate the lost vendors and family members. The era of those types of logos is gone; today we are trained to associate simple images (Target, Nike, Pepsi) with highly complex multinational organizations. Klein speaks out against dwindling choices in American life, “McJobs,” and the sweat shops abroad that American consumers unwittingly contribute to. She concludes by demonstrating how the city of Celebration, wholly owned by Disney, constitutes “brand nirvana.”

The video version of No Logo contains several scenes of Starbucks. It maintains that Starbucks sells caché more than coffee. The discussion of logos is important for understanding the ubiquitous siren – on signs, on stores, on cups, and on baristas.

Luedicke, Marius K., Craig J. Thompson, and Markus Giesler. “Consumer Identity Work as                 Moral Protagonism: How Myth and Ideology Animate a Brand‐Mediated Moral                                  Conflict.” Journal of Consumer Research 36.6 (2010): 1016-1032. JSTOR. Web. 8 Oct.               2012.

This article posits that national life is a consumer driven morality play in which each citizen consumer views himself or herself as a protagonist for or against certain brands. There is a growing body of 21st century scholarship which condemns global brands as threats to the integrity of democracy, society, and the ecosystem; this condemnation is referred to as “the jeremiad against consumerism” (1017). The article presents a brief modern history of the moralism against consumption. The writers believe that a mythic structure exists which enables consumers to confer identity value onto goods, brands, and stores. Many consumers disparage Starbucks drinkers as “mesmerized dupes of the corporate system” (1019). Much of the article details views against the Hummer.

While the article does not concern TGA, knowledge of the jeremiad against consumerism is valuable to understand much of the academy’s open bias against Starbucks. The notion of protagonists in a morality play makes sense when one encounters some of the vehemence against Wal-Mart versus Target or Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts.  The article invites research on consumer attitudes towards baristas based on this paradigm.

Mathieu, Paula. “Economic Citizenship and the Rhetoric of Gourmet Coffee.” Rhetoric Review             18.1 (1999): 112-127. JSTOR. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.

A professor of English at Boston College first defines the concept of “economic citizenship” (112) as a consumer identity, and proceeds to demonstrate how Starbucks capitalizes on it. She focuses on the term “scotosis:” selective thinking and behavior in certain environments; willful moral blindness. When we patronize Starbucks, we consume a “justifying narrative” (115). Mathieu refers to Starbucks as a “connoisseur fantasy” (116). The barista acts as a uniformed guide to lead one into a guiltless pleasure, and ignore any Starbucks’ exploitation abroad or destruction of local cafes at home. Consumers are “encouraged not think of the people who plant, transport, and harvest coffee but instead to see only the baristas who take center stage” (117). Scotosis is induced when one sees the baristas wearing the green aprons – it is a postmodern theater. An illusion of individuality is created by the dizzying array of choices (tall, grande, vente, whip, no whip, extra shot, soy, which milk, which syrups). “My drink” (as opposed to mass produced products like McDonald’s) is what Starbucks really sells. As part of the scotosis, third world countries exist merely as plantations and warehouses for our coffee consumption. Thus a barista may speak about Indonesia’s beans – but not discuss its human rights policies.

The article presents a convincing and Jungian or Freudian view of Starbucks as collective denial. The green-aproned barista might be viewed as the Disney character of choice for the liberal latté set.

Raffel, Stanley. “Baudrillard on Simulations: An Exegesis and a Critique.” Sociological Research Online 9.2 (2004). Article e-mailed 22 Oct. 2012 as Microsoft Word file.

Authenticity is always at issue with global corporations. This article from a professor of sociology in Edinburgh is perhaps the only one to make a direct link between Baudrillard’s theory of simulation and Starbucks. Baudrillard maintained that each era has distinct modes of production, and that ours is the era of simulation. According to Baudrillard, to simulate is “to feign to have what one hasn’t” (3). Raffel first offers examples of simulated objects: dentures, wigs, Astroturf.  He then proposes, however, that it is difficult to define what exactly constitutes a simulated experience. He looks first at McDonald’s (which, to be true to the text, he spells MacDonald’s) and concludes that it is not fake: it does not pretend to be fine dining; it openly states that it is engaged in mass production (“billions and billions served”); and it does not pretend to be fast and cheap – it is fast and cheap. In looking at Starbucks, Raffel suggests that it seems not mass produced because of its emphasis on the individualized drink order (but is mass produced) and seems like a typical Milanese café (but is not one). Starbucks tries to convince us we are in the presence of something that is not really there.

The article provides cause to pause: with millions of people worldwide interfacing with hundreds of thousands of baristas every second of the day, to what degree are these interactions “real,” and what might be a basis of comparison: coffee at an independent café, at a Dunkin’ Donuts, in an espresso bar in Italy, or at home?

Ritzer, George. The McDonaldization of Society5. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press,              2008. Print.

Ritzer’s latest volume of his now famous book closes with a chapter the 4th edition lacks: “The Starbuckization of Society.” Ritzer argues that the triumph of Starbucks is in the realm of theatrics perpetuated by its employees: perceived bohemianism and countercultural hipness repackaged as hyper-consumerism. Non-human technologies for creating the beverages have replaced barista creativity; the consumer is exploited as much as the worker (through high prices); franchising and unionization are not permitted so that TGA remains propriety; employee control is wielded from Seattle. Ritzer embraces Max Weber’s term rationalization, which designates the evolution of humanity from jungles, tribes, or the Wild West to a 20th century system of logic, data, offices, bureaucracies, industrialization, and organization. According to Ritzer, it is only in a rationalized society that the Holocaust could have taken place: humans trained to follow bureaucratic orders are less likely to challenge authority. McDonald’s and all other chains peddle “predictability, efficiency, and calculability” (13). Food and work is infantilized (Ronald McDonald; Happy Meals). Whereas the Ford assembly line worker simply interacted with a machine or a manager, today’s service worker is trained to interact with the public. Individuality is suppressed in favor of the ideal employee. Conversation scripting exists throughout fast food franchises, and literally exists in telemarketing “factories,” and call centers (e.g. the insurance industry) where low level workers read from scripts. Ritzer demonstrates how McDonald’s world of efficiency has influenced realms such as education (data driven curriculums, overly statistical evaluations of professors); leisure (calculated travel such as a cruise over true adventure); and sexuality (Internet porn and sexting). Ritzer closes with a clarion call for more spontaneity and “enchantment” in American life.

McDonaldization has become a household word onto itself; the work has been translated into several languages and at times has inspired boycotts. It is a monumental read for anyone interested in sociology, and contains some 300 citations in its bibliography.

Ruzich, Constance M. “For the Love of Joe: The Language of Starbucks.” Journal of Popular             Culture 41.3 (2008): 428-442. HFT. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

This article is a culture critique of the Starbucks lingo that baristas are trained to master and daily perpetuate. The use of Italian and pseudo-Italian sounding words throughout its menu all contributes to giving ordinary Americans who work at or consume Starbucks a sense of sophistication and European panache. Whereas coffees advertised on television rely on slogans (“Good to the last drop” or “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup”), Starbucks eschews any written slogan or jingle (in contrast to Dunkin’ Donuts’ “America runs on Dunkin’” or McDonald’s “We love to see you smile”). The logo and army of well-trained workers are the message. The siren’s long hair, sinuous curves, and open mouth are erotic; the color green evokes “go;” eroticism and exoticism is played out with baristas through a sense that coffee is tantamount to wine tasting. Lingo from wine tasting notes is appropriated; faraway, enchanted soils like Kenya, Ethiopia, or Indonesia as equivalents to Bordeaux or Napa are studied by baristas to reinforce the mystique. One enters a ritualized union through mastering the Starbucks lingo, which is uttered no less than thrice: “I’ll have a double mocha espresso no whip” is stated by the consumer, who has built an identifying moniker with a personal beverage (if not an addiction); it is chanted by the cash register barista; then confirmed aloud by the espresso barista. The process borrows from the “call and response” of gospel churches and adds to the sense of ritual and religion. The writer observes that the language of Starbucks centers on nouns, reinforcing the objectification process between parties.

Ruzich’s work is extremely insightful. It beckons more study of the linguistic hegemony Starbucks wields (a small is a tall) and the senses of entitlement and communion one experiences by mastering the lingo and feeling “in” with the baristas.

Simon, Bryant. “Consuming Lattes and Labor, or Working at Starbucks.” International Labor             and Working Class History 74 (2008):193-211. API. Web. 7 Oct. 2012.

Starbucks employs over 150,000 workers worldwide, and exercises enormous influence on the growers, harvesters, importers, exporters, and transporters of coffee around the globe. Despite these numbers, Starbucks has consistently prevented unionization of its shops, even though there have been movements with slogans such as “Baristas of the world, unite!” According to CEO Howard Shultz, the cost of unionization would prevent the many workers who do receive health benefits from gaining them. Starbucks uses its employees to create an internal branding of family-friendly, upscale mores. Those trained on TGA must come across to the consumer as more than happy to serve you and work at Starbucks, so that you, the customer, need not worry about his or her welfare. Simon calls this a New Age version of welfare capitalism.

Simon has an innovative view of how baristas must present themselves and how they are perceived by the public.

—. Everything but the Coffee: Learning about American from Starbucks. Berkeley: U of                           California P, 2009. Print.

Simon visited over 400 Starbucks outlets in twenty states, and traveled to farms in Guatemala, Rwanda, and elsewhere to understand the global juggernaut better. He used a variety of methodologies, including direct observation of baristas and consumers, interviews, and statistical analysis of barista and customer behaviors. Training baristas involves more time watching Howard Schultz videos about corporate stewardship than learning about coffee beans. Several employees referred to it as “brainwashing.” Simon refers to the experience of getting coffee at Starbucks as a “staged authenticity,” and notes that those who work under TGA all trade turns scrubbing public toilets as part of their subjugation, shared humiliation, and indoctrination. Despite much corporate emphasis on diversity, most baristas are young, white, clean cut, and feature a preppy look. They may not wear nose rings or diamond studs. Since espresso is no longer ground in the stores, there are fewer difficult chores for baristas to do. The high walls that hide the machinery are designed to not let customers see how simple the operation really is; the music is also a distraction. Starbucks uses its employees as branding to create a myth of sophistication.

One cannot conduct Starbucks barista research without reading Simon’s book; it is the lynchpin of the scholarship and contains a comprehensive bibliography. Simon is to Starbucks what Ritzer is to McDonald’s.

—. “Race Doesn’t Matter, Race Matters: Starbucks, Consumption, and the Appeal of the                                Performance of Colorblindness.” Du Bois Review 7.2 (2010): 271-292. CJO. Web. 24                       Oct. 2012.

Here Simon considers Starbucks’ diversity policy and its relationship with Magic Johnson to explore postracial sentiments in mainstream American life. He also ponders the role Starbucks may have played in Obama’s victory in 2008. Research from Urban Spoon demonstrated that Obama ran strongest in areas with high densities of Starbucks stores. Starbucks frequently plays black music in its stores, and produced a movie about an inner-city African American spelling bee champ, Akeelah and the Bee. The diversity of Starbucks employees reflects the growing diversity of the population of the nation. Women and minorities now make up 60% of Starbucks’ workforce, and have representation on the board of directors. Starting in 1998, Starbucks entered into a deal with Magic Johnson to position more stores in inner-cities and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. In Simon’s view, this began a process of commodification for Schultz to “perform” colorblindness. He sees a trace of Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” in the planting of Starbucks stores in the inner city. Starbucks is viewed as integrated, both in its clientele and baristas, but not too integrated: 50-Cent lyrics won’t be played anytime soon. The article reports that during the summer of 2008, when overzealous marketing failed and led to the closing of 600 Starbucks stores, 15% were Magic Johnson stores, suggesting that in the end, dollars trump diversity.

The article ties in with others that view Starbucks as theater. It does agree that Starbucks has diversity, but that such diversity may be about a marketing strategy toward whites who want to see themselves as tolerant. Baristas do get much diversity and sensitivity training.

Tatsak, Jenny. “The ‘Great Good Place’ for Some People: A Rhetorical Criticism of Starbucks              as an Informal Public Gathering Place.” Diss. Wayne State U, 2006. PQDT.  Web. 20                       Oct. 2012.

This thesis adopts the theory of commodity culture. It first analyzes ordered physical space as a product of late capitalism that promotes functionalism and efficiency. It then proceeds to provide a detailed analysis of Starbucks’ architecture, seating arrangement, and physical appearance (clean bathrooms; brown napkins to connote eco-friendliness) as part of a grander scheme of status, public performance, and commodified existence. Illusions at Starbucks are shared by producer and consumer alike; the desire for an attractive and improved self-image prevails. Baristas are recruited with a poster and copy that reads “Consider this your window of opportunity. Apply indoors.” Baristas are therefore brought on board to this world of status, privilege, and public performance. Starbucks becomes what Foucault referred to as the panopticon. The Starbucks panopticon is one of reciprocal public performance: the barista learns how to dress and behave; the consumer learns how to either read alone or surf the web properly; parties of two or more learn how to engage in acceptable conversation and clean up after themselves. Foucault emphasized surveillance as power over a citizen, and wrote of “docile bodies in a fortress.” The homogenizing effect of the videotaped panopticon – the fetishized uniforms, the patronage and sense of purpose many feel in ordering their individualized drink – all serves the interest of those on top of the hierarchy and reaping the profit margin.

Tatsak’s doctoral thesis is illuminating, especially when one considers the English teacher’s maxim “setting shapes characterization.” The dissertation has particular salience because most of the recent Starbucks submissions tend to focus on what constitutes “fair trade,” incursions into China, and other global issues. It provides an incisive look into the daily spectacle of national life inside Starbucks.



Baudrillard, 2, 12

Bean Stock, 9

branding, 8, 14

capitalism, 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15

CEO, 2, 9, 14

coffee, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Disney, 3, 11, 12

diversity, 15

Dunkin’ Donuts, 10, 11, 12, 13

feminist, 9

Fellner 4, 10

Five Ways, 8

Foucault, 15

Ford, Henry, 4, 13

Huxley, 4

industrial psychology 5, 7, 8, 13

Johnson, Magic, 14, 15

Johnson, Samuel, 10

liberal/ism, 2, 8, 12

linguistics, 13

manuals, 1, 2, 3, 4, 7

MBA, 3, 4, 7

McDonald’s, 1, 2, 10, 12, 13

Microsoft, 3

Obama, 14

Orwell, 4

panopticon, 15

paranoia, 1, 4

Pepsi, 9, 11

race, 4, 12, 14

rationalization, 9, 13

Riis, 2

Ritzer 2, 12, 13, 14

ROI, 7

roleplay, 7

Schultz, 9, 10, 14, 15

Simon, 4, 14, 15

simulation 1, 2, 3, 12

siren logo, 9, 11, 13

subjugation 1, 9, 14

surveillance, 1, 4, 15

Target, 3, 5, 7, 11

TGA 1, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14

theater, 2, 7, 12, 15

unions, 1, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14

Urban Spoon, 14

Veblen, 2

Wal-Mart, 3, 10, 11

Weber, 2, 9, 13

Wells, H.G., 4

Leave a comment


  1. Hi there to all, as I am actually keen of reading this web
    site’s post to be updated on a regular basis. It includes good information.

  2. Hello everyone, it’s my first pay a visit at this web page, and post is genuinely fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these types of content.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: